Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oblivion and other sci fi films this year

2013 promises to be an interesting year for sci-fi films; Oblivion with Tom Cruise has already opened, and Star Trek Into Darkness and After Earth are opening in May and June respectively (in Norway). I’ll be seeing the latter two when they open. I remember looking forward to the premiere of Prometheus last year around this time. I went to see Oblivion tonight and loved it, in contrast to several of the online reviews that I’ve come across that were mostly negative. The focus of the reviews always seems to end up on Tom Cruise the person, not Tom Cruise the actor. That of course is partially his own fault since he draws attention to himself with his vocal religious beliefs and viewpoints, but as an actor he delivers in this film, and that’s all that matters to me. Did he make the part of Jack Harper--drone repairman, believable, did I root for him, was I stepping onto a post-apocalyptic planet earth along with him, was I accompanying him on his daily visits to the planet to repair the drones, did I feel his confusion and determination, and was I rooting for him to be reunited with his wife Julia? I can answer yes to all these questions. And besides Tom Cruise, there are other good actors and actresses that do their part to make this a memorable film, e.g. Morgan Freeman as Beech, Olga Kurylenko as Julia, and Andrea Riseborough as Victoria. Oblivion is an epic sci-fi film, beautifully photographed with a number of impressive bleak shots of a barren planet earth in rubble, some great action sequences (especially the flying), some evil-looking machines/weapons called drones whose potential for nastiness reminded me of the spider bots in Minority Report from 2002 (another Tom Cruise film) and an ‘alien’ we never really see except as a computer screen image of a human woman named Sally. As the story unfolds, we come to understand that Jack's world is not really what he thinks it is; he is willing to follow his curiosity and to find out what is really going on, whereas his partner Julia, who monitors his daily activity as a drone repairman on the earth's surface, is not.

Oblivion is really about one man’s quest to find himself (after his dreams and memory flashbacks have prompted him to become curious about his past life) and his home in a world destroyed by war and treachery. Oblivion is a great title for this movie--what is it Jack has forgotten, and has Jack been forgotten? I was moved by the portrayal of the importance of the instinctual (primeval) desires we have as humans--to know where we come from, to have a home we call our own, and to have someone to love, or perhaps more importantly, to have someone who knows us, thus saving us from oblivion (being forgotten). Watching the scenes of Jack with his wife Julia (one scene especially where she talks about growing old together, dying and being forgotten by the world) brings us to a wistful place where the belief in the power of love is all-consuming. Real life doesn't always play out this way, but we want it to, no matter how many times it does not. The character of Julia as played by Olga Kurylenko has a non-aggressive quiet way about her that is quite endearing; her sweetness makes a nice contrast to Andrea Riseborough’s Victoria, who is calculating, direct and effective (almost robotic-like) as Jack’s former co-pilot and current team partner who is in love with him. I won’t give away the story or the ending, but I can definitely recommend Oblivion. I also enjoyed the film music; Jack Harper is a Led Zeppelin fan (Ramble On--an appropriate song for parts of this film) and a Procol Harem fan (Whiter Shade of Pale). The film title track is also quite a good song—Oblivion—performed by a group called M.8.3 with Susanna Sundfør. 

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