Thursday, November 21, 2013


There is, sometimes, a desire to see a movie that you know is going to be bad, but you just can't talk yourself out of seeing it. For whatever reason. Maybe, like with the Die Hard movies, you've seen all the other ones and can't make yourself not watch the newest one despite all the dumb pouring off of it. Or, maybe, there's just some cast member that you just have to see every movie that he's in, like I was with Harrison Ford back in the 80s. Or, maybe, the movie just looks cool and you hope you're just wrong about how bad it's going to be. That's kind of where I was with Oblivion. It just looked cool, and I was hoping, maybe, it was one of those things that the masses wouldn't get into but was really kind of good.

I was wrong.

So here's the spoiler warning, because I'm not going to try to not talk about aspects of the movie, so, if you think, like me, that the movie looks cool and you're probably going to watch it anyway despite what I say (just don't do it. really), you shouldn't read this. If you want to know about all of the dumb (you should!), read on.

I realize this isn't an issue for some people, but it is for me, as I've mentioned before: The movie did that opening narration thing to explain what's going on. I'm convinced that opening narration is almost always a bad thing. If you have to have it, you have either (1) started your movie in the wrong place (2) failed to provide information within the movie in a way that works for the viewer. The Star Wars movies are one of the few places where you can find effective opening narration (in the form of the prologue scroll). And, then, not only did Oblivion open with the narration providing the viewer with an out-of-character monologue of events, but all of that same information was provided about halfway through the movie in almost exactly the same format. Please, do not provide me the same information more than once in your movie. I can almost guarantee you that I got it the first time (which is why I tell my kids to not repeat themselves when they do something they find funny: I did just see it happen).

Despite the opening narration, the movie doesn't make much sense. Ostensibly, Jack and Victoria are a team placed on Earth to defend these large fusion reactors, but, really, why are they needed? There's actually no good reason for them to be there. Sure, sure, he's some technician who has to repair the drones, but that's flimsy at best, because that whole set up is just to support the fact that they want this character that doesn't have any memories, but from any kind of logical standpoint, it doesn't make any sense. I mean, it might (almost) make sense if the stated premise of the movie was true, but you know it's not, because, even if it was, what would be the point of erasing the memories of the support teams? However, with the knowledge that the aliens are really in charge, there is absolutely no good reason to have things set up the way they are. Why do they need humans to repair their drones? And why, after the Jack clones fought for them as their army when they took over the Earth, do they need to trick the clones into believing they're normal humans anyway?

Then there's the problem of Jack having this whole wilderness retreat that he's built, somehow, without anyone finding out. He's able to just turn off the tracking unit in his (what I'm calling) dragonfly ship (which  is very cool, by the way) and go "off comm." What the heck? His navigator person (who never leaves "the tower") doesn't have any idea where he is when he does this and neither do the aliens. Seriously? They just allow him to go off and do secret things without bothering to know what he's up to. Completely implausible. Sure, it makes sense if you believe the story as it's presented at the beginning of the movie, but, again, you know that's not the whole story fairly quickly, and the idea that the aliens (or whatever) would just allow this is beyond imagining. It's what the writer/director do to support the lie and get the audience to buy into it, but those things need to make sense after the truth is revealed, too.

Jack has these dreams... dreams of being in New York before it was destroyed, but that was 50 or so years ago, and he's not that old. My wife kept joking about them being "clone dreams" because, at that point, we were trying to go along with what the movie was telling us. Trying. But we both knew she was right. Right in that being what the movie was going to say they were: memories of Jack's life before he was cloned by the aliens. Seriously? This isn't the 80s anymore, and we already knew in the 80s, even in sci-fi, that clones don't get the memories of the being they were cloned from. The memory flashes work if his mind really was "wiped" before his mission, but it doesn't work as some remnant from his genetic donor. It's just dumb. Why can't we seem to get past this stupid idea that clones have the memory of whatever they were cloned from? (And, again, I just have to point out that Star Wars does not do this, the only sci-fi clone movie I can think of that doesn't fall back on that tired idea.)

Also, the drones, which can follow Jack's "DNA trail" (really? we leave a trail of DNA in the atmosphere even when we're in an enclosed, airtight vessel?) have a problem with his voice identification and consider killing him more than once. I suppose they can't sense his DNA when he gets too close. That's only a long-range thing. (Do you sense the sarcasm there?)

And there's the bit where the drones are flying through the human hideout blasting everyone into cinders but, when one of them corners Jack's wife, Julia (introduced only to be a princess-in-the-tower character), and a bunch of other humans in a dead-end corridor, it pauses and decides to scan them. Again, really? The drone, programmed to kill humans, suddenly needs to stop and scan them? For just long enough for it to get exploded from behind, of course.

