BLU-RAY REVIEW: Oblivion
Tom Cruise's Latest Sci-Fi Actioner Hits Hi-Def Home Video...
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I've never had as high hopes for a sci-fi film as I had for Oblivion. I first received the (short) Oblivion preview book at San Diego Comic-Con a number of years ago at the Radical Comics' booth, with an expected release date of the graphic novel within 6 months (read our story HERE). Enter Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, who swept the story away and kept it from sci-fi graphic novel fans for years. Sadly, the highly-anticipated release, written for the screen by Karl Gaidusek and Michael Arndt, attempts to tell a story that's been told before in a new way...were that new way combining portions and parts of previously released sci-fi films considered new. That said, while the storyline might suffer, the film itself is simply too gorgeous and well made to ignore or, for that matter, not enjoy.
As much as I wanted to complain about Oblivion's story and the plot holes which appear out of nowhere, the film's gorgeous vistas, incredible design work, and brilliant use of light and angles make Oblivion eye candy of the sweetest and most appreciated type. The dystopian future that exists in Oblivion is at once foreign as it is recognizable. Landmarks we all know and love stand present in conditions we've never before comprehended them to be in; decimated by the alien menace which has utterly destroyed all we know and love. Thus it is in this brutally beautifully landscape we find Tech Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his Communications Office and partner Vica Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) existing high in the skies above the dilapidated earth surface. Repairing the sentry bots which both protect and serve as the eyes and arms of a massive ship in space called the Tet, it is these bots which Harper works on day and night. Of course, all too often these bots are shot down or destroyed by the Scavengers - or Scavs - who use guerrilla tactics to battle the robots - and Harper - when able. However, when a human astronaut named Julia (Olga Kurylenko) crash lands in an antique shuttle and tells Jack the truth, he finds himself facing consequences the likes of which he's never imagined possible.
Without revealing any major plot points or spoilers, it's fair to say Oblivion's storyline is, at times, creatively original. It introduces some exciting ideas in some fun and impressive new ways. That said, Oblivion struggles to find its own identity in a massive ocean of sci-fi films which have come before it and swallowed much of the originality and uniqueness that makes up the current sci-fi genre. Some of Oblivion's most impressive moments are taken right out of older sci-fi films which have obviously provided a firm foundation upon which this gorgeous but ultimately shallow film firmly stands. That's not to say Oblivion doesn't reuse these plot devices and ideas well; in fact, I'd say Oblivion director Kosinski has - as he did with Tron: Legacy - used some of the most proven sci-fi ideas to their greatest capacity. But that sadly doesn't make them any more new or unique.
What Oblivion lacks in originality it attempts to make up for with stunning visuals, which are truly the reason to watch. From the barren deserts and dust-riddled cities to the disappearing oceans and streamlined tech; there's nothing here that's unattractive; especially the cast. Cruise is solid as Jack Harper while Riseborough's beauty takes center stage often. Likewise, Kurylenko brings to life Julia in a way that makes the woman both strong yet scared; an interesting duality that makes sense in context.
The 1080 video and DTS-HD audio track perhaps make Oblivion the best blu-ray home video presentation I've seen or heard so far this year. With a gorgeous picture that's harsh to the eyes and yet impossible to stop watching, the colors on screen are stark and sterile with pure whites, dirty browns and deep blacks. Likewise, the audio provides incredible resonance and depth; dialogue is always clear, laser and gunfire is sharp and explosions reverberate throughout the room.
As for special features, the blu-ray disc includes a number which viewers will appreciate, including an audio commentary with director Joseph Kosinski and actor Tom Cruise, who provide insight into the film's details. Everything from the production and design to the film's pitch, the illustrated novel (which I still don't have!) and the film's themes and ideas - they're all mentioned and discussed here. A five-part near 50-minute "Making Of" documentary - "Promise of a New World" - provides a look at the story's development, the film's inspiration, the film's design, the action and stunts, the visual effects and the music. It's this near hour-long behind-the-scenes look at Oblivion that makes for a better understanding of the movie. The disc also includes four deleted/alternate scenes and an isolated score.
While Oblivion isn't nearly as original or unique as one would hope, it's still an impressive piece of work. It's got an engaging plot, beautiful visuals, an intriguing premise and some solid action throughout. While it may stand on the shoulders of past sci-fi movies, there's no doubt Oblivion will find a place among the herd of sci-fi that's hitting the box office and home video today. Here's hoping Cruise's next foray into sci-fi, Edge of Tomorrow (based on the novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka), is even better still.
Oblivion is available now on Blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley