Oblivion

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It was about six or seven years ago, that the Vampire Bat landed on a game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and he landed on his broken tooth which made him as addicted to it, as Count Dracula is to his coffin. This sequel to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and the predecessor of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had shocked him in a good way, like no other game had before, and his wish was to write a review on it, giving it 100/100 along with Mass Effect, for providing him with that world, his second life where he actually lived, died, resurrected and got beheaded/shot on the head – well, he loved these two games so much that he finished it, as he wanted to that right from the beginning with no rest. For years, the Vampire Bat wished for the movie adaptations of these two, especially of the first one which was his mythical/fantasy world of chivalry compared to the inter-star battles and interactions of the second. But he has been disappointed for long, and here what he get is a movie of the same name as the Oblivion game, with a setting similar to the Mass Effect game. No, the movie doesn’t resemble both of these in story or theme; but this coming together of the elements of these two games is what came to the mind of this nocturnal soul when the first time he saw the movie poster, and he wouldn’t have dared not to share it.

The awesomeness of these two games are clearly visible in this movie though, but not in a way which has similarities. In those games, we could travel anywhere, but coming into the movie, it is a limited world which follows an alien invasion which nearly destroyed the Earth. After the devastation of moon which caused horrible natural disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis and terrible climatic variations. The land is left uninhabitable with the mankind being transported to their new habitat. Former Marine commander Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a drone mechanic who repairs flying machines with advanced weaponry used for defence against alien lifeforms, and is also one of the last few humans stationed on the dying planet with his co-worker Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) living in a baseless tower-like structure thousands of feet above the Earth, but she is still no Rapunzel, and neither is he her prince or adventurer, something which shall be revealed later. Most of their memories are erased, and the knowledge about their past stays locked at the moment. For now, their relationship would seem to reveal that they are in love and might have been even married.

They are part of an operation to clean up the remaining forces of the alien invasion who are referred to as scavengers and also extract the planet’s remaining resources and are due to join the rest of humanity on Saturn’s moon Titan. Jack and Victoria maintain contact with civilization through a video link with their commander, whom they recognize as Sally (Melissa Leo) who is their symbol of hope and salvation, an escape from a world which is almost a wasteland and surrounded by radio active areas. Jack suffers from dreams which are more like flashbacks, having images of New York before the alien invasion and an unknown beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). Meanwhile, Jack rescues an unknown woman from a crashed spaceship as she was encased in a sleeping capsule, in a state of hibernation/hypersleep, and she turns out as the woman from his dreams. But they are captured by a group of humans led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) who reveals to him that there are no aliens on the planet and it is the humans who are hunted by the drones. He requests Jack to reprogram one of the captured drones. But Jack refuses. Malcolm then tells Jack to visit the radio active areas which are restricted to him, and there all his doubts will be cleared.

With a spoiler alert, this paragraph shall proceed. It is revealed that the mystery woman is Jack’s wife, Julia who was with Jack and Victoria when they approached the alien ship, before Jack sending her and the other crew of the ship who are in hypersleep, into the space by detaching the backside of the ship, keeping them away from the aliens. Later it is found out that Jack and Victoria are cloned and there is a large number of clones of both, and they were not born, but grown – a reminder of The Matrix and The Daybreakers, I guess. Their supposed to be passionate relationship is also a product of these alien method of growth and one photo of them together. The alien shown here is more of a super computer, may be sent by the possible original aliens, masters of technology. This monolithic structure is clearly logical in its talks and even uses the images known to the originals of the clones so that they could be made to believe and obey. It creates a little dystopia to the group of two, or the groups of two to be exact. They are actually oppressed and are made to fight against their own race by naming them scavenger aliens. But, thanks to the imperfection of the humans, the imperfect cloning technology of the aliens and also a possible divine providence, Jack becomes somewhat the original again and leads the fight against his former employers. The solution would surely be much better than using a computer virus in Independence Day style.

The mystery starts and ends with Tom Cruise’s Jack – may be brings something from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall. We have had so many Jacks, from Jack Reacher to Jack the Giant Slayer, Jack Frost, Jack Sparrow, Jack and Jill etc. Here, this one is more of a thinker and a lover of nature, which makes Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome catch his attention, and he has quite a good collection of books including Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which he has kept in a small house in the middle of greenery unaffected by the destruction that has gone around for years. He is no parrot and this poetic imagination and love for literature makes him different, and may be he evolved thus after his cloning and erasing of memory. How can one not remember what happened in the movie The Island? Such a thing is perfectly applicable to an alien technology. Well, there is no limit for fiction, and if too many limits are placed, it would lose its right to be called fiction. It would become closer to reality, which would still spawn the question, who’s reality? Now that would be something better left untouched. This is another one of Tom Cruise’s memorable characters for sure, even as he may not be the perfect protagonist, and even if he may be many, numbering in millions. He seems to have fitted into the character with ease.

Jack’s should be existential. He should have been that confused in that wasteland, and also when he had realized that he was just a clone or a copy of someone else. There was that redundant identity crisis and those dreams which seemed to perpetuate nothing. His life gets more and more absurd every time he tries to get answers, as all the answers lead to him finally being a random copy. He had waited for salvation, the firmament which awaited him in the moon of Saturn, but that too is crushed. Now what would remain for him to end as a nihilist, but he has the last fight on his list, as he decides to help the human rebels, and in that process, even sacrifice himself. It is through that loss of life, that the Earth could be redeemed. But who needs an alien invasion to destroy the planet, and considering what is done to it, who might be the aliens? Some are alien to the planet and also to their fellow human beings, and in that case, aren’t these aliens with a powerful inverted pyramid computer better as they keep the human race alive? There is the oppression factor, but is that so much of an oppression considering what humans have done to their own kind for centuries and still continue to do the same in a worse manner even while calling themselves modern and technologically advanced?

Morgan Freeman is as solid as ever, and the two women, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough goes through their sequences as the characters themselves. The former is the emotional lover and the latter the passionate lover. Still, their roles are limited despite the screen presence. Another thing is that the CGI and the special effects out-did the beautiful women. As Jack “wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills” in his mosquito-like helicopter (like that futuristic helicopter they called Raptor in Unreal Tournament 2004), the visually stunning world is brought to light. There is destruction clearly visible, and the signs of the civilization included destroyed buildings, ships and bridges half submerged in sand, never-ceasing smoke from some areas and so on. There are gaps leading to somewhat an abyss between a group of buildings held together by soil or may be in their own centre – a path to Hades and Persephone, half-destroyed structures which look like different things all together, as well as whatever is underground and underwater. To add to it, there is the beautiful area of nature with the small house. Oblivion is an experience, and a lesson to mankind, as well as a reminder of the power of art and literature – rooted on that creativity which is more important than logic, for science can win brutal battles, but to win the war, you need art and literature, as they heal the soul better and people need their wounds to heal and their scars to fade after a major disaster.

Release date: 13th April 2013
Running time: 124 minutes
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Zoë Bell, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Jack the Giant Slayer

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Back in the childhood, there was a story which featured in a lot of books, a fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”. But the adventure had not met its end at that time; now, after the return of Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Hansel & Gretel to the new movie world, another fairy tale comes back to life in a different manner – our legend this time goes like this “Fee Fi Fo Fum, ask not whence the thunder come; For between heaven and earth it’s a perilous place, home to a fearsome giant race; Who hunger to conquer the mortals below, waiting for the seeds of revenge to grow”. The original one was “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman, Be he live, or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread”. The difference between the fairy tale and the movie doesn’t end there, for Jack is not someone who steals anything, but a hero and the defender of his realm. He never even takes anything to or from this world to the other. But he is still a boy from the farm and he kills some giants (two to be exact), just in defence though.

“Fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man” would be the words of Edgar in William Shakespeare’s King Lear, but it might be better suited to the giants. Did those giants bother you in your childhood dreams and convert them into horrible nightmares? Where they your nightmare creatures? If they were, this is the time to redeem them. The giants haven’t really got their evil image running, as gentle giants tend to become more popular. But with giants, you never know and here it is proven; with gentle Jack and not-so-gentle giants who love to eat humans more than anything. Jack is just a simple farm boy; he is no Jack Sparrow and surely no Jack McClane. But what he does would change his life forever. From his fear of heights, or the fear of falling as he himself would call it, the man without any noble blood would rise to save the kingdom and the world of the humans from an invasion of the man-eating giants and also marry the beautiful princess to become the next ruler. If there is something like destiny, Jack has the best experience of it; if there is fate, it belongs to Jack; and as this fairy tale itself belongs to him as his own story, this is a fact which would be easily known.

