Flickchart Preview: ‘Oblivion’ vs. ‘After Earth’
2013 is shaping up to be a pretty big year for science fiction, probably the biggest since 2009 brought us heavy-hitters like Avatar, District 9, Moon and Star Trek. Major sci-fi releases this year will include J.J. Abrams‘ sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, Zack Snyder‘s Superman reboot Man of Steel, Neill Blomkamp‘s D-9 followup Elysium, Iron Man 3, World War Z, Ender’s Game, and Guillermo del Toro‘s monsters-vs-robots extravaganza Pacific Rim, among many others.
Two of the sci-fi juggernauts vying for your theater bucks are Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, and After Earth, featuring Will Smith. Both are big-budget future tales involving a major box office star returning to Earth after humanity was forced to abandon the planet, only to find something sinister at work. Which of these movies looks to be more worth our time? Let’s size them up – Flickchart-style, head-to-head – and find out.
Oblivion: Save the Girl, Get a Clue?
“Earth is a memory worth fighting for.”
Earth has been devastated after a punishing war with an alien race, and now, there’s nothing left to do but scrounge the ruined planet for whatever resources remain. When Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) returns to Earth as part of a “mop-up crew”, he discovers a woman (Olga Kurylenko) in stasis aboard a crashed ship. When he recognizes her as a face from the flashbacks he’s been having of life before the war, it calls into question everything Harper thought he knew about the conflict that ruined the planet.
The advertising for Oblivion places a bit more emphasis on “the producers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes” rather than “the director of TRON: Legacy“, which may be wise, given the overall admiration for Rise, and the general indifference to Legacy. By all indications, most people who had a problem with the TRON sequel had more issues with the script than Joseph Kosinski‘s direction; there is no doubt that the man knows how to paint pretty pictures on a movie screen. The post-apocalyptic world of Oblivion is certainly something impressive to see.
One of the most notable things about Oblivion is the fact that it brings Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman together on screen for the first time. How have these two actors never worked together before?
Already having enjoyed a $60+ million opening weekend overseas, Oblivion hits North American theaters today.
After Earth: A Father-Son Getaway to Pandora?
“Danger is real. Fear is a choice.”
Post-cataclysm, humanity has abandoned Earth and rebuilt society on a planet called Nova Prime, light years away. A thousand years later, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) is an aspiring member of the Ranger Corps led by his father, Cypher (Will Smith). When Kitai fails to make the grade, the father opts to bring the son along on a mission to Earth, in an effort to mend fences. Of course, their ship crashes on the most dangerous planet in the universe – Earth, where “everything has evolved to kill humans” – and Cypher is injured, leaving it up to Kitai to send a signal and secure their rescue.
The first thing that is apparent about After Earth is also pretty surprising: Somebody gave M. Night Shyamalan a budget. Since making the highly-divisive The Village, the director’s star has been plummeting (his films descend in ranking on Flickchart in order by release date), and following the ghastly box office disaster that was The Last Airbender, it seems almost unthinkable that any studio executive would hand him the keys to such a high-profile, big-budget sci-fi epic. Surely, the future of Shyamalan’s career rests heavily on the success of After Earth.
After Earth is set for release on June 7.
So, we have both Cruise and Smith making a return to an inhospitable Earth. There are differences, but on the surface the films seem to have a lot in common, right down to similar-looking gray jumpsuits on the principal actors, and practically the same marketing campaign. (Take a look at the posters above.)
Smith brings his kid along for the ride; Cruise brings Olga Kurylenko. Throw in the incomparable Morgan Freeman, and the casts are unfairly stacked in Oblivion‘s favor. Somehow, even the gray, blasted Earth of Oblivion even looks better than the lush jungles of After Earth, which, superficially, seems to be trying too hard to pepper itself with an Avatar-like flavor. Then there is the specter of M. Night Shyamalan, a filmmaker who has been falling out of audiences’ good graces for years now. (Perhaps it could be argued that he no longer has anywhere to go but up…?)
Oblivion is already pulling in largely favorable reviews, and in the battle of superstar-powered sci-fi, it feels like the better bet. After Earth may very well find itself a step behind in more than just release date.