Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Oblivion

"This WALL-E reboot is freakin' DARK!"

Hey, it's our first Tom Cruise movie on A Ghoul Versus! Crazy I've gone this far without reviewing one, considering he's in a movie practically every year. Unlike a lot of people, I generally enjoy most of his movies for the same reason most people don't like them. Yes, he just plays Tom Cruise in EVERY SINGLE MOVIE he does but when you're talking about what passes for leads in today's Hollywood that is not a bad thing. He is one of an EXTREMELY small, borderline nonexistent group of stars left in the blockbuster genre that can actually make you CARE about what's going on amidst explosions and overblown CGI action.

Pair him in a movie with Morgan Freeman, another favourite actor of mine, and you have a movie that is very high on my must see list. That is good, because usually I'd have ZERO interest in a movie based on a video game that is NOTHING but boring fetch quests mixed in with ENDLESSLY boring fetch quests.  Wait, what's that? It's NOT based on the video game?! HELL YEAH! Now I'm REALLY looking forward to this! I give you A Ghoul Versus Oblivion!

The film opens about as badly as a film can open unfortunately, as we see Tom Cruise's character Jack Reacher looking at the Scourge of A Ghoul Versus...: Olga Kurylenko. Well, shit.  I wonder how long until a character forcibly grabs her by the arm and drags her away?  We see them at the Empire State Building, looking very much in love as they stand on the observation deck. This turns out to be a dream he's having, although he remarks it feels more like a memory. This is impossible however, as we learn he's never been to New York and it was destroyed before he was even born. Jack wakes up from his dream of a possible memory of another woman, his wife Sharon Stone next to him in bed- hold on, that's not her.

We also learn five years ago Jack was the victim of a “mandatory memory wipe” and I immediately wonder how I can sign up for one of those. I reviewed a lot of movies on here so far I sure wouldn't mind forgetting.  Jack quickly narrates us through the back story: fifty years ago aliens attacked the Earth by destroying the Moon, which caused all kinds of environmental disasters on the planet below. To add insult to injury the aliens invaded what was left of Earth, the remaining pockets of humanity forced to use nuclear weapons to drive them off.

This is highlighted by tons of Destruction Porn of world famous landmarks as Jack tells us the human race had to leave the planet as it was now virtually uninhabitable. They built the Tet, a giant floating upside-down pyramid in space to live on and let's just stop right here. Jack told us this was the year 2077. I'm expected to believe 63 years from now the human race is going to be capable of building this damn thing?!

We're too busy updating our Facebook with stories about moronic reality stars or arguing like children about health care! Who the hell is putting the beginning touches on floating space pyramids?!  The Tet is just temporary, as the human race is in the process of setting up shop on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. We'll have full interstellar travel AND interplanetary colonization technology in a few decades as well? Damn the future is going to KICK ASS!

Jack and his government issued wife Victoria are staying behind on Earth to keep an eye on the hydro rigs, giant machines floating around the Earth that convert surface water into fusion energy which will power the Titan colony. We're going to finally master fusion too? Suh-WEET!  They have to do this because there are still remnants of the aliens on the Earth, attacking the hydro rigs for reasons Jack can't figure out. Everyday Jack goes out to repair the armed drones that guard the rigs while Victoria, or Vika as he likes to call her, monitors the situation.

On their base in the Earth's atmosphere, Jack gets an alert that two of his drones are down so he flies down in his cool hovership to investigate. Vika warns him to keep his hot dog flying style under control or else Tom Skerritt is going to have his ass for breakfast- wait, that's not right.  Vika gets a call from Mission Control aboard the Tet, where their supervisor Sally instructs them what to do via a HORRIFIC Southern accent that makes me want to tear my ears off. Sally is played by veteran of film Melissa Leo, who is coincidentally starring in her second straight movie with Morgan Freeman after Olympus Has Fallen. Review coming soon-ish.

Sally is a bit short with Vika, ending her video call by asking if Vika and Jack are an effective team. Vika replies that they are. Jack finds one of the drones crashed in the remnants of a football stadium which numerous alien corpses (called Scavs) lying around it. As he works on repairing the drone, we see an armoured figure watching him from a nearby tunnel. Jack takes a break before searching for the other drone by grabbing lunch and watering the plant from WALL-E.

The armoured figure continues to watch Jack as he rappels into a nearby sinkhole to find the other missing drone, finding himself in a large underground library. HOWEVER he quickly finds out this is all a trap set by the Scavs, managing to avoid capture with the help of the drone he just got done fixing. Before leaving he notices a book on the floor and takes it with him.  He returns back to base, cleaning up and taking a look at the book. It's bookmarked to a page where he finds a passage that I'm sure is IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER foreshadowing for the movie's plot.

To every man upon this Earth, death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods.”

He meets Vika for dinner, giving her the plant as a gift only to have her throw it off the edge of their base. Damn, good thing he didn't find a puppy on the surface!  She informs him plants are strictly against regulations as they could be full of toxins. Oh so you want to play THAT game, eh Oblivion? Jack sure wears a simply body suit with absolutely no helmet or breathing system whatsoever, which doesn't look very protective against a planet that's been completely irradiated. What, did the scientists from Prometheus design this thing?

Jack express his curiosity that the Scavs were trying to capture him and not kill him. Vika, who just wants to get the hell off Earth ASAP, distracts him with her body and it sure is lucky Jack got one of the government issued hot wives and not one of the ugly ones!  That night they are awoken by one of the hydro rigs exploding, Jack immediately flying off to investigate. Vika updates Sally with the Scav's latest act of sabotage, Sally ending the transmission by asking if Vika and Jack are an effective team for the second time.

Jack detects a strange signal in the area, landing to go investigate it. He finds himself in the wreckage of a the Empire State Building (GASP just like in his dream!), discovering the Scavs are using the building as a giant antenna to broadcast a set of coordinates to an unknown location off planet.  He shuts it down and tells Vika he's going to patrol around the perimeter (which is boxed off by Radiation Zones which are still too lethal for him to enter), but in reality heads to a secluded cabin he has built in a preserved forest section of a canyon. While relaxing he spots an escape pod looking object flying overhead, tracking it to the same set of coordinates the Scavs were broadcasting.

There he finds the escape pod contains five humans in small life pods, one of them just happening to be Olga. Drones show up and begin to destroy the pods, Jack able to save the one with Olga in it because priorities! He flies her away as again we see the people from before (as there are now multiple ones) watching him.  Jack drags the pod inside his base, as we get a glimpse of the NASA logo on it. Olga briefly wakes up, calling Jack by name and passes out before she can say anything else. They take her to the Med-bay, learning her name is Julia. She seems unaware of where or when they are, Jack revealing she's been in stasis for around sixty years.

How he knows that I have no idea, I assume he studied her escape pod or something? He also reveals the reentry of her ship into Earth's atmosphere was triggered by the Scav beacon, and did I accidentally skip a scene here? How does he know all this stuff?! And why the hell doesn't he ask her how she knew his name?!?  Over dinner, Jack asks Julia what her mission was, but say won't say as it's classified. This scene is rather amusing as Vika, played by an actress I'm unfamiliar with named Andrea Riseborough, is being extremely passive aggressive towards the newcomer as you can tell she instantly hates her guts. She even makes a big show out of going out of her way to hold Jack's hand, because that's HER man dammit!

Later Jack and Vika talk about Julia, Vika wanting her GONE YESTERDAY. When Jack mentions remembering Julia despite his memory wipe Vika looks rather disturbed, and I do NOT trust her at this point. Jack tells Julia as soon as the Tet is back in signal range (it goes out of signal range daily due to the Earth's rotation) they'll contact them for an extraction, but Julia wants to find the flight recorder from her crashed ship. Jack naturally caves in, flying her back to the surface to find it. Julia finds it just in time for the Scavs to arrive and capture them. Vika, concerned by how long he's been missing, contacts Sally to send a drone looking for him.

Jack wakes up in a dark room tied to a chair as Morgan Freeman, makes a BAD ASS entrance to introduce himself.  Morgan, named Malcolm Beech here, begins quoting the passage from the book Jack read earlier. What are the odds? Beech turns on the lights to reveal a multi-tiered room full of humans as he reveals they ARE the Scavs. Hold on, so the entire time Jack never ONCE bothered to look at a Scav's corpse? Just earlier there was a football field full of them, he was never curious and searched one of them for information? Jack's like the most curious guy in the world, and as we've seen from his cabin a borderline hoarder, how would he not be interested in Scav tech?

We also meet Sergeant Sykes, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldu of Game of Thrones megafame, who is immediately distrustful of Jack. Probably because Jack doesn't sleep with his sister. Who could trust a man like that?!  Sally's drone gets a lock on Jack's DNA so she calls Vika to let her know. Before signing off she once again inquires if they're still an effective team. Hmm. Beech unveils the other drone from the beginning of the movie, telling Jack he's fitted it with a nuclear weapon and wants HIM to program it to destroy the Tet because they don't know how. Jack tells them to piss off, Sykes about to kill Julia for his defiance when the drone Sally dispatched arrives.

The Scavs manage to destroy it, Jack warning them more drones will come looking for him. Beech instead decides to send Jack and Julia away from their base (Sergeant forcibly GRABBING OLGA BY THE ARM AND DRAGGING HER ALONG!  BOO-YAH!), telling him to head to a Radiation Zone to find all the answers he seeks. Sykes watches them leave, asking Beech why he thinks Jack is different. Beech cryptically replies because “she” does.

So we have a black man in cool round sunglasses leading the last vestiges of humanity in a resistance against machines trying to kill them. He believes the man they've brought into their base is “the one” who can help them, while others doubt this. Hell, “the one” is even played by an actor who never fucking ages!  That sounds... familiar, but for the life of me I can't think where I've seen it before. Maybe it'll come to me later. Jack and Julia return to the Empire State Building, where he's able to contact Vika to have the drones called off and his hovership dispatched to him.

Jack finally confronts Julia about everything, as we learn her mission was a research flight to Titan. However on the way they detected an alien object, diverted to investigate it. Julia drops the bombshell that Jack and Vika were PART of the mission and the alien object was THE TET. Oh, and she's also his wife. She couldn't have told him all of this when they first met?! Hearing they're married jogs Jack's memory as he begins to remember their past together.

The arrival of Jack's hovership cuts their reunion short as we see Vika watching them via video feed and crying. BUSTED JACK! They return to base but Vika won't let them inside, calling Mission Control and ratting Jack out about Julia. When Sally asks if they're still an effective team Vika replies no, which activates a drone that's been lying dormant inside the base. The drone OBLITERATES Vika, Julia blasting it with the hovership's cannons before it can do the same to Jack.

Jack and Julia go inside where Sally hails them, saying she wants them to return to Mission Control for “reassignment”. It's worth noting her voice is getting more mechanical by the second, and I'm getting a SERIOUS System Shock vibe here all of a sudden.  Jack and Julia GTFO in the hovership, with three drones hot in pursuit so they can ripoff- cough, I mean PAY HOMAGE to every sci-fi movie ever with a shootout through a canyon.

He manages to take them out, but in the process crash lands in a Radiation Zone.  Instead of getting super cancer, he finds an area where a drone has crashed. He watches as another hovership lands near it and a pilot gets out to begin fixing it. He runs up to the pilot only to find... HIMSELF. If this surprised you, congratulations on watching your first sci-fi movie!

Jack-2 draws a gun on Jack-1, distracted when he sees Julia heading towards them which ALSO triggers a flashback in his head of being with her on top of the building. This allows Jack-1 to disarm him and... choke him out with his legs UFC style?! HIGHLY UNUSUAL. Julia collapses, as she caught a stray bullet from the Clash of the Jacks. Jack carries her to a nearby cave and ties up Jack-2, taking the hovership to a base identical to the one he's used to. And there's another Vika waiting for him!

He grabs medical supplies and returns to Julia, healing her up and taking her back to his cabin in the forest. Jack-2 is conspicuous by his absence. What, he woke up and just abandoned Julia despite her being like maybe thirty feet away in a visible location? Jack tells her he knows he's not the real Jack, but she seems pretty okay with whatever the hell is going on. I mean come on, this is still Tom Cruise we're talking about here!

A Tom Cruise clone is still better than nothing, so she has sex with Jack. The next morning they return to the Scavs to help Beech, as we get filled in on the rest of the story. The Tet is what destroyed the Moon, and then invaded the Earth with an army of Jack clones. The Tet dispatched its hydro rigs to suck the Earth dry for energy after defeating any opposition. Okay, so the Tet was capable of destroying the moon but couldn't do the same to the Earth? Not to mention it has hyper-efficient murder drones, but had to rely on an army of human clones to end all life on Earth? And what's the deal with the hydro rigs? How long do they take to suck all the water out of the seas anyway? It must have been decades at this point, yet when they show the bodies of water they still look quite full.

Jack successfully reprograms the captured drone but before they can unleash it three other drones storm the base and start shooting the shit out of everything. The humans manage to defeat them but sustain very heavy losses, including the stolen drone. Beech gets mortally wounded as well, Jack telling him he'll deliver the bomb himself. Beech points out he'll never stand a chance of getting that close, but Julia reminds him the Tet wanted her delivered personally so they now have a way in.

Jack seals Julia back up in her pod and takes his hovership into space, playing back the recording of Julia's mission as he travels. The recordings start in 2017 as we get a flashback of the original Jack's mission to the Tet. Their ship starts getting sucked in so Jack ejects the escape pod with his wife and the rest of the crew, Vika staying behind because she's clearly in love with our dashing hero.

Back in present day Jack enters the Tet, the first room a massive chamber filled with thousands of drones. Again, why in the hell did Sally need Jack clones when she had floating murder machines? Sally, her voice getting more mechanical and detached by the second, immediately figures out Jack is up to something and asks what he's up to. He replies he wants humanity to survive, so she has two of her drones BLAST HIM TO SMITHEREENS.

