Oblivion (1994) — Firefly on the cheap

“Jim Beam me up!”

Justin’s rating: Two out of two Night Scorp tails

Justin’s review: If you put me on trial today — please don’t, I have plans — and forced me to come up with a defense as to why 1994’s Oblivion is a good movie, there’s no way I would be able to muster up an argument that a halfway decent film critic couldn’t shred in seconds. This movie is hokey, it’s cheesy, it’s tonally inconsistent, and it’s not well-done from any objective perspective.

But here’s the thing: I still like it. I actually may love this movie, because while it’s not good, it is sheer fun. And you can’t take THAT sky from me.

I think what you need to understand going into seeing this flick and its sequel is that Oblivion was written by prolific comic book author Peter David. And when you come at Oblivion from the approach of, “oh, this is a comic book movie,” then it totally works. The quips, the framing, the exaggerated performances — it all seems right at home in a comic book setting. It’s also the kind of movie where the actors seem to be having an absolute blast, which makes it hard to begrudge the silliness that they might exhibit.

Also, if you need more convincing, this movie is a who’s who of science fiction and fantasy actors, including Star Trek’s George Takei, South Park’s Isaac Hayes, Batman’s Julie Newmar, Twin Peaks’ Carel Struycken, They Live’s Meg Foster, and many more.

Oblivion is a scifi western that’s light on the scifi and heavy on the western clichés, set on a nameless frontier planet where an alien named Redeye flies in nonstop (rimshot) to kill the town marshal and then kind of just sit around, waiting for someone to revenge on him and his gang. Said revenging comes from the marshal’s empathic son Zack and the friendly “native” Buteo that Zack rescues (from giant scorpions, if you must know).

Fortunately, Zack and Buteo have some help in their quest to set wrongs right, including the assistance of the town’s eerily prescient mortician Gaunt, damsel-in-distress Mattie, robotics expert Doc Valentine, and the cybernetic deputy Stell. They’re really going to need to band together, too, because the bad guys have a weird, weird assortment of members, such as a matador and a whip-wielding dominatrix.

Again, none of this is original, but the science fiction and western mash-up make it a lot more enjoyable than it has any right being. I really loved the striking camera shots and found myself guffawing many times at Julie Newmar going overboard as a cat person (because she used to be Catwoman, get it?) or George Takei dropping bad Star Trek puns (because he used to be Sulu, get it?). Oblivion is a zippy movie that is always interesting to look at and dorky enough to surprise laughs out of you.

So why not take a visit to the only western town in the cinematic galaxy with ceiling fans outside, a mortician who knows when you’re going to die, and a damsel who hasn’t yet met a situation she can’t crumple her face and shout moralistic speeches at?

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