Oblivion: the Official Nerfed Llamas Review – It’s like Firefly… only better in nearly every way!
I know. I know. Lots of browncoats love them some Firefly. I have famously, and to the chagrin of many of my friends, never seen the “magic” that they see in Firefly. I suppose it can easily be explained as part of the Whedon-effect, but that doesn’t work on me as I find Joss Whedon’s shows to be wildly mediocre for the most part (there are exceptions, and yes Buffy and Angel are good enough). In the end, Firefly just ended up being Buffy the Vampire Slayer rebooted as a hipster sci-fi western (fight me). Sure, they make you believe it is about Mal and the crew, but it’s actually all about River and how she is the one girl in all the universe who can blah blah blah… sound familiar? Cowboy and Aliens tried to ape the sci-fi western motif too, but with very little success. The big problem with Cowboys and Aliens was that it was far too serious for its own good. With a playful name like Cowboys and Aliens, you are expecting to see something more like Men in Black and less like 3:10 to Yuma. I love the idea of a sci-fi western, but to date there have not really been many that have hit the mark. Today, I am going to introduce you to the film that is the standard for the genre, Full Moon Features classic movie: Oblivion. Oh, and this is the first review of many this month, which is officially my 2nd Annual Full Moon Features appreciation, so click the following link to keep up to date with all of the reviews and Full Moon related stories:
What is Oblivion? Oblivion is an action comedy sci-fi western written by Peter David (Trancers 4 & 5) and directed by Sam Irvin (Guilty as Charged, Elvira’s Haunted Hills) that was released in 1994. Lead by a tremendous ensemble cast that includes Richard Joseph Paul (Vampirella, Revenge of the Nerds II), Jackie Swanson (Cheers, Lethal Weapon), Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster, Air Force One), Meg Foster (They Live, The Man in the Iron Mask), Musetta Vander (Mortal Kombat Annihilation, O Brother Where Art Thou?), Jimmie Skaggs (Catch Me If You Can, Lethal Weapon), Isaac Hayes (Southpark, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka), Irwin Keyes (Zapped!, The Jeffersons), Carel Struycken (The Addams Family, Men in Black), George Takei (Star Trek, Mulan), and Julie Newmar (Batman TV series, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers), Oblivion is a rollicking tumbleweed of a movie rife with dangerous bandits, vigilant law enforcers, and a whole host of bizarre townsfolk. Playing out like a low-fi futuristic frontier western set on an extraterrestrial planet, the film represents a fantastic balance of old school b-movie campy science fiction and classic Hollywood western.
What I liked about Oblivion: The first thing that really strikes me when I think about Oblivion is the over all experience of the movie. Oblivion is a thoroughly entertaining merging of comedy, creativity, sight gags, and b-movie sci-fi all wrapped up in a Cat Ballou madcap-style western. Everything feels and looks right in this flick. The costume design is excellent mash up of western wear and kinky. The make up, alien prosthetics, and creature puppetry are fantastic and add heavily to the ambiance of the film. The special effects are dated by today’s standard, but fit the fell of the movie well and are a cut above the usual mid-90’s b-movie super cheese effects. The sets are elaborate western standards that have a lived in quality, and the locations filmed having a rolling plains look that I did not know existed in Romania, but clearly they do. All of these individual triumphs culminate into an entire film that is far better produced and filmed than the average b-movie.
The actors involved give some really terrific campy b-movie performances. This is bolstered by the hammy script that Peter David wrote, which is filled with multiple layers of comedy and innuendo. Four performers stand out from an already fabulous ensemble:
- Julie Newmar: Many know her as the Catwoman from the classic 60’s Batman TV series, and she plays heavily on that for her portrayal of Ms. Kitty in Oblivion. She is the owner of the saloon and makes sure that all of her guests are pampered adequately. What makes her character so much fun is that the name Kitty is as much a name as it is a personality. Ms. Kitty hisses, draws claws, and even purrs depending on her mood and Newmar really digs in and has a lot of fun cultivating the character. It’s unmeasurable amounts of fun watching Newmar play with all of the other characters in the film. A sheer delight.
