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The Geek Life: Living in Oblivion
All this damn Tom Cruisery!
By Robert T. Trate
August 19, 2013
The Geek Life is a look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week, the Geek Life is living in Oblivion.
*SPOILERS ABOUND for OBLIVION*
Oblivion has now arrived on Blu-ray and DVD and I am still in awe of it. There is so much to witness and it is an incredibly layered film, yet why do I only like it and not love it? I think the answer may have to do with more than the film’s star, Tom Cruise. Sure, there is a fair share of Tom Cruisery going on, but that doesn’t ruin my over all enjoyment of the film. It is only a small part. I think that in order to better understand why Oblivion doesn’t fulfill me as much as I’d like it to, I have to go back to Tron: Legacy.
Director Joseph Kosinski does have an incredible eye for breathtaking visuals. Both Tron: Legacy and Oblivion prove that. Did I feel as if I was living on the Grid? Yes. Did I feel that the world of Tron was one unto itself? You betcha. The same can be said of Oblivion. I felt it was exactly what Kosinski promised, “beautiful desolation”. I felt as if his Earth “after the war” was very real, so much so that I don’t want to know where or how they filmed those breathtaking scenes. It is far more real than anything George Lucas muddled with in digital effects in Episodes 1 through 3. Then again, it seems as if Kosinski shares the same problem as recent Lucas: delivering the story.
Tron: Legacy is a simple story of redemption for the father by the son. Oblivion, though much bigger, is riddled with a far more interesting backstory than the one that plays out before the audience. Much like the opening of Indy’s WW2 adventures in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I found Earth’s war itself and thousands of “Jacks” emerging from the TET more interesting than the “clone discovering he is a clone” story. To put it bluntly, it had been done before and far better in Duncan Jones’s Moon. Even Beech’s (Morgan Freeman) and mankind’s struggles to find a way to stop the TET are better stories.
I also have problems with Tom Cruise’s relationship with both Julia (Olga Kurylenko) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). As doomed as Victoria’s relationship with Jack is, I found it more believable than his real marriage to Julia. Olga Kurylenko is far better Bond girl eye candy than a leading lady or love interest. She is meant to be an object of desire and a mystery for Jack to pursue, yet, when she arrives, it seems like Jack was better off with Victoria. Riseborough is goal focused and, at times cold, but she simply longs to join the other survivors on Titan. Does she love Jack? Yes. Did I believe it? You betcha.
The main thing that keeps drawing me back into Oblivion is the music. The score by Anthony Gonzalez of M83 and Joseph Trapanese (TRON: Uprising, The Raid: Redemption) is incredible. It has both the scope of an epic film and a Sci-Fi action flick. Yet, somewhere it retains a childlike innocence of an eighties score that inspired so many of us. It is far superior to the film, much like Trapanese’s work on Tron: Legacy. Hopefully, like Danny Eflman’s entrance into the world of soundtracks, Trapanese will be with us for a long time.
Thankfully, Universal Studios recognized this incredible piece of music and commissioned both a Mondo Vinyl Album (check it out here) and an isolated score on the Blu-ray.
Even with an incredible soundtrack and beautiful, desolate images, Oblivion still gnaws at me. It may just come down to Tom Cruise, after all. I am past the point of him jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch and acting like a man in love. Don’t think this is yet another bash on Cruise. In fact, I have separated myself enough from the insanity of those years to watch Mission Impossible III and Ghost Protocol. I found them to be fun films. However, I do think Oblivion’s error falls on Cruise, himself. In no way did I believe that Cruise was playing any character other than himself. The Yankees Cap and the Navy Aviator Sunglasses are two small elements that immediately took me out of the film. I’m not saying that no one can wear a Yankees cap in more than one film, but he did don that look for War of the Worlds. The Navy Aviators? Well, that should be obvious. These are small things, but, nonetheless, they pulled me out of the film. It might even come down to the character being named Jack when Cruise’s has just finished playing the title role in Jack Reacher. All these Tom Cruise staples just remove me from the fantasy.
Of course, you must admit Cruise is the kind of actor you can’t escape. He can make a film happen and his presence gets the media’s attention in projects. Honestly, even though I went for the subject matter of Oblivion and the director, I found that Tom Cruise is what’s lingering with me more than anything else. Perhaps I really am just living in oblivion and really do need to get past all this Tom Cruisery.
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.