Upgrading Oblivion

Over the weekend, I finally got the chance to see the Tom Cruise flick Oblivion, a film that I have been looking forward to all year. I had many hopes that this would be a great film, instead finding it to be merely good...but flawed. It had a lot going for it with its stunning visuals, intriguing enough story, awesome set design, and sleek action sequences. But somewhere along the line, mistakes were made....mistakes that kept Oblivion from reaching its truly great potential. So instead of a standard review post (I'll sum it up for you right now. Solidly entertaining, but somehow a bit lacking. I'd say generally though it's a good film and I give it a 6.8 I think....maybe a 7 on a good day.) I am going to present to you 5 ways Oblivion could have gone from good to great.

Yes, I wrote casting three times. That's because to me this is the weakest part of this film....and actually it has nothing to do with Tom Cruise. Well...maybe something, but he's not exactly my problem with this movie. Truth be told, I'm pretty ambivalent to Cruise at this point...not a lover or a hater. So let's just say we're trying to keep Cruise intact and cast the characters around him to improve the story (still...if we had a completely clean slate even more possibilities would be opened up as well.) Obviously Morgan Freeman can stay, and possibly Melissa Leo....but everyone else needs to go. The two main females are all wrong for their roles and completely lack an absolutely necessary chemistry with Cruise. While Olga Kurylenko is strikingly beautiful, that's all she really has to offer in such a pivotal role. When it's revealed that she is [SPOILER highlight to read] Tom' Cruise's wife and we're supposed to buy this deep love between the two...well it just comes off as hollow. Had an older actress that he DID have chemistry with been cast, we really would have rooted for them and the story would have gained more power [/SPOILER]

But Andrea Riseborough who plays Victoria is even worse. How did she get this role?? She was so completely bland I just couldn't understand how such an important role like this didn't go to a beautiful A-list actress in her 30's or 40's who would be more age appropriate for Cruise as a love interest and possibly have better chemistry. Possible contenders: Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz, Kate Beckinsale...heck even Angelina Jolie who I hate would have been better. It's hard to care about either of the female leads, but the members of the rebellion are just as bad. We have Morgan Freeman's right-hand man who is as vanilla as they come, but we're supposed to believe he's the epitome of awesome, yet somehow lacks a personality? Nah. For that, I would have cast some wisecracking cool actor like Josh Holloway from Lost.

CLEARER CHARACTERIZATION AND BACKSTORY - Once again, the clear problem with the story is its characters. Getting a better cast helps a lot with improving this, but good actors can only do so much with what they're given. The characters in Oblivion have a paper thinness quality to them. More personal touches would have gone a long way by giving insight into who these people are/were. We see some of that with Tom Cruise...personifying the human version of Wall-E combined with Ariel by collecting human things, as well as referring to his love of sports...(which are unrelated to Wall-E and Ariel) But still....what do we know about his actual personality or any of the others for that matter? More depth and stories to these characters could have made them far more memorable and relatable. No one in Oblivion seems to ever have any sort of feelings. Sure it's a cold post-apocalyptic world they're living in...but that doesn't mean they have to act like robots!

TRIM THE FAT - This movie clocks in at a little over two hours...but because of the over excess in the story feels a lot longer. One of the last action sequences in particular I remembered feeling extremely antsy and bored with. It involved the rebellion and just felt so anti-climactic that it was hard caring who lived or died. In fact...I just wanted most of those characters to be killed so that we could move along to the far more interesting stuff that followed. As an editor, you want a movie that paces along effortlessly, and Oblivion did that quite well for the majority of the film...but when it hit the hour and a half mark and we were still being kept in the dark about the majority of the plot it was kind of frustrating. If some of the reveals had been moved up a bit earlier into the film so the audience could tell a bit more where it was going, it might have held some interest better.

