I saw Oblivion last night. As Joseph Kosinski’s movie unfolded it took us on a journey that provoked reflection on society, nature, morality, what it means to live, and how a man can die better. Good sci-fi will do this. It’s design and aesthetic however, are what I think had the biggest impact on me.
I was first struck by the beauty of our ravaged planet. Through masterful cinematography and post production each shot was magnificently composed and showed a depth typically lacking in movie backdrops. I’ve always had a soft spot for gorgeous and surreal vistas; and my early attempts at concept art and matte painting for games I think allowed me to sate that interest growing up. With journeys into painting scarce these days the views in this movie are magnificent, compelling, and leave me in awe of the talented production team.
Despite it’s barren state, I was left wanting to be transported there to explore and discover it’s mysteries.
Design Before It’s Time
Another dimension of this film the impressed me was it’s design. Everything from the living quarters to the UI. There was reason, function, and purity of form at every turn. In today’s world you only see such a beautiful harmony of things manifested as concepts, exhibits, and in this case, fiction.
UI That Is Both Fresh and Relatively Low on Greeble
One of my pet peeves is greeble. If you’re familiar with sci-fi movies than you’ve seen all the fake antennas and parts they tack on to the models and weapons to make things appear more complex. I’ve wished for movies with more thought put into the science and less effort in the fluff, and Oblivion delivers in spades.
The usual sci-fi noise is refreshingly absent in this movie, we can feast our eyes on UIs where simplicity and function prevail. Even in the short glances we have at the screens of Oblivion, the audience can learn about what’s going on. We empathize with the characters as they interact with the tools. Most movies cannot boast of UI clean enough to contribute to the story in a meaningful way like this one.
These functional interfaces spread throughout the film really leave me wishing I could interact with them or that the apps I work with daily could be this smooth.
One of the people behind all of this inspiring UI work is the imminent Mr. Munkowitz. You may recognize his work in Tron II, and he definitely left his mark on Oblivion. Make sure you check out his site and reels if you can’t get enough.