Thursday, 20 June 2013

Idle fanedit ideas: Oblivion

Like many faneditors, new or veteran, I find I have lots more ideas for fanedits than I have time to work on them. In particular I have a number of projects I'd like to tackle, but which will require better skills or tools than I currently have.

 I figure it couldn't hurt to take some of the less pressing ideas and to a brief write-up of them; if nothing else it's good exercise in thinking through the process of restructuring the narrative and trying to spot any obvious problems.

First up, Oblivion.

I saw this with my nephew (who's closer to the target audience age than I am) and his dad (who's not). It wasn't bad, as far as high-concept blockbusters go, but I found it frustrating that it lifted good ideas from a bunch of far better films but didn't bother meshing them into a particularly convincing whole. A lot of what's on screen is actually pretty good, surprisingly - heck, the blatantly-stolen-from-Moon plotline about Cruise's character even gives us a reason to forgive Tom Cruise basically playing Tom Cruise. But it never really takes off.

Personally, I would have opened with a trimmed version of the original space mission; voices would have radio crackle and other effects applied to try and disguise the fact that it's Jack and Sally speaking. We'd basically find out that the Odyssey was on a mission within the Solar system and was redirected when an extraplanetary object of some sort was found, then cut to silence and the title. If I wanted to have fun with it, I'd possibly use some footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Sunshine and try to swap in dialogue fragments from GlaDOS in Portal 1 & 2 in place of Sally's voice.

I'd see if anything could be done with the clumsily expository opening narration - perhaps see if we can frame it so that this is part of the conversation between Jack and Julia. The film would then progress normally from here to the encounter in the football field.

I'd trim as much of the American Football reminiscence on the ground as possible (perhaps cutting it to "I heard about that game." "Please don't say it was a classic." "It was a classic!"), because we need at least a little bit of banter between Vic and Jack to show how they work together.

I'd also try and trim the scenes showing the Scavs, to limit how much we see of them - because the subsequent reveal that they're human is anything but a reveal in the theatrical release. It needs to be more surprising.

I'd also try and cut back the flashback scenes as well - they were horrendously clumsy, as was the reveal with Julia. They'd need pruning, but it might be possible to make them work better by fitting them into the rest of the film in a non-linear manner. Alternatively, I'd do what I could with filters and distortion to garble them and make them more mysterious/confusing since Jack's supposed to have had his memories wiped.

Unfortunately, I'd really like to excise the scene where the three drones break into the Scav's base and wreak havoc, because it doesn't really make sense and reeks of being contrived to allow the plot to end with Jack and Breech being space cowboys. If at all possible, I'd prefer the drone to be faulty from the beginning and Jack to suggest flying up there because it's the easiest solution. I'd remove the couple of bits suggesting Julia's going up, because there's no payoff to tricking the audience about her presence or absence in the Tet - the deception is only necessary for TetSally.

The trip up to the Tet would have an abridged version of the original sequence - since we already known about the Odyssey's journey from the start of the film, I'd fade into the sequence when the Tet locks them with a tractor beam and leave it unfold from there; though I'd consider cutting back to Jack piloting the ship with just the soundtrack overlaid occasionally, to keep the momentum of his flight to the Tet going.

If possible, I'd trim the cheesiness of some of the interaction between Breech, Jack and TetSally within the Tet itself. After the explosion, I'd fade to black - no expository demonstration of the dones deactivating, no nonsense with Tech 52 finding Julia. Ideally, I'd find footage (possibly from Predators or a similar film) to suggest that humans have persevered and life continues, albeit in a technologically limited manner for the time being.

I don't know if I'll bother picking Oblivion up on DVD, much less attempting an edit of it. Maybe once it's in the £5-or-less bins at my local supermarket. But these are my notions for how to tighten it up and redress the balance between the ideas and the action, because it started with a good pedigree by virtue of the films from which its screenwriters took inspiration.

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