- Andrew Divoff: A multifaceted actor, Divoff has managed to land amazing roles in a broad variety of high profile film and TV projects. In Oblivion, he plays the villainous alien Red Eye. Hell bent on taking out law enforcement and controlling the frontier town of Oblivion, Red Eye does so with style and a wicked sense of humor. Divoff brings a nuance to the character, from the funny expressions to the goofy mouth ticks and all the way to his deliberate wild west villain bravado. Red Eye is a villain that you love to hate because you absolutely enjoy watching him on screen. The joy of b-movie villains, is that some of them are absurdly comedic genius and ruthlessly menacing at the same time, and Divoff’s Red Eye is perhaps one of the best examples.
- Musetta Vander: From music videos to big budget Hollywood movies and everywhere else in-between, Musetta Vander has worked on a lot of interesting projects. In Oblivion, she plays the devilish Lash, an associate of Red Eye, who is part wild west debutante and part dominatrix. Vander tackles the role with an infectious exuberance that helps to make Red Eye and Lash a dynamic duo of sorts. It is torturous joy Lash takes in exacting her whip (literally) justice on her enemies, and Vander somehow makes it seem as if Lash is getting off on each crack of the whip. It is rare that the psycho dominatrix trope works on me, but in this film Lash is intoxicating to watch.
- George Takei: Much like Newmar, Takei is best know for a character that he portrayed in a 60’s TV series, except this time it is as Sulu on Star Trek. In a huge departure from the serious character of Sulu, Takei gets to have a lot of fun playing the perpetually drunk goofball inventor, Doc Valentine. Shamed for having created a technology that failed to save the Marshall’s life from one of Red Eye’s schemes, Valentine finds himself drowning his sorrows in a bottle. Valentine is a pathetic drunk, but funny as all get out. Takei seems to be having the time of his life playing a role that is very different from his past Star Trek and war movies. They even manage to slip in a few Star Trek themed zingers to say that’ll give you a hearty belly laugh when they happen.
The script is a stand out that should not be overlooked. Far too often a b-movie is riddled with bad dialogue and a poorly conceived story. This is not the case with Oblivion, a film that has a script that could have easily been brought to the big screen on a huge budget. Oblivion was written by Peter David, a noted author with multiple novels written, as well as a rich history of writing for TV shows and comic books (his run on the Incredible Hulk is the stuff of legends). David also wrote a sequel to Oblivion and Trancers 4 & 5 for Full Moon Features. The script for Oblivion is charming, funny, daring, action packed, and well paced with plenty of solid twists and turns. There is a certain special something, similar to say the Raimi Brothers’ Army of Darkness and Evil Dead II scripts. It is a huge step up from the average b-movie fare, and the aforementioned cast do an excellent job bringing the script to life on the screen.
What I didn’t like about Oblivion: Nothing. There is nothing that I didn’t like about Oblivion. It is well shot, well written, and well acted. How could you possibly ask for more in a b-movie? This, like Trancers is more or less a perfect b-movie. You can read my review for Trancers here. My only legitimate gripe isn’t about the movie, but about how it has not been remastered in HD for digital streaming and blu-ray purchase.
Bottom Line: You should drop everything and watch Oblivion right now. It is a wonderful amalgamation of sci-fi, western, and comedy that adds up to a delightfully entertaining hour and a half of TV. You can’t go wrong with it. It’s high adventure that is well crafted with a bizarre western world that is fully realized. It has a fabulous cast that work exceptionally well together. It is, for a b-movie, something special. You can tell from the first 2 minutes of the film that you are in for something good, and it never fails to deliver. I highly recommend checking Oblivion out as soon as possible. You can watch Oblivion on Full Moon’s Streaming service, or purchase it on DVD from the Full Moon Direct online store.
Here’s the trailer for Oblivion, check it out and see if you are ready to saddle up to the year 3031 for the adventure of a lifetime!