Oblivion trailer – reaction

OblivionThe marginal outings of Mission: Impossible and Vanilla Sky aside, Tom Cruise doesn’t often dabble in science fiction, but his two previous outings, the Philip K Dick adaptation Minority Report and the update of H G Wells’ The War of the Worlds, both directed by Steven Spielberg, grossed $950 million worldwide, a more successful take than his sole fantasy outing, Ridley Scott’s Legend, which only recouped half of its $30 million budget on original release. Set in the aftermath of an alien attack that has left the Earth ravaged, Cruise is Jack Harper, a drone repairman who visits the surface from his base in the clouds as part of a “mop up” crew, but finds the surface not so deserted as was thought. As usual, the team have weighed in with their opinions on the first glimpse of this upcoming release.

Michael Flett – I think it looks tedious and generic. By opening with the baseball scene, it’s obvious they’re appealing to “the American crowd,” something that immediately tells me they know they’re going to sell it to the parochial, sorry domestic, audience, so they have to get a hook in there that they understand – look at Tom Cruise, he’s an everyman, he likes baseball! They used to do it with Ben Sisko on Deep Space 9, and it bored me there too.

There seems to be precious little story. I’ve seen so many apocalypses, you have to make yours interesting, and yet the trailer is just explosions and flying things. So the aliens attacked sixty years ago? Shouldn’t that be the story? How did we defeat them? Are they still out there? The girlfriend in the sky seems to have inherited Tom’s interface from Minority Report. Nice to know the future can be bought off the peg, perhaps at Ikea?

It’s telling that the only name in the trailer is Tom Cruise, and I’m not a fan of his. That’s not to say that he can’t be good, but he’s a franchise name, so a studio will never take a risk on him by doing something edgy or challenging, it’s always by the numbers, and this has so few of those I doubt I can count up to five.

Both Tom and Morgan Freeman seem to be playing their usual characters. Been a long time since Tom stretched himself, actually showed he can act when needed like in Born on the 4th of July or Interview with the Vampire. Even in Collateral, though playing the baddie, he was still the usual Cruise persona.

The books look like they might be giving it a feel of trying to reclaim the past, not so much Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as Alastair Reynolds‘ Century Rain, but maybe they’re trying to make Tom look deep rather than just pretty.

The director, Joseph Kosinski, previously gave us Tron Legacy, which isn’t a recommendation for great storytelling, and has done commercials for video games. It’s based on his own graphic novel, not one I’ve ever heard of, and hopefully working from his own script he has managed to do a better job than pretty-but-painfully-dull Tron, but I suspect if I see this it will be out of obligation rather than interest.

Apparently the final draft of the script is by Michael Arndt who has been signed to write the new Star Wars film, so this will be our first look at what he can do in a hard science fiction setting. A lot of people are going to be taking careful notes and jumping to unwarranted conclusions based on that, I imagine.

Adam Dworak – I like it, I like Tom Cruise, he makes things work, and there is a reason he is a Hollywood superstar. Even if the plot is weak, I always see him as a strong element, so I like that he is in this movie. It’s nice to see Morgan Freeman doing a real science fiction movie – I never felt Deep Impact was science fiction, it was more a disaster movie, and besides, it didn’t have lasers.

The trailer is intruiging, it is for example way better than the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer because it gives me some information about what to expect, but not too much – it teases me with information and makes me want to know more, which is what a good trailer should do.

The first part of the trailer is a bit too white and clean, too obviously digitally created, and I prefer my movies with a bit of dirt under their fingernails, so hopefully the scenes on the surface will bring that. It’s a film, not a computer game.

Also from what I see it reminds me of The Matrix. I‘m basing it only on this trailer, but I see a guy who is working for a system, and he finds something out about that system and then turns to fight it. I’m also aware we’ve seen a lot of apocalypse movies, Twelve Monkeys, I Am Legend, so they’ll have to come up with something new to say.

In one sentence, yes, I’m looking forward to seeing this movie.

Les Anderson – I generally avoid TC movies like the plague – his air of desperation grows more palpable as the years pass. Probably one to avoid.

Brian Robinson – Good lord, are we getting what appears to be an original, big budget science fiction film next year? Well, that counts in its favour with me from the outset. Looks interesting. Does the good job of setting up a familiar situation (relatively speaking) and then spinning it around, raising more questions. However, those questions seem not entirely original.

An unfair comparison has been drawn with Wall-E in terms of Cruise’s character’s mission but this seems like a mix of that and I am Legend to a degree. The alien menace itself seems not to be as menacing as everything else in the trailer – Morgan Freeman and his chums seem less than friendly to Tom, althought their intent is not entirely clear, almost Morpheus with a sledgehammer. And then Tom’s own “chums” seem to be against him in some way. Why these reversals are happening is still unclear and so it should be – this is a trailer, not a movie.

Production desi
gn looks not bad and the look of Cruise’s ship is rather unusual (geek nostalgia – it reminded me of the old Britains Star System toys). But the involvement of Joseph Kozinski dampens it for me. I only hope he has a better script to deal with after the flashy predictability fest that was Tron Legacy. But I was predisposed to dislike that as I hated Tron as a kid (people like me exist – deal with it).

Oblivion is released on April 12th, 2013

Follow the link for our full review of Oblivion



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