Oblivion (2013) Short Review (PG-13)
Oblivion seemed to have been assembled from the parts and leftovers of the most well known science fiction films of the last 50 years. It’s moderately entertaining until at some point in the story you realize it has no ideas of its own. Even the twists offered up in the film are uninspired. It doesn’t help that the trailer for the film gave away at least one of its bigger ‘secrets’. I say ‘secrets’, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being fooled by any of the plot threads. It also became increasingly illogical the more information is revealed. The explanations given throughout the film make you wonder how this ever got by the ‘pitch’ process. Even by sci fi action flick standards the premise has lost any modicum of plausibility by the film’s end.
The movie begins with a combination of Tom Cruise performing a voice over of extremely bad dialogue and an awkward domestic montage of two the last remaining humans on the planet, Jack and Victoria (played by Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough). The Earth has been rendered uninhabitable by a a combination of alien invaders (called The Scavengers) destroying the moon and the human race using nukes to defeat the enemy invaders.
Jack and Victoria are in the last stages of their mission, repairing drones, monitoring seawater powered fusion reactors and any rebellious Scav activity, before they join the rest of mankind on Titan, one of the moons of Jupiter. Did I mention they’ve had their memories wiped? For their protection? I didn’t? Well, now I am. Of course, everything is not as it seems and if that doesn’t tip you off where the film is going, nothing will. You’re impenetrable. And I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, you get all this in the first 5 minutes (along with an extremely poorly conceived scene of Jack recollecting a past Super Bowl that hasn’t happened yet, so as to let everyone know that Cruise isn’t crazy Scientology-weird, but likes football like your average couch surfing Joe.
Right from the beginning, Jack lets the audience know that he suspects that things are amiss but does nothing about his feelings until the woman of his dreams crashes into his daily tedium… LITERALLY on both counts… The he begins to wonder if the truth is a lie and the lie is the truth….
As far as positives go, the film looks outstanding (and not just because of Olga Kurylenko). It has mostly great visual FX, except for what I’ve already been harping on. The drones, along with the eventual physical realization of the ‘alien invaders’ are not borrowed, but outright stolen from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. The single red eye is there and the drones get their appearance from the space capsules used by Kubrick’s astronauts. That’s not the only stolen material… Just off the top of my head I noted blatant visual and story swipes from Total Recall, The Terminator, WALL-E, 2001, Moon, Prometheus, and even Thundarr The Barbarian. There’s another alien invasion film from the 1990s that had a ridiculous ending and this one even riffs on that one. In saying that, the last scene was a complete cop out. As I’ve said before stories don’t have to be happy or sad, they just have to have a satisfying ending and this one is not in any way. The ending in Oblivion is not only unsatisfying, but indicates the writer doesn’t have an understanding of some of the science that he was writing about (if not all of it).
Tom Cruise is adequate in this. he’s not a terrible actor, but he’s very well known and generally plays Tom Cruise in his movie roles, but that’s fine. he wasn’t the problem here. Kurylenko, is one of those stunning model turned actresses, who has had quite a variety of characters in her short movie career. I liked her here as I have in other roles, but she isn’t given a whole lot to do. Morgan Freeman’s character turns out to be part of the problem I have with Oblivion. He was unnecessary here, to be honest. His last scene (and that awful final scene of the movie) was a desperate attempt for the audience’s sympathies.
This IS a summer film. As I said, it looked great and was entertaining as long as you shut down your brain before viewing. I didn’t and the plotholes became wider and wider. The movie takes itself very seriously, offering little much needed humor. It was all a little too understated, too, outside of some of the standoffs between Cruise and the drones. The one thing that stood out above (or below) everything else, though, was the appearance of the eventually revealed prime antagonist. I was just disappointed. Visually, it was a letdown and this is yet another case where a film’s technologically superior race turns out to have a leader that is dumber than dirt. The writer wanted to have his cake and eat it too with the fate of his main character. I think cutting out the subplot with the other drone repairman would have made this a much stronger film. As it is, it just felt like I’ve seen all of this elsewhere, but much, much better.