Depending too heavily on the CGI to rescue its faults and scavenging a few too many plot points from other science fiction films. Oblivion’s bloated budget and excessive storyline dismantle any hope for resuscitation and disengage the audience to a point of pity. Even though at times Oblivion seems to be saved from becoming another meaningless entry into an over saturated genre. The forced and fabricated acting, with the exception of Andrea Risebourough, is too artificial, much like the numerous drones and futuristic machines zooming sporadically around Oblivion’s desolate Earth. Directed by TRON: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski and featuring Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, and the aforementioned Andrea Risebourough. Oblivion has the accomplished, visionary crew to undertake its cosmic mission, but doesn’t have the essential resources to get more than a few feet off the ground.
In the year 2077, Jack Harper (Cruise) and Victoria (Riseborough) are a team assigned to Earth for drone repair. Jack travels down to the surface for the repairs while Victoria monitors him from above. The drones are used to eliminate any remaining Scavs on Earth after the war. The human race was at war with the alien species after they destroyed the moon, causing multiple natural disasters which wiped out a large chunk of the population. Humanity was forced to use nuclear weapons. Humanity won the war, but lost the planet. The remaining population now lives on Titan, a moon of Saturn, while a few remain on the spaceship TET orbiting Earth. When Jack is attending to a routine repair, an unidentified object crashes into Earth. When he searches the wreckage, he makes a startling discover that shatters his perceived notion of what is real and sets out on a mission to discover the truth.
Let’s begin with the positives of Oblivion, even if they are scarce. Surprisingly, Oblivion is full of lacklustre performances from the likes of Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, and Olga Kurylenko. With their film history, you wouldn’t expect it. I anticipated more from them, especially Kurylenko after seeing her recently in To the Wonder. However, Andrea Risebourough is the only bright spot amongst the mediocrity. Her calm and composed nature is elegantly emotionless, robot like. She radiates, exudes those few moments before a storm. As long as she isn’t disturbed or have her routine interrupted, she’ll continue to glow, seductively. Yet, when the fabric of her apocalyptic world comes undone, she destroys what’s blocking the path. To be honest, she’s probably the reason I didn’t walk out of the theatre, I think that is the highest praise I can give. With Cruise and Freeman, you know what you’re getting. We take the good with the bad from them because the good is worth it. Unfortunately however, Oblivion is the bad.
Aside from the heavenly performance by Risebourough. The only other positive Oblivion has to offer is its top of the line CGI. Which shouldn’t really be a positive at all. It should be afore gone conclusion that with its budget, Oblivion should produce unparalleled computer generated imagery. But, for the sake of this review, lets pretend that it’s a miraculous feat. I’d also like to applaud Kosinski and crew for trying to inject as much emotion and humanity into the film that they could muster. They didn’t fail miserably. Again, the issue stems from the unnatural dialogue. There is no flow to it, it simply isn’t fluid enough. The scene that resonated with me the most is when Risebourough, naked, seduces Cruise into the pool and the two begin to entangle themselves beneath the surface. I find it quite ironic that in a film that suffers greatly from its overly complex story, the most entrancing scene is also the most simple.
Now for the lacklustre. In summary, the dialogue is too scripted, not at all realistic and it causes great disconnect with the viewers. How can one empathize with what is happening when it is painfully clear that you’re watching a performance.This coincides with the storyline and characters being abhorrently predictable. Moving right along, Oblivion steals too many plot points from other, successful sci-fi films such as Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, etc…This contributes to the predictability of the film because we’ve seen it all before. It was actually infuriating watching Oblivion’s plot continue to pile useless addition after useless addition of unnecessary twists and turns from past films of the genre.
Despite its stunning CGI and a lovely performance from Andrea Risebourough. Oblivion’s lack of originality and unbelievable characters are the reason it falters.
Oblivion: 5.5 out of 10.
It just wouldn’t be a Terrence Malick premiere without a divided audience, one half cheering ecstatically while the other group claps a bit less enthused. At the Toronto International Film Festival this past year, To the Wonder was perceived by some of its viewers to be choppy and disengaging while others found it vibrant, full of artistry, and undeniably heartfelt. I was in attendance and was in the latter category. To the Wonder is a respectable follow up to The Tree of Life proving that Malick’s sudden splurge into rapid filmmaking hasn’t hampered his abilities. Starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem, To the Wonder has plenty of talent to showcase both on and off screen. As with most Malick films, the sparse dialogue and his infatuation with letting the visuals do the talking might discourage even the most avid filmgoer.
Upon visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina (Kurylenko) and Neil (Affleck) return to Oklahoma where Marina has trouble adapting to her new lifestyle. Marina confides in Father Quintana (Bardem) who is struggling with his religion and faith in humanity. While Neil and Marina continue to distance from one another, Jane (McAdams), a childhood friend of Neil’s enters the picture. As Neil and Jane become closer, Marina fades out of Neil’s life and he is left trying to recoup their relationship.
A bit more structured than Malick’s past endeavours, the intertwining tales in To the Wonder much like The Tree of Life criss cross the limitations of faith, family, and fate. The themes and scenarios might be too diagnostic and preachy for some, but To the Wonder knows its message and subtly displays it in beauty and strength. After viewing To the Wonder at its TIFF premiere, I was taken back by Olga Kurylenko’s performance. She is weightless as she drifts in and out of her characters own importance as it clashes with her daughters, trying to live her life while still doing right by her child. Ben Affleck, Kurylenko’s other half is primal and compassionately segmented between love and reality. McAdams and Bardem, while scarcely used are scene stealers whenever they do hit the screen. Malick doesn’t miss a beat in directing To the Wonder even though it is the fastest consecutive film he has ever completed. To the Wonder is transcendent, illuminating, and bold, a must see for fans of Malick and cast.
To the Wonder: 8.5 out of 10.