And, after all of that, we're not even up to the stupidest part of the movie. I know! I see your jaws hanging. The stupidest part is when he finally flies up to the alien ship, this huge, upside-down pyramid thing, and it's just full of vast expanses of space on the inside! When did this become a thing and what kind of sense does it make? So, yeah, he's flying through this huge space and, every once in a while, he has to fly through an opening in a wall, and the walls are covered in clone pods. The only other things in the huge alien space ship are drones. No aliens. And, when he finally gets to the center to arrive at "Sally," it's just another inverted pyramid thing with a flashing (talking?) red light. NO ALIENS! So tell me why they needed to take over the Earth and use it as a source of material for their fusion reactors IF THERE ARE ACTUALLY NO ALIENS? And, if that's all they needed, why didn't they just stop at any of the unpopulated planets on the way into the solar system? Wouldn't that have been so much easier than having to fight a bunch of humans for the materials they wanted? AND WHERE WERE THE ALIENS?

There was also an even more stupidest part. The part where somehow the flight recorder from Jack's spaceship from when he first got captured by the alien ship went from being in the command module, recording what was happening, to being in the sleeping quarters of the ship even though the sleeping portion had been jettisoned. Because that makes all the sense.

The acting, though, wasn't bad. Not great but not bad, either. And the tech was decently cool. But there was a reason (many of them, actually, as I've pointed out) the movie didn't make back its production budget domestically. So, unless you just have to prove to yourself how dumb the movie is, this is not one I could suggest to anyone.


  1. I thought the stuff in the movie looked cool but there were definitely some plot holes.

  2. And no surprise, I thought the movie was very clever, even though it had elements of dozens of other movies, and really enjoyed it. Purchased it on DVD even.

  3. My hubby enjoyed the movie but not as much as he thought he would. I tried to get into it but about twenty minutes in, I opened up my laptop and tuned it out.

  4. A gorgeous movie, but it definitely needs one of those "Everything Wrong" videos to point out all the plot holes. Cruise strikes again.

  5. And despite all that, I quite enjoyed it. I'm not rushing out to buy it, but I would watch it again. Must have been the theme.

  6. "We're going to SCIENCE this SCIENCE THING with SCIENCE"

    -- Every hero in every sci-fi movie, ever.

    I think you've got to divide scifi into 'fun' and 'serious.' If you are watching a fun movie or reading a fun book -- Doug Adams, for example -- you can get by with robots that have brains the size of planets and teacups powering fusion drives. "Fun" scifi can simply say "The rocket went into hyperdrive!" like Star Wars did, without us wondering how an X-Wing can have a hyperdrive or why the Death Star doesn't have a gravitational field.

    If you're trying to be serious, though -- as Lucas did in the later movies with "midichlorians," you've got to have it make some sense. Not real science, necessarly -- Larry Niven rights books that are sort of real sort of fake science -- but real in the sense that it comports with what we know or at least makes fictional, but logical, extensions of that.

    So I'd be okay with "Clones have memories of their originals" if you want to say "We found a way to do that, guys," because that's a small extension of cloning: it's not TOO hard to imagine scientists being able to, say, take a picture of your brain now the way they can map a computer, and then recreate that pattern exactly the way you duplicate a disk drive: if you can clone a memory chip, you might be able to clone a memory cell.

    But other stuff you point out is beyond the pale. I agree with you on 'trace DNA." Why not have a simple little implant on a person that is trackable?

    The ending? Movies like this, and Prometheus, sometimes fail to see that a 'big idea' doesn't equate to a 'good idea.' And so they fall apart logically, and become less enjoyable.

    Had Cruise made this simply a fun scifi movie, these might not have mattered.

    I read the whole thing. I'm not going to see it, now.

  7. GP: Plot holes big enough to fly that big pyramid ship through. But it did look cool.

    Alex: I don't mind borrowed elements, but I do mind when the plot points only make sense within the context of the lie, especially when the lie doesn't make any sense.

    Elsie: With good reason. My wife barely watched it.

    Maurice: Yeah, it was more hole than cheese.

    Crystal: I think I would not watch it again. It was better than Independence Day but not by much.

  8. Briane: The issue with the memory thing is that it was just a few remnant memories. So, yes, I agree, you could do a thing where you duplicate a human down to the brain patterns and retain ALL the memories, but these were grown clones in vats and weren't supposed to have any memories and, evidently thousands of the clones before the one in the movie didn't have any memories, but the one in the movie, that Jack, was "special."