Jack, the son of a farmer and Isabelle, the daughter of the king are shown to listen to the same bedtime story about giants and their invasion of human realm as the result of the creation of a gateway with magical beans in the form of a huge tree as part of an attempt of a few monks to reach heaven by the use of sorcery. The battle was clearly in the favour of giants an mankind could have faced extinction before a group of monks could create a crown which could let the wearer control the giants and force them to go back to their world. The connection was severed and everything went back to normal. Most of the people believed the story to be just a random legend, but both the kids believed in it. Ten years later, Jack has lost his parents and Isabelle is a wandering princess. The king’s right-hand man and adviser wishes to own that crown and re-link the two worlds unleashing an army of giants which he could control. His attempt to steal the remaining beans lead to a monk giving them to Jack before being captured and killed.

Meanwhile, the princess keeps wandering away in search of adventure and ends up in Jack’s house looking for shelter from the heavy rain. Their conversation is cut short as one of the beans get wet, it starts working and sprouts into a huge tree taking Jack’s house and the princess with it. Jack is thrown out of the house and is later found by the king and his soldiers. So our orphaned farm boy Jack has to set off on a quest to rescue a princess by climbing the huge tree to the middle world between the land of man and the land of God. But he would not be alone, as he is accompanied by the king’s best soldiers as well as the treacherous adviser who is looking for a chance to be in the world of giants and also the king’s most loyal leader of the royal knights. They would be in not just unfamiliar territory, but also a land infested by the world’s largest cannibals. An addition to this trouble would be the fact that the adviser has taken the crown with him to prepare the giants for the invasion of man’s world. The crown has its own power, as it is made out of the heart of a fallen giant of the former invasion.

The movie resembles Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters in many ways and it has a richer story, but too predictable and longer than need; it also has lesser 3D effects an weaker CGI compared to the witch-hunting action-horror fantasy. The horror element is als quite weak and there was the need for the darker elements in such a story. Instead this one is chosen to be watched by almost everyone, instead of giving it the power of horror and terror which it deserved. In the end, it continues to be a fairy tale with a happy ending; for they lived happily ever after and the tales of the giants continued to spread, creating new versions. Still, it scores over the lesser fairy tale re-builder which was Snow White and the Huntsman and is on level with Red Riding Hood in many ways. But then too, the effect created by the giants fails to grow like that seed; it could have reached the top with wings, but it decided to crawl underground and keeping itself safe. One has to wonder if the Twilight effect has completely destroyed the power of awesomeness in fantasy.

There is Nicholas Hoult, the Beast a.k.a Hank McCoy of X-Men: First Class who has blended into the character with no mutant-effect provided to the character, and Eleanor Tomlinson as the beautiful princess Isabelle never creating a question about a better cast; the same is the case of Stanley Tucci as Lord Roderick – the villain; not really the scariest one around, but still perfect for the way in which the movie has progressed. Ewan McGregor’s Elmont, the leader of the royal guard, makes that right character for a fairy tale adventure filled with action. As a whole, it is a perfect situation, but still the movie doesn’t rise as is should have; it is as if change was much less suited to this movie than the rest. But, with slight improvements, this could have made this genre, something spectacular, but such a thing was not to happen. The need to be on the safe side has locked this one – it has prevented the movie from going average or below average, but the same thing has prevented it from rising above the horizons from its own genre.

So this is where the Vampire Bat has started off for the month – one Jack, a princess and a large number of giants. The choices were many, especially among Malayalam and Hindi movies, but the decision to go for the classic fairy tale resurrection was not a bad idea. It has delivered; not completely in the way the Vampire Bat had expected it to, but surely in a way which didn’t disappoint him at all. He could just escape into it from a world which had much less for him. The vampire bats getting eaten by giants with bad teeth and foul breath might not make such great news, but still it would be an honour for him. The expectations are still there, if not for giants, it should be for awesome movies; and there is no rest for the Vampire Bat, nothing this world is aware of. There is still the need to be there for the right movie, something as good as Celluloid; that would make this a significant year if such an experience would happen in the first half of the year.

Release date: 1st March 2013
Running time: 114 minutes
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.