Oblivion (“My Comic Book Origin Story”)

8 May

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Synopsis: “A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.” (Rated PG-13; 2 hours, 5 minutes)

Why on God’s green-earth isn’t this smart science-fiction movie getting more love? This time I not only refer to the critics, but also the people I personally know who have seen and disliked it. I went to see Oblivion with the knowledge that a group of 3 of my friends (Ephraim, Mike and Jared) had gone to see it, and reported being really bored by it. Ephraim, who admits he gets impatient watching movies, said he was intrigued by the first half but then it lost him. They predicted that I’d like it, seemingly because I enjoy most movies, but were ready to mock me for doing so. Well, I’m sorry guys, but not only did I think it was good, I REALLY really liked it.

The movie was like a cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey, I Am Legend and WALL-E. First of all, let me address the slow-pacing of the movie. This made me feel like I was watching the classic Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Most people to see that movie know it wasn’t exactly an exciting, fast-paced movie, but the brilliant build-up of tension as man realized more and more that he needed to battle machine…wow. And no, I’m not suggesting this movie had the extremely slow pacing of Kubrick, but each scene was certainly deliberate, thoughtful and highly suspenseful. Considering the movie was set on a desolate planet Earth, you should be able to visualize that there were long portions with very little dialogue, and it became more about man versus beast…or machine. Personally I find this technique amazing when it works, such as with Cast Away, or even the aforementioned WALL-E or I Am Legend. A film-maker who is able to create a world where you are watching a one-man play for long chunks of the time, and keep you glued to your seats…I absolutely love and admire that.

Without spoiling anything, the basic premise in Oblivion involves Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough as a two people who have their memories wiped, and are assigned to monitor Earth to help protect it from creatures who have been sabotaging it. All of this takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where the two of them have a home-base that looks like a scaled-back version of The Jetsons apartment in the sky, while the rest of the world remains bare and desolate.

The visuals were simply awesome. This applied to both the fantastic set design, and also the absurdly great visual effects. My goodness half of this movie involves rocket ships and robots flying around, and it looked amazing. I was swept away in a world where menacing, flying drone robots existed, and Tom Cruise was like Maverick from Top Gun if he’d gotten amnesia and was flying around aimlessly trying to find his purpose in life. In fact, I didn’t know anything about the movie other than the previews, and it made perfect sense to find out that it was based on a graphic novel.

I grew up with an expensive hobby, and comic books be thy name. As with many addictions, it started quite innocently…It was the summer of 1994, I had just turned 15, and my best friend Seth asked me to join him for a comic book signing. Although it sounded like a boring day of nothing but waiting in line, we passed time on lazy Shabbos afternoons often enough that I didn’t mind doing it for the sake of spending time with my buddy. My immediate impressions were of amusement at the people surrounding us in the line. There was one memorable middle-aged man with a twitchy mustache who kept raving about a comic book named Shi, Seth and I joked about this for years to come. Hours passed by, and we finally got inside Golden Apple, the popular comic book store on Melrose Avenue. About 5 steps into the store an Asian man got my attention:

Asian man – Hey! You plan on signing anything?

Boaz – Oh, I’m just here to hang with my friend. Why, where do we finally do that?

Golden Apple Employee – Dude, that’s Jim Lee!

Boaz – Umm, who?

Asian man/Jim Lee – Bursts out laughing

Seth – Nice Boaz, way to embarrass me. He’s the head of Image Comics and the one everyone’s waiting to meet!

Boaz – Oh, sorry, I don’t collect comics, but I’ve been waiting in line long enough that I guess I’ll buy one and get your autograph, sure.

