Saturday, September 14, 2013

Oblivion Blu-ray Review

It should be mentioned that a photo of the disc cover is unavailable at the time of this review as the retailer were unable to provide me with the disc cover when this disc was rented.

Movie: 7/10

You know, it pains me when a movie like Oblivion, that has so much potential to be a sci-fi masterpiece, to also have so much problems in the writing and story. This movie, admittedly, was one of the more unique-looking movies compared to others at its time when it came out, because it looked pretty ambitious in the likes of great sci-fi movies like Minority Report, Blade Runner, etc. Maybe "fresh" is a more suitable word than "unique", because upon close inspection, Oblivion isn't really an original concept, a post-apocalyptic setting and the main character is tasked to clean up the mess (WALL-E, anyone?). I think Oblivion mainly looks fresh because it looks pretty ambitious compared to a lot of movies at it's time, daring to create a sci-fi setting that is wholly different from the ordinary, we haven't seen movies like these in recent years. At its time of its release, it was one of the few that really got me intrigued by its world and setting. So I went in hoping that maybe this film may deliver as good as the trailers and posters look, but I also had this feeling in the back of my head that since it was done by the director of Tron Legacy, Joseph Kosinski, it may not turn out quite as good, but I told myself to ignore it and give it a chance. The result? Well, the first time I saw it I was pleased, despite acknowledging the problems with the story, but as I watch this movie on Blu-ray again, suddenly its plotholes become more apparent.

Discussing Oblivion's plot may result in spoilers, but I'll try to avoid revealing any major plot points or twists in the following segment, but if you are sensitive to spoilers, you may want to skip ahead, after all, the best way to see a movie like this is to go in cold. Otherwise, proceed at your own risk.   

In the year 2017, Earth was devastated in a war between the humans and an alien race known as the Scavengers. Fast forward 60 years to 2077, and we see one of the last drone repairmen Tech 49 Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), under the command of an orbiting space station called the Tet, whose job is to maintain repair drones that protect the fusion power stations that power the Tet from the remaining Scavs. Jack lives with a companion/lover, Victoria "Vika" Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), who takes command of the house they live in when Jack is out on his regular errands. Because nuclear weapons were used during the war 60 years ago, there are "radiation zones" that Jack's ship will warn him not to go beyond those zones. Even though Jack and Vika's memory were wiped years ago for security reasons, Jack still has persistent dreams of a certain woman, (Olga Kurylenko) and he can't figure out who she is. Let's just say that everything is not really what it seems.

Oblivion is certainly one of the most interesting-looking high concept, sci-fi films in recent years, with a really captivating, aesthetically sleek vision of a post-apocalyptic future, with lush and stunning vistas of its world, and interesting bright (but cold) coloured weapons, vehicle, spaceship and building designs. It really introduces a lot of unique ideas and makes you want to know more about this world and explore more, but unfortunately the film didn't explore these ideas as much as it probably should, and breaking the plot down, you realise that the story was not really character or emotionally driven, and lot of the plot had pacing issues, and some of it did not make sense and left a lot of unanswered questions. For instance, after you find out certain things about the Tet, you'll ask yourselves, why do they need humans in particular to repair the drones? There are a lot more questions you will ask, most of which will have spoilers, so I won't put them here in this review. Also in the middle of the film, after meeting with the most interesting and underutilised character in the whole film, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), Jack is left to see the truth for himself and make a certain decision, which drags on for a significant length of the film, and you'd wish that Malcolm would have just told him those facts himself. Then after that in the third act, the plot moves at light speed and rush out so much exposition to us at breakneck speed that its borderline incomprehensible. And that's the problem with the film's overall pacing, the first half is so slow in its mostly unnecessary exposition, and the second half is too fast and makes you go "huh?" with a lot of newly-unveiled facts. The action sequences in the movie looks pretty decent, but also clearly looks CG, and a minor complaint I have about those action scenes is that they feel a little bit forced in an attempt to make it more action packed. And damn, the ending, without giving too much away, feels really cheap and insulting, and didn't feel as emotionally satisfying as intended.


So by then end of this movie you'll won't come out of this film thinking of it as a sci-fi classic that it aims to be, but wish for a sci-fi classic it could have been. The visuals of this movie looks quite good and fresh, the performances of most of the cast, especially Morgan Freeman, is quite strong overall, and the concept is interesting, but you soon realise its not really original either, and its story and character problems seems bigger upon a second viewing. So for sci-fi fans, there is a slight chance that you may be disappointed by this film overall, but I think its worth checking out at least once for its Syd Mead-inspired art design.

Video Quality: 10/10

There's no doubt that this Blu-ray video presentation of Oblivion is, in a word, gorgeous, possibly one of the best-looking Blu-ray releases of 2013. The 1080p/AVC-encoded image is highly detailed and almost identical to the 2k digital cinema version that I saw in theatres, complimented with the stunning cinematography of Claudia Miranda. The beauty of the film's art design shines through with its brilliant white, Apple-like tech designs, and the vistas of a destroyed Earth and the shots in space look simply beautiful, you'd wish you could just step into it. Textures are crisp and sharp, and there are no distracting compression artifacts, aliasing, DNR or edge enhancements to be found here, even though the film does have some barely noticeable digital grain in some scenes, but they look natural and even gives the film a bit of a filmic look, despite being shot digitally.

Audio Quality: 10/10

Even better than the video presentation is the DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 track, which will rock any capable home theatre. Sci-fi fans are going to love it. This film has excellent audio designs for its sci-fi gadgets, like the whirring motors of the bubble spaceship, the mini-rockets and distinct beeping of the flying drones, the deep bass as the Tet floats and orbits Earth in space, or when a nuke detonates in the distance. The electronic music by M83 sounds fitting to this universe, although sometimes it may just sound blaring in contrast with some of the emotional scenes. Surrounds and LFE are well utilised, both in quiet scenes and the action sequences, you'll hear ships flying across the room pretty accurately. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible at all times. This is simply a superb sound mix that will completely immerse you in the film, even if the film's story didn't immerse you as much.


There an audio commentary by director Joseph Kosinski and actor Tom Cruise, which will definitely interest hardcore fans of the film, a making-of documentary called "Promise of a New World", some deleted scenes, and if you really loved the music score in this film by M83, there is an isolated music track on this disc encoded in 24bit/96khz Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

Overall: 7/10

As the film puts it, "we are not an effective team". Oblivion is a film that has so much potential to be a classic in the sci-fi genre, with excellent visuals and strong performances by the cast, but is significantly marred by a story with significant plotholes, unanswered questions, and poor pacing. If this film has a different director, like say Steven Spielberg, and had more refinements in the script, this film would have been a masterpiece and would rank high up to films like Blade Runner, and even Steven Spielberg's own Minority Report. Instead, the final film leaves much to be desired, we're left imagining the masterpiece it could have been rather than admiring it as a masterpiece itself. That said, the film's production design is something everyone should at least see for themselves for its uniqueness and sleek look, and this disc does have a superb video and audio presentation. Even if the film itself ultimately disappoints, which may make a purchase hard to justify, I recommend this disc, at bare minimum, a rental, just to see its fresh-looking sci-fi art direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.