Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996) — Futuristic frontier filler

“Once there was a man after my own heart, and I had to strangle him with his own intestines.”

Justin’s rating: I want to put a bounty on this film

Justin’s review: It’s extremely rare when a sequel can pick right up from where the original left off. At the best of times, there’s still a year or two between releases, not to mention casting changes, new sets, and the like. The only exceptions I’ve found to this is when movies are shot back-to-back, such as with Back to the Future Parts II and III or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Now I guess I can add the Oblivion franchise to that short list, as Oblivion and Oblivion 2: Backlash were filmed together in 1993 but released in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Thus, they both share the same sets, characters, costumes, and goofy scifi-western approach with little in the way of dissonance between them. Of course, looking at the meager runtime of both films, I highly suspect that this was one movie that got broken up into two to make more money. Not that Hollywood ever does that, of course.

As a result, you must understand that I had full expectations that Oblivion 2 would be just as much of a guilty pleasure as the first movie. Yet even though it was shot at the same time, this second (and final) installment was far more of a dud than a “dude!” Honestly, it felt like the second episode of a TV series where the writers blew all of the good ideas on the pilot and had to whip up something to fill an hour of screen time.

Oblivion 2 oh-so-slowly deals with the fallout of the first movie. With Redeye dead, Lash is now running her own frontier bar, Zack is settling into his role of marshal while failing at romance, and everything in the town calms down. That is, until a dandy of a bounty hunter named Sweeny shows up and starts looking for an unknown female criminal that is hiding out among the population. Sweeny is, undoubtedly, the colorful center of this movie, what with a wardrobe lifted straight from The Prisoner and an attitude that is quite genial until he flattens you.

This whole movie is a strange misfire that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. It aimlessly bounces from scene to scene without much in the way of plot momentum, while many of the best characters from the first movie get shoved into the background. Heck, George Takei only makes ONE horrible Star Trek pun, if that’s any indication! And the movie never makes it clear if we are supposed to like or hate Sweeny. Sometimes Zack and him are getting along like they’re the best of friends, and sometimes Sweeny is smooching Zack’s girlfriend and they’re getting into ineffectual fistfights.

And boy, is Zack a misfire of a lead character. His “empath” ability is only sporadically mentioned — and never for anything useful. He just hangs back, is clearly frightened of getting into a relationship, and creates no reason for us to cheer for his success. Mal from Firefly, he is not.

Sure, there are a few laughably weird moments, such as the location of a certain map or a giant rampaging turtle that ends up going nowhere, but it’s clear that Oblivion 2 had nowhere near the budget to do anything interesting. There’s so little in the way of fights and death, and even spaceships and horses are only heard offscreen to save from actually having to show them. So my recommendation here is to see the first movie but skip the sequel, unless you want to linger at this party until you’re forced to go home.

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