Entire Crowd – Laughs hysterically

When I saw there were about 3 issues released of his comic Wetworks, I bought all three, he signed them, and the next thing I knew I was shopping at Golden Apple once a week, getting about 20 comics at a time. This hobby lasted years, gathered me hundreds to thousands of comic books (I never counted) and all of my babysitting money. As with movies, some were fantastic, others were lousy, some were interesting but slow, and others were dumb fun action. (My favorites were anything written by Garth Ennis, the comic book equivalent of Quentin Tarantino.) The universes that some of these artists managed to create would bring fantasy worlds to life that were near-impossible to bring to the big screen. They were too grand and vast, technology simply couldn’t handle such a feat…yet. Cut ahead to the continued perfection of special effects and CGI, and more and more we got to see movies like Avatar and John Carter which actually transported us to different worlds. I’m happy to report that Oblivion joins the club, as it so effectively transported me to a dark, new world.

The graphic novel had been written by Joseph Kosinski, and I’m thrilled that he was also chosen to direct it, as he was given the chance to realize his original vision. Kosinski had only directed commercials before being given the chance to direct the long-awaited Tron: Legacy. While that movie was a bit of a let-down, it LOOKED fantastic, and most of its flaws were in the writing. Here he was given his second movie, it was based on his own material, and it just worked as a smart, twisty story.

As interesting as I found it from the start, the movie really became incredible about halfway through, after a huge reveal. I was incredibly relieved to have seen it with my friend Yoni, because unlike our other three friends who hated it, Yoni and I both loved the film and had a great experience watching it. Bear in mind that he is the same friend who watched Tyler Perry’s Temptation with me, and helped me make fun of that one from start to finish. For the two hours that Oblivion was playing, I don’t think we said a word, other than our mutual disappointment that our friends hated it.

I tell you, when a certain twist in the movie occurred, in spite of usually figuring things out I was totally caught off-guard, and was blown away from that point onward. I’m not saying every piece to the puzzle was shocking. There were elements to the story that I saw a mile away that were meant to be giant reveals, but that didn’t take away from the overall cool factor. And the love story that ensued was quite touching, giving this sci-fi movie more brains, heart and ominous tension than most ever achieve. Between the incredible visuals and the spectacular sound, this warranted being seen on a giant screen, in a great theater. Thankfully we caught it in the amazing (and overpriced) Arclight theater. I doubt it’ll actually happen, since I’m limited with my time, but I would even consider seeing it again. Trust me, that’s high praise for someone who tries to see 150 different movies each year.

The movie was better than I Am Legend, the enjoyably flawed Will Smith movie, where he scours the Earth on his own, trying to stay alive. Thought it wasn’t as perfect as Cast Away, which was truly a one-man feat performed by Tom Hanks.

Quality Rating: A-

Boaz Rating: A+ (The first half was fascinating, but from the second half onward I was absolutely mesmerized)

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20 Responses to “Oblivion (“My Comic Book Origin Story”)”

  1. Mike Burgher May 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Perhaps I didn’t like this because I went into it thinking this was a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Kate Hudson, about a groom (Grant) living in OBLIVION while his fiance (Hudson) plans the perfect wedding in Central Park. Guest starring Bette Midler as Hudson’s overbearing mother, and a hilarious cameo by Rowan Atkinson as Grant’s drunken uncle. I wasn’t far off, but there was more sci-fi than I had expected.

    Like

  2. Aliza Hausman May 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Can’t wait to see it. It’s on my to-do list and I’m ignoring the critics on this one.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 8, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      As always, I hope reading my review won’t disappoint you at the end, I know many people disagree with my take, but I stand by it. 🙂

      Like

  3. cindybruchman May 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I appreciate your review. I have avoided it because many I admire didn’t LOVE it. I should know better! Thanks!

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

      Well, save that statement until you see it and know if you’re thanking me or telling me you should have listened to the other people. lol
      But yes, I stand by my unpopular take on the movie. Sure there were things about it that could have been more original, but it just looked so great and set such a great tone that it worked as a cool and eerie story.

