[SPOILER WARNING. SERIOUSLY. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN OBLIVIOUS, ER, OBLIVION, STARRING THOMAS CRUISE MAPOTHER III BACK AWAY FROM THE INTERNET NOW. Thank-you.]
I know, I know. Oblivious… I’m sorry, Oblivion came out almost a year ago. But it’s new to me. As in I’ve only just seen it. The reasons for this are many, but come down to: $. And my movie $ were spent elsewhere last year. (And I didn’t even think of seeing M. Night Shyamalamdingdong’s After Birth).
I’m not saying Oblivious, I’m sorry–Oblivion–is bad. It’s… entertaining. To a point. It’s entertaining in the ways the most Hollywood “high concept” pictures are entertaining these days.
In fact, I imagine the pitch going something like this:
Studio flunky #1: “We’ve got this great piece. High concept. Dystopian future. Like Hunger Games. Only not.”
Studio Exec: “Tell me more. What do you mean like “Hunger Games?”
Studio flunky #2: “Well, it’s like Hunger Games in that it’s set in a Dystopian future. That’s what’s like. But you know what? Think more in terms of alien invasion. But not.”
Studio Exec looks perplexed, but give his best “Temba, his arms open” look and gesture: “Tell me more.”
Studio flunky #1: “Yeah, it’s dystopian like Hunger Games, but if you think more like Independence Day meets Michael Bay’s The Island you’d be closer to the mark.”
Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, that’s totally it! It’s Independence Day meets The Island! Cause we’ve got an alien invasion and clones!”
Studio Exec: “Clones? Where do the clones come in? And who’s it got? Who’s attached to star?”
Studio flunky #1: “Well, you know how ID4 had Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum? We think we need to mix it up like that, too…”
Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, instead of those guys, we’ll have Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise!”
Studio flunkies #1 and #2 in unison: “And it’s a total misdirection! We start in media res, and make the audience think one thing–when it’s totally something else! Tom Cruise is a clone!”
Studio Exec: “Tell me something I didn’t know.”
Studio flunkies exchange a bemused look.
Studio flunky #1: “There’s of course a love interest, a resistance group on earth, and cool special effects. And a happy ending!”
Studio flunky #2: “We think it’s got legs. It’ll do boffo box office.”
Studio Exec: “Where do I sign?”
I call the film Oblivious, because, #1 the studio heads have to be completely clueless when such hackneyed tropes get used over an over again; and #2, they count on us, the movie going populace, to be completely oblivious when they do so. The story really does borrow heavily from both The Island and ID4. There is an invasion, but it happens before the movie’s beginning. We think (are in fact told) that humanity won the war, but ruined the planet (when the the truth is we did not). This is totally telegraphed, and by the time the big twist drops, we know. I knew what was coming: Tom Cruise is a clone. Not only that, but like Bay’s before: there is no Island (in this case, Triton). We’ve seen it all before. We’ve seen it done better…
I wanted to like Oblivion. I really did. But the ending? Ugh. Total Hollywood! Not only do they blatantly steal the “blow up the alien mother ship” sequence from ID4, they take the sacrifice the Tom Cruise character makes, and take a dump all over it with a tacked-on, schmaltzy happy ending. A sacrifice is a sacrifice precisely because it costs somebody something.
But not, I guess, in Hollywood.
Where far too many folks are, you guessed it, oblivious. Or maybe I’m just cynical and jaded.