Home Entertainment Director Joseph Kosinski wants to bring sci-fi into the daylight with OBLIVION

Director Joseph Kosinski wants to bring sci-fi into the daylight with OBLIVION

8 min read

I’m pretty sure that a few of you, just like me, had to towel down your keyboard last week after seeing the trailer for writer-director Jospeh “Tron Legacy” Kosinski’s newest sci-fi extravaganza Oblivion. The geek drool-flowed freely at some of the amazing imagery conjured in that trailer, and Kosinski dropped in at MTV to explain exactly what it was that we were destroying computer peripherals over.

He spoke about the origin of the story – which sees Tom Cruise as one of last humans left on Earth as part of a mop-up operation, after the planet is pretty much wrecked in an extraterrestrial war, who encounters someone/something which changes everything he thought he knew – and how it was once going to be his very first feature film, as well a graphic novel with “Rex Mundi” writer Arvid Nelson.

“I started writing this small character-driven science fiction story that was in the vein of those science fiction films of the 1970s that involved this lone survivor among the ruins of civilization, like ‘Omega Man’ or ‘Silent Running’ — it was kind of in that vein. I thought if it was going to be my first movie it would have to be something very small and contained in order to even get a chance at pulling it off. So it’s the story of a drill repair man, Jack Harper, who is one of the last human beings left on earth after a massive war, which was the result of an alien invasion. Even though humankind won the war, Earth was left in such a state that we had to look for another place to settle, and Jack is left behind to monitor and secure the resource gathering operation that’s happening where we’re gathering the last bit of energy out of the earth’s seawater in order to move onto the next step.”

“That was the original treatment, the story. At the time I was ready to turn it into a screenplay, WGA went on strike and we couldn’t actually hire a screenwriter to work on a screenplay at that point. So in order to keep the process moving forward I teamed up with Radical Comics to develop and illustrate a novel in parallel based on this story. And we did that over a couple years, and then I got pulled into ‘Tron,’ which was a couple years, and as ‘Tron’ was in post [production] I had enough between the story and the illustrations I had done with Andree [Wallin], the artist, I had enough of a package to go out and set the project up at a studio which is what I did. And then I went into feature mode so, we never actually finished the graphic novel because once it got picked up I realized that the way I wanted this story to be experienced was on the big screen and not out of the book.”

He spoke about how he landed Tom Cruise for the film’s lead. The blockbusting actor/producer is currently busy battling aliens over in Doug Liman’s All You Need Is Kill and coupled with this seems to have recently become a bit of a sci-fi fan [INSERT SCIENTOLOGY JOKE HERE].

“It was our final Comic-Con for ‘Tron,’ and while I was showing the big Comic-Con trailer and we were doing our big song and dance for ‘Tron: Legacy,’ I was also launching an ashcan for ‘Oblivion’—which was just kind of like an introductory chapter with eight images at the Radical [Comics] booth. And the day after I got back from Comic-Con, I got a call from Tom’s agent saying that Tom had seen the ashcan and wanted to meet me and talk to me about it. I went over and met him at his hangar and I pitched him the full story ’cause he had just read that introductory beat—there wasn’t a script at that point it was a story in my head. And I pitched him the whole story over about two hours and at the end of the meeting he said, ‘Let’s do this. I want to do this. I want to do this movie with you.’ … The role fits him like a glove. I justcan’t imagine anyone else playing this character.”

That’s right. Tom Cruise takes meetings in his hangar. That’s just how this little guy rolls.

Now irrespective of what your overall impression of Tron: Legacy was, nobody can deny that Kosinski certainly has a flair for the visual. Something that was once again evident in the trailer and early artwork for Oblivion. And just like with Tron, Kosinski had a distinct look in mind, one that also involved a whole lot of shininess.

“Visually, I always knew exactly what I wanted the film to look like. ‘Alien‘ is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I feel like after ‘Alien,’ science fiction kind of went into the dark for a long time. It became about deep space and dark ship holes and it just went into darkness. I liked the idea of bringing science fiction out into the daylight again. So it is a daytime science fiction film where the world is kind of divided into two zones: the world above the clouds and the world below the clouds. The world above the clouds is where Jack lives with Victoria, his partner, in this operation, in the skytower which is 3,500 ft. above the ground, away from the dangers that live below, which is a very different world from the ground where Jack actually has to do his job every day. And that juxtaposition to me in concept lends itself into a visual juxtaposition as well, where you’re gonna see technology set against a landscape that I feel is something we haven’t really seen before.”

To achieve those visuals though, Kosinksi apparently thought up a few new tricks for this production.

“For this movie I had an idea of a new technique that I knew would provide a level of realism and immersion that you could never get from blue screen or green screen because the interactive lighting environment is something that always has to be faked. So I had an idea for something that was outlandish and I figured out with my DP audio [Claudio Miranda] how to actually pull it off. I’m really excited for people to see that in the movie because I think that from a technological point of view it was the most advanced thing I’ve ever done, and it was only possible because of the camera we had and the lenses we were using.”

He doesn’t reveal what that technique actually is, the sly devil, but it certainly has my interest piqued. Now here on The Movies, you’ll often hear us referring to The Great Snubbing  of 2011, as Daft Punk’s ridiculously amazing score for Tron: Legacy never got nominated for an Oscar. Now while the French electronic duo might not be getting another chance with Oblivion, Kosinski has got somebody pretty similar in their place.

“The composer is Anthony Gonzales, also known as [French electronic DJ] M83, who’s working in conjunction with Joe Trapanese, who was my orchestrator on ‘Tron’ and worked with Daft Punk. We’ve done a score for this film that I am as excited about as I was for the ‘Tron: Legacy’ score. It’s just spectacular, I’m really psyched. And we will be recording that in January.”

Just as spectacular as Tron’s soundtrack? Oh just shut up and take my money!

Kosinski ended off the interview by hinting that there’s a lot more going in Oblivion than what that trailer showed.

“I think the trailer does a good job at hinting that the film does have a number or twists and turns and there are hard questions being asked and there is a character who is under pressure. But I don’t really want to say much more than that as to what the plot of the movie is.”

Oblivion stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Zoe Bell, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and opens in cinemas on April 19, 2013.


Last Updated: December 18, 2012

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