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Oblivion (**)
directed by Joseph Kosinski
written by Joseph Kosinski, with Arvid Nelson, William, Monahan, Karl Gaidusek, and Michael Arndt, based on Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel
Principal Cast
Tom Cruise -- Jack
Morgan Freeman -- Beech
Olga Kurylenko -- Julia
Andrea Riseborough -- Victoria
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau -- Sykes
Melissa Leo -- Sally
Zoe Bell -- Kara
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

I went to see Oblivion so you wouldn't have to. Who loves you, baby?

There is a tradition in written science-fiction of making sense. The graphic novel never had their John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding who taught science fiction writers two important lessons: 1) know something about technology and how it works, 2) show, don't tell. Robert A. Heinlein took Campbell's lessons and made them work, and he is still the most enjoyable sf writer of all time -- not the greatest, but the most fun to read. Alan Moore was the Robert A. Heinlein of the graphic novel, but comic book artists and writers don't seem to have learned the lessons he taught.

Oblivion breaks the most basic rule in the very beginning. It starts with a long voice-over, which tells, but does not show, the back story.

And nobody connected with the film knows anything at all about engineering. The aircraft, which is the most interesting thing in the entire movie, banks when it turns. Real aircraft bank when they turn so the airfoils will pull them around the turn, but this craft has no airfoils, hence no reason to bank. But it banks because whoever did the flashy computer graphics didn't know any better.

Watching the film, there were a dozen place where I noticed that it wasn't making beans for sense. I'll mention just one. The aircraft has an Elvis bobblehead on its dashboard, and when we are first shown the bobblehead, the head bobbles, even though the aircraft is flying level in calm weather. But later, when the aircraft is tossed about in a storm, the bobblehead is solid as a rock.

I wouldn't mind inattention to detail if I cared about the characters or the story, but I don't. The hero is supposed to have no personality, but just because that is the way he is supposed to be doesn't make him any more interesting. There is no reason to care about him, or about anything he does.

And the director, who also directed the awful sequel to Tron, thinks special effects are everything, but does not know how to turn visual flash into human drama. A major character is killed and not only was it not dramatic, I didn't even notice that it had happened until somebody mentions it later on. There is a big fight, and a character is tied up and, I thought, loaded aboard the aircraft -- and then forgotten about until he turns up, without explanation, at the end of the movie.

The story is resolved when -- wait for it -- Morgan Freeman (shades of South Park!) delivers a long voice-over explaining what has happened.

Even the previews were boring.

Copyright © 2013 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon. Visit his web site at

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