SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR
Review by Steve “WhiskeySour” Brown
I am not biased.
I work very hard to view every movie seat as a new opportunity to experience something that will evoke thought, insight and new levels of creativity. Even if it’s just to wonder how on Earth I spent actual money to see some of the garbage that I have seen. The point is, I try not to expect anything from the movies I go see, nether garbage nor gold, no matter what gold or garbage the preview appears to be made from.
In the case of “Oblivion”, directed by Joseph Kosinski, I couldn’t help myself. The promise of Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman in a Sci-Fi action film was too much. After reading the quick synopsis from my Scene App, I thought, at worst, the movie might borrow heavily from Disney’s “Wall-E”. I sat down in my seat chanting a steady “don’t be ‘Wall-E’, Don’t be ‘Wall-E’…” over and over in my head.
Wish granted, Whiskey!
The first twenty minutes of this movie was awesome on an epic scale. Tom Cruise’s character, Jack, a roguish drone repair man, was vibrant and witty. Paired with a gorgeous redhead beauty Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), whose pretentious English accent made her the most beautiful straight man to Jack’s witty humor I have ever seen. Their performance made me easily believe they were the only two humans left on a futuristic and ruined planet earth.
Between the epic and clearly expensive vistas of future Earth, the edgy and tense places Jack finds himself in and the clearly expensive battle scenes, the pacing and tension of “Oblivion” just kept climbing higher and higher. I was just beginning to wonder if this much awesome was going to cause my brain to explode when suddenly that as-for mentioned awesome pacing and tension fell out of the sky like a brick, not to get off the ground again until the last twenty minutes!
Honestly, I’m trying to remember what happened during the mid part of this movie other then a few hazy isolated moments of plot development. The only thing I remember clearly is suppressing the urge to check my phone to see how much time had passed. You don’t exactly have to be a world class critic to realize if Facebook and your e-mail are suddenly in competition for your attentions, there’s something wrong with the film your watching.
One major problem with “Oblivion” that everyone involved seems desperate to remain oblivious of (see what I did there?) a distinct and total lack of population. Throughout this movie I counted maybe six characters, and not all of them were even fully developed. Take Morgan Freeman’s character Beech for example. The movie told us he’s the leader of the Scavs, and that he’s old, that’s it. This is not a character, this is Morgan Freeman playing a cardboard cutout. Without giving any back story on the character, or reason to be, or anything to relate to, I could not have cared less about him. And this was a MAIN CHARACTER in “Oblivion”. It seems rather odd to be disappointed with the character development later into a movie, when in the beginning of the same movie you were quite satisfied with it.
Another issue with this movie no one wanted to see was the distinct lack of someone to hate. Three quarters of this movie were spent without a clear antagonist. When they finally got around to rolling that little tidbit out, I was surprised, not because I didn’t see it coming, but because I didn’t realize the character was an actual character. The best antagonists are the ones with clear and understandable reasoning for their actions. Not the ones every other character, or in this case all five others, mention in the last moments as kind of an FYI.
This rather sparse casting led to yet another problem, I’m going to call it: “What to do with the rest of the movie syndrome”. Without any antagonist to provide some sort of goal, the few characters with actual personalities were left wandering around the set looking for something to do. At one point Jack needs a med pack, so he jumps in his ship and heads for home, burning another fifteen minutes of time. Why wasn’t there a med pack in his ship? He’s the one with a dangerous job, you’d think that would be a rather handy spot for a medical kit. Ether the future doesn’t have safety standards, or the director was getting paid by the hour.
The action finally picks back up near the end of the movie, when surprise, surprise, the characters are given something to do. Unfortunately a good ending on an otherwise horrible movie with less characters then a board room business presentation, is like putting a new roof on a derelict house. Admirable in the effort and good looking in comparison, but an utter waste of time and resource.
Going to see this movie did teach me something though, biased thinking can lead you to some rather poor decision making. So on that line of thought, does anyone know of any plans to make a live action “Wall-E” re-make in the near future?
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Release Date: April 19, 2013
Run Time: 126 Minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures