About one hour into the new science fiction film, Oblivion, a scene takes place that represents much of what I hate about Hollywood blockbusters. To be clear up front: this isn’t a fault of the film itself, but rather the system dictating it.
Oblivion opens with an extended bit of narration by Tom Cruise’s character, Jack. Jack explains how Earth’s moon was destroyed several years ago. How nature took over and destroyed much of the planet before aliens invaded. There was a war. We won, but Earth remains a barren wasteland. Everyone has been shipped to live on one of Saturn’s moons, while giant machines absorb the remainder of Earth’s water. Jack’s job is to protect the drones that protect the water suction apparatuses from the aliens trying to destroy them.
It’s a lot to take in, but director Joseph Kosinski does a fine job impressing us with spectacular visuals while Cruise narrates ceaselessly.
So here’s my problem.
An hour into the film, Jack discovers and saves human astronaut, Julia (Olga Kurylenko). Moments later, Jack and his partner (both in mission and sex), Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) sit Julia down and tell her what’s going on. And what that entails is a damn near word for word rehashing of the laborious monologue Cruise delivered at the start of the film. No, I didn’t have a script handy to check if the two speeches were verbatim, but to the best of my knowledge, they were damn close.
I take issue with the fact that either Kosinski or (most likely) Universal, the studio responsible for the film, assumes audiences are that dumb. Or forgetful. Or slow. Do we really need to hear the same bit of extended, expository, plot-driven dialogue twice? Within an hour? Do we really? God forbid an action blockbuster like Oblivion omits an introductory monologue and instead asks us to follow the characters around for a little while and play an intriguing game of catch up. Just imagine that. Imagine if this information was only delivered once, when Jack and Victoria tell Julia what has happened. Imagine if we spent the first hour of the film wondering the purpose of Jack and Victoria’s mission. If done right, that could be damn effective.
But, again, this isn’t a fault of Oblivion (which, I suppose, is a decently entertaining summer action sci-fi flick), it’s only a personal qualm with the cookie cutter mold of the Hollywood system. I knew damn well what to expect from this movie – I wasn’t let down and I wasn’t built up, but rather, reinstated with what I already assumed.
|Anthony Gonzalez (second from left)|
In the months leading up to this Oblivion’s release, I’ve been vocal about my enthusiasm for M83’s original score for the film. M83 is my favorite band, their music inspires me as much as many of my favorite films. Frontrunner Anthony Gonzalez moved to L.A. a few years ago to take a run at the movie business, and Oblivion was his first major gig. A few weeks ago, the entire soundtrack was made available to legally stream online. About three tracks in, I knew what had happened. I knew Universal had dumbed down Gonzalez’s cinematic, epic, unique sound. I had no way to prove this, aside from the fact that the Oblivion score sounded like most any Hollywood movie score, which is to say, nothing like an M83 album. (For the record, the film’s single M83esque track, “StarWaves,” is laughably misused in a standard, silly PG-13 friendly sex scene.)
One week ago, my theories were confirmed when Gonzalez told Pitchfork exactly what I just told you. He said he submitted a handful of tracks, and Universal responded by saying they were “too indie.” Gonzalez spent the next year (scores typically take two to three months to create) drafting a generic score that could’ve been done by someone, quite frankly, more qualified than him. The result is more than 100 minutes of original score that is satisfying to the genre, but not much else. This is a damn shame. In my opinion, Universal had the opportunity to create something really different here. Something with balls, heart and intrigue. But I suppose that does sound a little too indie. C