CATEGORIES Movie NewsThis weekend, the summer movie season unofficial kicks off with "Oblivion," a big-budgeted sci-fi extravaganza starring Tom Cruise as one of the last men on earth, a maintenance worker who is part of a two-person "clean-up crew" looking after the planet after a devastating intergalactic war.
Of course, a series of increasingly weird situations leads Cruise's character to question everything he's been told. This includes his encounter with a group of freedom fighters led by Morgan Freeman's mysterious character, which serves as the beginning of a series of eye-opening revelations that could throw both himself and the planet into an existential tailspin.
We've taken the time to run down the ten things you should probably know going into "Oblivion."
1. You Should Try to Know as Little as You Can One of the biggest pleasures of watching "Oblivion" is realizing how different a movie it is than the one marketed in the trailer. It's surprisingly emotional and beautifully realized -- a sleek, romantic sci-fi epic that's as smart and sensitive as it is visually spectacular. But reviews that indulge in a number of plot specifics are going to zap some of the fun of the movie, which would be a shame. Rarely are you surprised in these big-budget blockbusters; in "Oblivion" it's almost nothing but surprises.
2. It's Really Gorgeous Joseph Kosinski, whose first film was the sleek "TRON Legacy," directed "Oblivion." In hindsight, "TRON Legacy" was more video art installation than actual movie -- it looked pretty but was emotionally hollow. With "Oblivion," Kosinski has stepped his game up significantly. He's replaced the cold dark hues of "TRON" with an earthen color palette -- dreamy cloud apartments and mossy gulches -- and allows for a warmer, sunnier atmosphere. It's still occasionally moody, but for a movie about the last man on earth, it's got a shocking amount of humanity.
3. Try to See It in IMAX While "Oblivion" wasn't shot in IMAX, Kosinski has an affinity for the format and retrofitted the image to fill the IMAX screen. It's not exactly IMAX, but it's freaking huge and amazing. Your jaw can't help but drop as Cruise pilots his zippy "bubble-ship" through an electrical storm or as he flies through a sooty canyon that was once New York City.
4. Be Prepared to Buy the Soundtrack as You're Leaving the Theater Speaking of the music -- it's amazing. M83, the French electronic outfit and alias for musician Anthony Gonzalez, composed the score alongside Joseph Trapanese (who performed similar duties working with electronic duo Daft Punk on Kosinski's first film, "TRON Legacy"). The music adds to the movie's often dreamlike quality which, coupled with the visuals and the fact that the Cruise character lives in the clouds, creates a more fully realized universe. Also, the film's closing credits track, also called "Oblivion" and featuring vocals by Susanne Sundfor, might be the best theme song since "Skyfall."
5. Tom Cruise Runs So the Tom Cruise Running blog will have lots of fresh material.
6. It's Not in 3D This is really refreshing, and kind of unprecedented, given that it feels like more movies are released in 3D these days than not in 3D. Also weird, considering Kosinski's first movie, "TRON Legacy," was one of the very first big 3D films (and used 3D so well). Nevertheless, "Oblivion" is a more immersive experience because it isn't throwing things out at you all the time.
7. Andrea Riseborough Is Incredible If you don't know who Andrea Riseborough is, you will soon. The British actress, who appeared in movies like "Venus," "Made in Dagenham," and "Never Let Me Go," plays Victoria, the second half of Cruise's two-person crew and his romantic interest for much of the film. She is so outrageously good that she makes you think maybe being stuck on a post-apocalyptic, moon-less wasteland version of earth might not be such a bad idea. She gives the movie much of its emotional heft, and she looks great doing it.
8. Morgan Freeman Owns Freeman plays a mysterious freedom fighter and he gets to chomp on a cigar while wearing crazy sunglasses/goggles (while living underground, no less!). It's fun to see Freeman loosen up a little bit. He adds some gravity to the situation without ever weighing it down.
9. It's Pretty Weird Thematically, "Oblivion" goes to some pretty strange places. And for a movie being marketed as a giant sci-fi action blockbuster, it's heady and romantic in ways that you might not expect. But I urge you to just stay with it; the first half of the movie has a deliberately laid-back style, which is (again) keeping with its dreamy visuals. There are definitely action set pieces, but those are secondary to its ideas and thematic concerns, which might sound too intellectual but it's not. You'll get the sizzle along with the steak, I promise.
10. There's a Definite '70s Vibe Kosinski has cited sci-fi movies from the '70s as a big inspiration for "Oblivion," and you can definitely feel that here. "Omega Man," "Soylent Green," "Silent Running," "Star Wars," "The Andromeda Strain" -- they are all referenced in some way or another in "Oblivion." But more than that, there's a general atmosphere that is very '70s -- that kind of groovy, production designed-to-the-hilt vibe that is so specific to those film. Applied to "Oblivion," it makes things even more infectiously cool.