Ten Word or Less Review: Wall-E + Terminator + ID4 + Moon = Dumb
Oblivion cinches it. I’m absolutely certain that Director Joseph Kosinski is not a real person. I mean he is a real guy, but he’s an actor of a sort playing the part of young, hot shot director for the studios. The real director of Oblivion, and I suspect Kosinski’s last film Tron: Legacy, is a computer program. Oblivion makes me feel as if some A.I. software has been developed in secret and tasked with making a movie to see if we grasped the programming language to achieve such a thing. We will call this A.I. Directo-Bot. Hollywood has been eager to turn over the movie industry to the tech community for a while now. CGI slathered over everything, digital performances, digital stuntmen, digital projectors, Directo-Bot just takes it to the next level. No more hassle dealing with agents and egos and commanding personalities. I can see the conversations now going on in executive offices. “David Fincher wants to spend how much on what? Screw him! Get me Directo-Bot!” Just a computer and a camera and, for the time being, a few people running around in front of both.
So how does this A.I. program work? We can only speculate. I would guess Directo-Bot first creates crisp digital imagery as if it’s crafting the world’s most desirable screensaver. I say this because most of Oblivion looks like a really pretty screensaver. These high-res screensavers are what is used to sell the movie more than anything so their execution is paramount. Of course, the dazzling imagery is impossible to argue with in terms of quality, but that’s the rub. The end result winds up being a movie like Oblivion, which feels scrubbed of anything which could be an imperfection. A sort of digital antiseptic vibe permeates every sanitized frame and passes it off as story.
And as for story, Directo-Bot creates a scenario based on the success of past science fiction efforts like Wall-E, Terminator, Moon, Independence Day, etc. It pulls elements from each that it deems integral to its success and jigsaws them into a narrative which feels familiar and inoffensive. Oblivion has this in spades, right down to the end where the alien menace is thwarted by a big, secret bomb. Can alien invasions be thwarted any other way? And since Directo-Bot is a computer it’s unable to understand genuine human emotion, but none the less realizes it as a necessary story component. To account for this it minimizes the amount of emotion on display to smiles, single tear drops and occasional shouting from the actors. My guess is that Cruise absolutely loved working with this thing.
When the imagery has been compiled, rendered and processed Directo Bot edits and scores the feature to a smooth, cool techno soundtrack. Even though large holes in the story are abundantly clear, it deems these narrative gaffs as inconsequential. To fix them would have require a whopping 20 additional minutes of pre-production time. Those are precious minutes Directo-Bot needs to dedicate towards CGI rendering and the day’s lunch menu. The fact that the story is without logic is assumed to be unimportant to the intended audience anyway. They are here to see the entity known as Tom Cruise and all the pristine digital landscapes. As long as both of those requirements are met the remaining elements are given lesser priority.
In the end the finished product is uploaded to digital projectors and content providers around the world for carbon unit consumption. Directo-Bot hopes that you enjoy your feature presentation. Maybe when the audience is made up of robots, that will happen. Until that time, it sucks.