May 23, 2015

Review: Oblivion (2013)

I've somehow never seen Joseph Kosinski's directorial debut Tron: Legacy. I have heard however that it has its fair share of issues. Supposedly, it's also visually striking and it features a cool electronic score from Daft Punk. I'll admit that I'm a pretty big sucker for cool visuals in a movie and I have no doubt that Oblivion is the same way. Low critic scores have me a bit worried however that it falls into the same pattern as Tron: Legacy though.

I feel like it's been a while since I've seen a Tom Cruise movie. I think the last one I saw was Jack Reacher which is funny since he plays another character named Jack in Oblivion. It's nice to see him starring in what is an original sci-fi film in a world where sci-fi films always seem to spawn a series. A sequel could still get made sure, but I wouldn't really say that Oblivion did exceedingly well at the worldwide box office. You never know though.


At a Glance

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Produced by: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Duncan Henderson, etc.
Written by: Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt
Music by: Anthony Gonzalez, M83, Joseph Trapanese
Running time: 124 minutes
Production company: Universal Pictures, Monolith Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, etc.
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, United International Pictures, Toho-Towa, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $120,000,000
Box office: $286,168,572 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoë Bell



In 2077, a war between humans and alien "Scavs" has destroyed the planet Earth. Mankind came out as victors, but are unfortunately left with no other choice but to abandon their planet. Acting as a mop-up crew against remaining Scav survivors, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) oversee the operation of fusion energy generators used to provide power for human survivors on Titan. Despite a mandatory memory-wipe, Jack is haunted my memories of what appears to be his past life on Earth.



As seemingly promised, Oblivion truly is a visual spectacle. The desolate landscapes, littered with New York City monuments of the past paint a grim picture of what Earth has become. Add in the sleek and modern living quarters of Jack and Victoria and Oblivion makes for some pretty interesting post-apocalyptic/futuristic flavours. Jack has no shortage of white-coloured gear to choose from and the design of different things like the Bubble Ship and the drones are admittedly very cool.

Tom Cruise himself seems very at home in Oblivion and I think he does a pretty good job from an acting stand point. The character he plays is one who's perpetually trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and Cruise succeeds in getting beyond just looking confused all the time. I'm not completely sold on the chemistry between his love interest, but I've certainly seen worse. 

The problem with Oblivion is that as soon as you start to dig a little deeper into the storyline, the problems start to surface. There seem to be a few too many holes for my liking and I can't get away from the feeling that I've already seen most of what happens in Oblivion in other movies. Probably the most apt description I can think of is that the story is like a mix between The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey. That's cool in theory, but it doesn't make for the most original storyline in the world.

Joseph Kosinski actually wrote the story of Oblivion for a graphic novel before it got re-written by Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt for the screenplay. Out of the two, there's no doubt that Gajdusek is the weaker link if you take a quick look at his filmography, but Kosinski still deserves a fair share of the blame for Oblivion's middling story. Apparently it's supposed to be a homage to sci-fi movies of the 1970's. Even so, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by the whole thing.

There are few surprises in Oblivion and I couldn't help but feel that the tension level was lacking more than a few times. Scenes where I was supposed to be on the edge of my seat didn't really quite get me there. I will say however that on the whole, Oblivion improves at around the three-quarter mark and gets a whole lot more interesting which is pretty rare. Everything get answered in the end, but you have to avoid thinking too deep though.

As an original science fiction film, I truly wish that Oblivion were better than it is. I'm in love with the looks, the sounds, the score and the cast even, but none of those things are enough to hide the thin storyline that just seems rife with issues if you think about it too much. Science fiction needs to be well thought out and I think Oblivion could've benefited from a bit more time at the drawing table. There's also the inescapable feeling that most of Oblivion has been done before. It sure is pretty though.



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