Oh no, that's what she SHOULD have done. Instead, she allows him continued passage through the pyramid. The next chamber is line with countless rows of pods containing humans that the Matrix uses to power it- oops, I mean the pods are filled with Jack and Vika clones. I wonder what the Vika clones did while the Jacks razed their way across the world? I'm going to guess they acted as elite assassins who slit the throats of any female that gave Jack a second glance. Jack lands his ship on a platform where he meets the true form of Sally: HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jack gets out of his ship and gets to work hooking up his Macbook into Sally's mainframe so he can upload- DAMMIT I am getting so confused here. The human tricked its way into the heart of the alien ship so it can destroy it, we are watching Independence Day right? No? Still Oblivion? Jack plays his last trump card as he opens up the pod and Beech gets out, the camera briefly cutting back to Jack's cabin on Earth where Julia awakens from her pod.  Jack quotes the Roman passage again, and lo and behold it's now 100% applicable to his situation. Sally replies that SHE is his God, to which he signs off with an ELOQUENT “Fuck you Sally!” as he and Beech press the detonator on the bomb together and BUH-BYE TET!

On Earth, with the Droid Control Station gone, the Battle Droids instantly cease their assault on Naboo- ahh that was the last one, I promise. The Tet's not-at-all-similar to the explosion of the Death Star is witnessed in the sky by Sergeant Jaime Lannister and Julia from their respective locations, but we never get to see a reaction from Jack-2 and Vika-2. Or the at least other FIFTY Jacks and Vikas that must be on the planet.  We cut to three years later as we see Julia and her... daughter?! Damn able to knock up a woman in only one attempt, Tom Cruise IS Superman! They are working in the garden as Jack... narrates?

“Earth, after the war. Three years have passed since I last saw your face. I wonder if I come to you at night, in dreams. In the day, as memories. Do I haunt your hours the way you haunted mine? And I wonder if you see me when you look at her.”

How is Jack narrating? Didn't he go 'splodey? How does he know he got Julia pregnant? WHAT IS GOING ON?! Olga looks over as Sergeant Jaime and the resistance shows up at her place along with... Jack-2. He finishes his narration with “I am Jack Harper. And I am home.”.

Cue the credits, set to the AMAZING track “Oblivion” by M83 and Susanne Sundfor.

Um, what? They totally lost me those last couple of minutes. The only thing I can think is the resistance was regularly meeting with Julia and helping her out, which would explain how she was able to give birth and live with no assistance. At some point they found Jack-2 and took him to Julia so they could live happily ever after, otherwise that made NO SENSE.

Actually even if the humans were helping Jack-2, what the fuck is going through his mind? “She somehow accepted the clone of her husband, I'm SURE she'll take me in too!”. What an asshole! At least Julia and Jack-1 had a slight connection because... sigh... he saved her life and in Hollywood that means INSTANT LOVE!  This reminded me a lot of the plot of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II where a clone spends the entire game trying to find the woman his original self was in love with. At the end of the game he finally succeeds, and surprise surprise she falls for him even though she knows he's a clone.

Which brings me to the next major sticking point I had with this movie, and you might have picked up on my subtle hints in the review: this wasn't exactly the most original film ever made. That's not necessarily a criticism per se, as sci-fi is WITHOUT A DOUBT the most derivative and cannibalized of all movie genres. A lot of that is my fault because I watch TOO MANY DAMN movies, but every other scene it kept taking me out of the movie when they were constantly “referencing” other movies. I should have been ready for this, the movie posters even tried to warn us this wasn't going to be a fountain of new ideas as they were basically the exact same poster from I Am Legend.

But Oblivion did a good job of telling its story in between such scenes, it was a very competent movie that kept me interested in what was going on almost the entire time (anytime they showed a cabin scene I instantly started getting drowsy) and when's the last time I was able to say that? I thought this was a summer blockbuster movie, but it was actually released in April of 2013 which disappointed me because this would have been one of the smarter summer movies to come out in years.

The acting was literally what you expect from a Tom Cruise movie, but again this wasn't a bad thing for me. Could you imagine someone like Jeremy Renner or Sam Worthington in this thing? Jesus, it would have been UNBEARABLE because they would have played this as dull and monotone as humanly possible. Not Cruise though, he made he injected LIFE into the story and made me care about Jack Reacher and his struggles. And props to Olga Kurylenko, who wasn't great but was FAR better than anything I've seen her in to date.

The film looked AMAZING, by far one of the best looking movies I've reviewed on here. This was directed by Joseph Kosinski, the man who gave us the gorgeous Tron: Legacy (you better believe that one's in my review bin) and much more importantly the greatest commercial of all time: the Gears Of War “Mad World” TV spot.  All in all a pretty damn good movie I can easily recommend to anyone, just don't expect it to reinvent the wheel for you.