      Like

  4. boazconstrictor May 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Nice one Mikey. That’s a movie I’d end up seeing but dislike myself in the process. 🙂

    Like

  5. Ephraim Osgood May 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Boaz fails to mention the GAPING plot holes and windy endless plot. Visually it was very cool, but if we I was into things that are visually pleasing and yet boring I go hiking and camping more.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      I didn’t fail to mention any of that because I disagree. I didn’t find there to be any significant plot holes nor an endless plot. I’ll mention something as important as that when I actually agree it was the case.
      Nonetheless, thanks for reading. 🙂

      Like

  6. Jonathan May 9, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    the movie was awesome and it was great seeing it with you Boaz. I enjoyed it very much, and quite honestly I would see it again. I see a lot of of movies twice or 10 times later on in life, but this one for sure I would see again. Mike, Ephraim, and Jared were probably just happy that they got to sit in a theater together and making jokes the whole time, rather than enjoying the film itself.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 9, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      I know that they didn’t like it, and that Ephraim thought it didn’t make sense, but I simply disagree. They’re entitled to like or dislike anything of course, but I thought the plot worked really cleverly. Even if someone was able to point out holes I didn’t realize, it wouldn’t make the movie-going experience I had any less great.
      Thanks for going with me too!

      Like

  7. Albert May 13, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    I saw it yesterday and really liked it. There were a couple of small plot points that didn’t make a lot of sense, but it was a fun sci-fi movie, and your review was part of what made us go see it. Thanks! The WSJ review was terrible which made us hesitant. (The headline was hilarious — “Earth, Plot in Ruins”.)

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 13, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      Now THIS is the type of review that makes it all worth it for me, someone seeing a movie that wouldn’t have otherwise, and not regretting listening to me! lol
      It’s hard to make a sci-fi movie without creating some plot holes in the process, but I’m curious what you thought of in case I disagree.
      Don’t answer that here of course, it’d be a spoiler for others, but you’re welcome to privately message me and I’ll tell you if I think there’s an answer. 🙂
      Man, some of its reviews were so darn bad, and I know so many people who hated it personally, but I’d totally see it again!

      Like

  8. Gabe May 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Totally agree. I was just telling Seth the other day that Oblivion is my favorite movie so far this year. Very under-rated.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 26, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Strangely I didn’t get your comment until today. Glad you liked it so much as well, too many haters out there for this one. Thankfully someone read my blog as you can read above and saw it and agreed, so flattering!

      Like

  9. movierob July 20, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    I actually cant say I loved it, but also didn’t hate it. It reminded me a lot of Moon (2009). The visual effects were definitely amazing, but I figured out most of the plot twists before they happened. There were a few plot holes, but they didn’t bother me so much.

    I was also a huge comic book fan as a teenager, but mostly stuck to the DC universe.

    The problem with seeing so many movies, I sometimes figure out plot points that were “borrowed” from other movies. I figured out the Die Hard 2 (1990) twist because I had seen The Park is Mine (1986) which used similar ideas 🙂

    Oh well, the drawbacks of being a movie connoisseur 🙂 I can live with it 🙂

    Great review (as always) Boaz.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor July 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

      Yeah, seeing a ton of movies definitely makes it harder to be caught off guard and surprised by plot twists and developments, so I try my best to turn my brain off during movies…if possible. 🙂
      And I heard that about Moon, I actually never saw it and that probably contributed to my LOVING this one!

      Like

  10. justinnator July 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    I’m ashamed to say but i havent seen this yet but I will shortly

    Like

    • boazconstrictor July 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      Lol, I hope you’ll like it!

      Like

      • justinnator August 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

        Finally watching it does reming me of Moon, but there are some questions that I have. but I love me my Sci-fi so no major complaints.

        Like

      • boazconstrictor August 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

        I’ve been told by many people to see Moon and that it reminds them of it too, I need to see that one clearly!
        Someone had many questions about the plot and privately messaged me them and in that case I was able to answer them all, so who knows, maybe they’re holes and maybe the movie just works really well, either way I loved it 🙂

        Like

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