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April 2013

Respect the Architect

Oblivion (2013)

David James/Universal Pictures

If you filleted out all the bits drawn from other science-fiction stories and post-apocalypse fables, there wouldn't be much left of "Oblivion" except a hollow shell of pure design theory and a vague hint of new-car smell. But at least its design has some theories worth gazing at. In a plot teeming with so many familiar threads that it eventually short-circuits rather than untangle itself, the vividly antiseptic living-pods and sky-castles and bubble-ships that Joseph Kosinski and his design wizards concoct have a stronger identity than the flesh-and-blood individuals inside them. So too does the soundscape, an aural soup of machine language and data traffic that isn't the only echo on offer of young George Lucas and "THX 1138." Watching "Oblivion" with your fingers in your ears gets more tempting as the film goes on, but you'd miss some of the best bits.

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