I loved TRON: LEGACY! It was one of the most impressive debuts I have seen in a long while. Which is why I was really excited the first time I saw the trailer for OBLIVION, which is from the same filmmaker, Joesph Kosinski. I didn’t know until after I saw the movie, but this is actually based on a graphic novel created by Kosinski. This made me even more curious since TRON was already created by someone else, and now we get to see a world that he, himself, created. Trailers looked pretty rad I thought.
This sci-fi film is loaded with secrets and twists, so I’m going to do my best not to give things a way (though the trailer kind of gives away at least one twist). Earth has been mostly demolished due to an invasion by some creatures only known as “scavengers”. The humans won the war, but lost the planet. Most everyone has been transported to a space station by Saturn, waiting for resources to make that planet livable. Tom Cruise plays Jack, who is part of a two-person team looking over the machines that is extracting the remaining resources from Earth. His partner/lover is Victoria, who sits by a computer as Jack flies around in a spiffy white spaceship searching for things. But there is more to Jack than just serving the mission. Even though he never existed before the war, he has a desire to learn about the pleasures there were to have on the planet, like sports, music, etc. He has a longing for something more.
He must also be careful because there are still some scavengers (they call them “scavs”) hiding underground, that attack on occasion. But, Jack also doesn’t know everything. Things aren’t quite what they seem when he discovers a crashed spaceship carrying human passengers. One of the survivors is a woman he keeps dreaming about. What does it mean? And that’s all I’m really going to say about the plot.
Part of the driving force of this movie is that the viewer isn’t always sure what’s going on or where the film is going. It definitely made me want to keep watching. It also helps that the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths making every detail on every object in the movie absolutely perfect, from the design of the ships, to the complex design of Jack’s living quarters (loved the transparent pool). And that color scheme! Most Sci-fi films these days seem to make everything dark and dirty. Not so here. Everything is bright white and clean. This film is pure eye candy. The visual effects are astounding! Some of the best I’ve seen in a very long time. 90% of the CGI in this looked absolutely real. It’s almost like they really did invent these ships and robot drones that worked and flew around, cause they LOOKED REAL!
But….. how does the effects support the story? I would say…. quite well. The story is engaging. It helps that Cruise’s Jack is that sort of every man that people can relate to. I also liked that the movie wasn’t all action. Sure, there’s visual effects in nearly every shot, but the plot is always front and center. But I can’t really talk about it since that would be giving things away, I think. Just trust me when I say that’s it’s pretty smart. I did find a few questions that the film left me with, and occasionally I was confused, but in the end, I got it. I wonder how this movie would be on a second viewing. I could possibly like it more.
There are also some spectacular action set pieces as well. They don’t dominate the picture, but there are a few awesome moments. There are these robot drones that help Jack in his mission. But there’s a point where they turn on him (not really a spoiler) and he most battle them. The way these drones go on rampages is pretty cool. Shit gets really crazy. There’s also a great chase when the drones are chasing Jack in his ship. I liked that this was mostly played straight. This isn’t one of those dumb sci-fi films that plays down to its audience (BATTLESHIP), this is a smart film that still has some “WOW” moments. I do think it gets bogged down a bit in the second half with some exposition that seemed to muddle things up rather than make things clearer, but I still enjoyed the flick quite a bit.
Cruise… I like Tom Cruise. I don’t give a shit about his personal life and blah, blah, blah. He’s always been a solid, reliable actor and he doesn’t disappoint here. He never gives less than 110%, and I appreciate that. The other actors are all decent. Olga Kurylenko’s exotic beauty adds to her mysterious character (the one Cruise dreams about). Virtually unknown actress, Andrea Riseborough, shines as Jack’s partner. She carries many scenes and is very good (and we get to see her tush as she swims naked in that sweet pool). Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman are in there somewhere too, but I’m not going to talk about them. But they’re both pretty awesome.
Kosinski has proven that he is a top-notch, big budget filmmaker. I love that this movie is 100% clear, visually. There is no shaky-cam. It’s all slick, fluid filmmaking and very easy to see everything that’s happening. It’s perfectly storyboarded and executed from a directing stand point. Honestly, I would prefer that he direct the new STAR WARS movie than JJ Abrams. I like JJ, but he tends to have that hip, modern touch that I don’t think STAR WARS needs. It needs a traditional, classic approach, and I think Kosinski would be perfect. Just sayin’.
The story is decent. I liked a lot of the ideas here, though there is almost TOO much to explain. But it’s definitely ambitious, and I admire that. I must also talk about the music. It’s fucking awesome. Remember Daft Punk’s score in TRON LEGACY, this is almost as good. It’s not by Daft Punk, it’s by M83, which I can only assume is some sort of electronica artist. It fits the film like a glove, driving the film like a pulse.
If you like geeky sci-fi, this should be right up your alley. I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be a huge blockbuster, but I’d willing to bet that this is going to have a loyal cult fanbase. I think this is a pretty awesome movie. The visual effects are some of the best I have ever seen, and better be remembered come Oscar time. It’s a smart blockbuster that may have a hard time finding a large audience, but those that discover it will love it. Especially nerds. And I am one of those. ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.
– Running time: 2hrs 4min.