Oblivion is being released on BluRay/DVD this week. As a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, it’s not bad. The landscapes are absolutely beautiful, the action is well done and Tom Cruise does a pretty decent job as well. My only gripe with this movie is that it isn’t original at all. It doesn’t take just one plot from one movie. It borrows every plot point from every great sci-fi movie of the past 40 years. I’m still not sure if it was using plots as an homage to classic sci-fi, or if it was thieving elements from better movies hoping no one would notice. Essentially, if you’ve never seen the original movies, you’d be blown away with Oblivion. It really is the quintessential formulaic science fiction movie.
This leads to this week’s top 5 list. I break down 5 genres of film and classify the cliches that are apparent in each.
5 – Thriller/Suspense Formula
In every suspense movie, you need a couple with a long history of trust. They are either married or have been dating for years and are considering marriage. They either have new neighbors move in or they move to a new neighborhood. One of the people concerned will look into the strange incidents in town and somehow discover that their significant other is sleeping around or more commonly, had an affair in the past. As they get closer to the truth, their life will be put in danger during the most violent lightning storm of the year.
4 – Sports Genre Formula
Every over-emotional sports movie needs an underdog with big dreams. He feels the need to overcome his poor upbringing. At some point the athlete will be injured thanks to the opposing team, or possibly even his own. If the athlete is dating someone, she will be incredibly supportive. If he is married, then the wife will plead that he give up before any harm or heartache comes to the family. Then, of course, there needs to be the “Big Play” that will cap off the movie.
3 – Disaster Genre Formula
They don’t quite make disaster movies like they used to in the days of Poseidon Adventure or Earthquake. Sadly, every disaster flick is made by Roland Emmerich. He loves it when a divorced father is trying to save his estranged family and eventually rekindle his love with his ex. He is guaranteed to save the world, but it may come at the cost of his life. In order to show us the scope of destruction, the calamities need to destroy a landmark, ranging from the White House, the Hollywood sign, Big Ben, etc. Scientists warn the government, but someone in power is corrupt and doesn’t warn the rest of the world.
2 – Independent Genre Formula
Cue the artsy-folk soundtrack, it’s Indie movie time. An isolated loser likes to stare off in the distance a lot and watch people more than is healthy. They come from an unconventional family most of the time. Also, you’d think every movie was set in the 70’s until one of the characters looks at their smartphone. While it seems that they’ve made huge leaps in their own personal coming-of-age story, it will always end ambiguously, with them staring out a car window.
1 – Romantic Comedy Genre Formula
Every Romantic Comedy seems like a tired cliche at this point. Just look to Valentines Day or New Years Eve for a collection of recycled plots from other mediocre rom-coms. For any rom-com, you need 2 people who really shouldn’t be together. It somehow becomes mutually advantageous for them to be together, or perhaps, they are interested in each other but their romance is based on false pretenses. Because the leads generally have no charisma, they each need a zany best friend who inserts dirty jokes wherever necessary. The two leads will fall in love in an extended music montage set to the music of Sixpence None the Richer. Once they find out about the false pretenses, they will take some time apart but realize how much they care for the other. Then comes “The Chase,” which can either be in an airport (not legal anymore), in traffic or somehow on boats.
I may just write a movie which starts off as a rom-com, then the male lead follows his dream of playing in the big leagues. The movie will then take a dark turn as the new neighbors start stalking the athlete, all the while the wife will have to deal with her quirky extended family and try to save them while the Eiffel Tower is being knocked down by the French Sharknado. Belle and Sebastian will provide the soundtrack.