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Article by Teddy Durgin

Tom Cruise Welcomes You to Oblivion...It's a Confusing Place

A common complaint of moviegoers and movie reviewers is that today's trailers and commercials for films give away too much of the plot. Well, in the case of "Oblivion," I am glad I saw the trailer and multiple ads before previewing it earlier this week. If I hadn't ... I'd have been lost! That's because we the audience are spoon-fed a LOT of unreliable exposition throughout either via vague flashbacks, cryptic dialogue in the present (or, in this case, the future) or the unreliable voiceover of a main character who's had his memory wiped. I felt like throwing my hands up in the air in surrender at least twice while watching it. Basically, aliens invade Earth in the late 21st century after destroying our moon - an extremely effective strategy that would wreak some serious havoc down here and make an invasion much easier. At any rate, we went to war with 'em and ended up using our nukes to win. In doing so, though, we made the planet uninhabitable, and now former astronauts Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough are left behind to protect and repair giant mining machines that extract Earth's remaining resources as the surviving human population waits above in orbit to journey to its new home of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Cruise's enemy? Besides the screenwriters, the surviving stragglers of the alien invasion, who are still hellbent on humanity's annihilation. I'll give the movie credit. It is certainly entertaining from an action and visual effects standpoint. But I got more enjoyment listening to the audience massed outside of the theater afterwards trying to noodle through the plot as presented by director/co-screenwriter Joseph Kosinski in an unnecessarily convoluted puzzle-box style. My main problem with "Oblivion" is there is simply too much information that is told and not shown. Massive amounts of exposition are hurled at the audience in clumps rather than dramatized on screen. Visually, the film is a masterpiece. Kosinski was the director of "TRON Legacy," so the man knows how to deliver spectacle. The future design here is meticulous and enthralling to drink in with one's eyes. Sure, I chuckled at Cruise's frequent fly-overs of post-apocalyptic New York and Washington, D.C. Everything has been decimated ... er, except for the most recognizable landmarks like the U.S. Capitol and the Empire State Building's observation deck. But the design of Jack's airship, his speeder bike, the platform penthouse he and Riseborough's comely Victoria share that comes complete with a command center and a swimming pool for the Vickster to take nude swims in are all really quite cool. It's the end of the world as we know it, and I'd feel fine with living in that swank pad, flying that awesome ship and coming home to that fine honey. I just wish the screenplay had a different structure. When so much is told and not shown - and when you have to constantly ask "Is what they're telling me the truth, because they are NOT showing me?" - the drama gets short-changed. You just wait around for the film to spring its final revelations and hope they aren't vague, too. Oooh, and the musical score for this film is a bit over the top. Anthony Gonzalez and M83's pounding, percussion-heavy instrumentals assign the same dramatic weight to everything the characters do in this film, whether it's Cruise flying a suicide mission to an alien mothership or Riseborough requesting the salt and pepper at the dinner table. This is for people who thought the "Inception" soundtrack was too subtle. Still, I'm giving "Oblivion" a mild recommendation. The special effects are quite special, and Cruise certainly works his 50-year-old tail off throughout in an action role that has echoes of Maverick from "Top Gun" and Ethan Hunt from "Mission: Impossible." But please. If you do see it, go with someone you can put together the plot with afterwards ... and definitely watch the trailer!

PG-13

 

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