SIMPLIFY THE STORY - Going along with the last section...a big problem with Oblivion is it has SO much going on and tries to tackle numerous story lines without fully explaining any of them really. Choose one basic story line you want to tell, and let the others intertwine with it and support THAT story. Oblivion kind of felt like 5 different movies at once that couldn't quite decide which one it wanted to be at any moment. If you have the option always go with simplicity instead of trying to over complicate things. If it went with one central theme it tried to convey instead of trying to have plot twists everywhere, it would have been a much more simple and relevant film.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN - At the end of the day, there won't be too much that will distinguish Oblivion from any other run of the mill sci-fi. It's kind of a heavily borrowed movie. I obviously don't have the mind of a talented sci-fi writer to offer up specific suggestions, but if something had been done to set it apart it would have been far more memorable. apart from the rest, it would go down as an absolute classic, rather than a nice entertaining film likely to be forgotten. The best thing it had going for it was its imagery of a truly deserted earth...but even later this year we have After Earth attempting to challenge the setting of an uninhabitable earth. But [SPOILER highlight to read] evil [/SPOILER] robots, cool spaceships, and [SPOILER highlight to read] clones [/SPOILER] Not much new with that. Oblivion played it safe and didn't take any risks. There was no uniqueness really to be found in its cold exterior, which is why it won't become a classic of the genre.

Really though, the film did have a lot going for it and I hope I'm not coming off as overly harsh because I did at its core enjoy it...I just hoped it would have been one of the greats...instead of one of the goods.


Sarah said...

Thanks for the review. This movie looks visually interesting, if nothing else. Did part of your text get cut off in the very last paragraph? (after, "but if something had been done to set...")

Emily said...

Oh my goodness. I probably shouldn't publish anything anymore unless you proofread it first. Yeah I had something else written there before...but when I was putting in pictures, blogger kept trying to delete some of the text. I thought I'd caught all of that but hadn't. Thanks for the heads up.

Sarah said...

Ha ha! I'm a pretty good proofreader. :) Plus, blogger can be super cranky sometimes! Especially with formatting!

MooMooCowy said...

Enjoyed the review, interested in the film but a bit put off by the trailer. Something I've been thinking about a lot, that coincides with this, is that the largest problem appears to be the script (and most likely direction). I remember hearing someone say that when there is poor acting, it's the actor who is usually last at fault for it. Something to think about.

Emily said...

Thanks for the comment B-Ho! Nice to see one from you :) I think that's probably a true statement...but kinda depends on the actor too haha

Michelle said...

Oh this movie...

Michelle said...

This movie has more plot holes in it than a post-shot-gun zombie. Let me tell you some of the things I see wrong with it.
#1 We are suppose to believe that an incredibly advanced alien robot species is strong and smart enough to conquer the entire earth… but has trouble managing a few left over people.
#2 This alien race needs humans to protect and maintain their highly advanced maintenance/security robots
#3 They have made hundreds of clones, could deploy them to destroy the left over humans at anytime, but they don't?
#4 They can clone humans but they can't make sea water?
#6 The mother ship (Tet) can read Tom Cruises mind but has NO CLUE that the "survivor" in the pod is a huge black man?
#5 The Tet allows Tom Cruise to COME INTO IT'S BELLY? After he shows clear intentions of treachery?
#6 Victoria can see what Tom Cruise is doing all the time… but the Tet doesn't have access to her view
#7 They let Tom Cruise and his "wife" go on the same space mission… and, when she is jettisoned, she somehow makes it all the way back, through the universe, unscathed, back to Earth. It takes her 50 years to make it back in the ship… which has a recorder in it. Now think about this… the Tet knows her ship is on it's way… and it does not destroy it before it comes through the atmosphere? Also, the Tet travels to Earth… but much faster. So… wouldn't the Tet pass up the ship and Tom Cruises wife and the recorder and… would they not destroy the evidence? Would they really just wave as they passed on by… on their way to destroy the ship's home planet? Thinking that there was no possible way this could screw up their plan later on? Also… how does the ship recorder continue to record what happens after they enter the Tet? it is jettisoned before they enter right? Yet, it shows up, with the sleep pods, having recorded things that happened after the sleep pods were jettisoned...
#8 Why is Tom Cruises wife so weird and doesn't tell him she is his wife? And she knows Victoria from her crew too… so why is she so cryptic and doesn't try to talk to them in the first place?
#9 Why is Tom Cruises wife totally ok hooking up with her husband's clones? Aren't there like 52 zones? So there are at least 51 Tom Cruises? And she is totally ok just hooking up with whichever one shows up first?