Do you remember how absolutely bored you were while watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Well, I got two more movies to add to that list.
Back in December 2012, we were treated to some pretty exciting trailers for Oblivion and After Earth. Both films looked like they could be a lot of fun. Post apocalyptic Earth is always fun to explore. The possibilities for us ruining our home are endless which make the genre fertile ground for planting seeds of excellent high concept science fiction. I was really looking forward to both films.
Just like books and their fancy covers, you can’t judge a film by its trailer. The trailers gave us futures full of mystery, danger, suspense. The movies delivered absolute boredom. So if you’re suffering from insomnia, pop one of these in your Blu Ray player and prepare for some excellent snooze time.
Not gonna bother with full on reviews of these dull ass movies, but there will be spoilers.
The sad thing about Oblivion is that there’s a good ass movie somewhere in there. There’s a lot of really cool world building. The slick clean look of the tech, the glass house in the clouds with the glass bottom pool, the giant water conversion sucker machines contrasted with the dilapidated artifacts of human civilization makes for some excellent visuals. There’s a tremendous sense of isolation which slowly draws you in to the first half of the film. Emphasis on slooooooooooooooow.
Unfortunately, the more time we spend with Tom Cruise’s character who I completely have forgotten and can’t bother to look up, the less interested we are in him. By the time we’re introduced to the survivors lead by Morgan Freeman, we’re ready for an actual story.
Morgan Freeman is completely wasted. We hardly get to spend time with the most interesting aspect of this film, the whole resistance movement. How have they been living? How have they survived? How have they rebuilt after the destruction of our world? Why were they left behind? How does surface life contrast with life in the space colony in orbit or on Titan? Were they left behind because they were social outcasts? Why didn’t the movie start here?!
Sadly, the film insists on following Tom and sends him out again on a mission to discover the truth. I suppose if we gave a shit about Tom, his search for self discovery would be interesting. But besides his flashbacks to Earth 300 years ago, there isn’t a whole lot to him for us to relate to. So when it’s revealed that he’s a clone and that there are a bunch of him running around, I kind of shrugged my shoulders. Meh.
From there it becomes an action film with Tom and the resistance fighting against the drones with lots of shooting and ‘splosions and I couldn’t have cared less.
I wanted it to decide what kind of movie it wanted to be. Do you want to be a tale of survival showing us the indomitable will of humanity? Do you want to be a cautionary tale warning us to take care of our mother Earth? Do you want to be a journey of self discovery? It throws all three themes together and does none of them any justice. Not to say you can’t do that, but in this case if Oblivion focused on only one of those themes, I think there was an excellent movie to be made.
The twist to After Earth is that it’s deadly boring. Will Smith is purposefully reserved to give his son the spotlight. Sadly, Jaden’s character isn’t interesting enough to carry this movie.
This movie is about a father and son relationship in the guise of a post apocalyptic survival film. It hinges on you giving a shit about Jaden and him living up to the expectations and reputation of his legendary father. It’s almost too meta.
The movie wants to rush you into the survival part of the story so we get a very glossed over look at Jaden’s life. We get a scene where he’s training, a scene where he’s rejected from the Ranger corp, a scene where his dad is mean face to him, and then we’re on a space plane headed for destiny. It’s not nearly enough for us to build any rapport with Jaden so we’re almost completely detached from what follows. And for a survival flick to work, you really need to be sucked into the situation with the character. If we don’t care about him, we don’t care about the rabid apes chasing him through the trees.
Will Smith is completely pointless in this film. He is supposed to be the man without fear, the first person to “ghost” which means he can pass near fear pheromone sniffing aliens without being seen. The way he plays “fearless” is “emotionless” so we have a Will Smith who dead pans absolutely every line of dialog. You can almost see him fall asleep as he’s talking.
This movie worked when it was called The Pursuit of Happiness. We got an incredibly uplifting story with a deep father and son relationship. Love practically oozed off the screen and into our hearts. In After Earth, we get a father who emotionally detached from his family and a son who learns the ultimate technique of burying his emotions. Congratulations. Your message is that we need to bury our feelings in order to survive the apocalypse. And I thought I was a cynical asshole.
Bored to Tears
I think Oblivion had more potential than After Earth. But neither are enjoyable. I suppose if you watched them streaming or on DVD, you’d have the added advantage of the fast-forward button. You could probably watch both of them in a half hour and not really miss anything.
Here’s hoping that Pacific Rim can save us from the boring apocalypse.