    So, on the one hand, I understand what they were trying to make the movie be about; they just didn't support any of that with actual movie.

    It definitely wasn't a "fun" sci-fi.

  9. I have to disagree with you. I loved the movie and saw it in theaters and even great movies fail to make back all of their budgets. It is very expensive to do promotion and sometimes it cost almost as much if not more than the movie. Dreamworks Turbo took months to make up it's movie budget alone and right now it's flying high after being a dud in it's summer release. Also the animated movie Guardians didn't make back all it's money and was marked as a loss despite being a very popular movie.

    Also no matter what this is one of the best movies Tom Cruise has done in years. I don't think narration is a bad thing, it speeds the story along by familiarizing us with the story line from the start and reminders during the movie help those who might have forgotten or missed something to get it even if the movie is halfway through.

    You shared your opinion on the movie and I respect that it wasn't one of your faves. But not everything has to be explained or proven to the last detail. Sometimes you have to decide if you believe or not. Like in Inception when Leornardo DiCaprio's character doesn't watch the coin to prove if he's in the real world or not. Some people can bicker about him not doing so but the movie isn't about the viewer, it's about the characters in it and how they evoke the various reactions from us the audience.

  10. We rented this movie last weekend and I agree with you. I don't know if it was just me, but I couldn't stay connected to the movie line. It seemed it was all over the place but the hubby liked it.

  11. I tend to agree with you on this one. Not a well thought out story in my opinion. And a little to predictable of a plot as well, I might not have guessed everything that happened, but I did feel like I'd seen the movie before when I watched it. Cliches were piled on top of each other so thick that I'm not sure what parts of the story weren't lifted from somewhere else.

    I only vaguely recall the movie at all now, but it seems like I was furious that these 'aliens' couldn't launch a satellite or two so they could monitor what goes on in the world once their ship dipped below the horizon. I'm not asking for something airtight storywise here, I can live with some plot holes, but c'mon, that is beyond stupid.

    So, yes, the story had problems. I didn't hate it though, I was just bored. Like any story, I think that is the worst of all possible responses. I just didn't care. Period. So once the end got there, I was just happy it was over.

  12. I thought the newest Die Hard movie might be good! It's not my fault. The previous one made me dumb enough to believe that.

    I hate opening narration, too. It's weak, although a movie can recover from it. But it sounds like Oblivion didn't. Thanks for the warning.

  13. I wonder what it says about me that I haven't even heard of this movie?

    I might watch it anyway if it ever gets on Netflix. I like big dumb ridiculous 'scifi' movies.

  14. I'm with you on this movie. I gave it a generous 3 star review on Amazon, but it didn't deserve it probably. I found myself saying lines before they were said, the writing was so predictable. There were interesting aspects, but I can't remember exactly what they were. I guess it wasn't a memorable movie for me.

    A Faraway View

  15. Sheena: 1. I'm talking just the production budget of the movie, not the marketing budget. I have no idea what that was, but they didn't even make back the production budget. The movie didn't even make $100m domestically, which is almost nothing these days.

    2. Liking something doesn't make it good or of high quality. It's quite possible to enjoy something that's poorly done, but that doesn't elevate its quality.

    3. Leaving things unanswered is not the same as not explaining things. Yes, the end of Inception ends with a question, something unanswered, but there is nothing that isn't explained. Oblivion has lapses in basic logic that are never addressed or the explanations given don't fit with the reality of the movie. Those kinds of things aren't really okay.

    G_G: I'd say that it wasn't just you.

    Rusty: On top of everything else, it was kind of Star Wars. Well, actually, Return of the Jedi. We have to get past the force field (into the ship) so that we can shoot the main reactor (use the big, giant nuke bomb).

    Jeanne: No, Oblivion did not recover from it.

    RG: You can rent it from netflix, right now, but it's not streaming.

    Lee: I gave it a 2. I didn't hate it but mostly because it had a cool look to it. If it hadn't been for the aesthetics, it would have gotten a 1.

  16. OK I take your warning although Alex liked it. Hmm. Hubby doesn't like Tom Cruise anyway. Don't suppose I will ever get to see it anyway.

  17. I think we're unlikely to watch this one. I appreciate the warning.

  18. Jo: Well, it's certainly not worth going out of your way for.

    TAS: Sure thing!

  19. Morgan Freeman used to be so dependable, too...

  20. TAS: He was good, though. I mean, normal good for him, which is better than a lot of others at their best. But the movie... I guess you can't always pick a winning script.