Review: Oblivion (2013)
Ah, the post apocalypse. Where would science fiction be without you? The dried out, burned down, torn up, often vacant remnants of Earth providing a gritty, desolate canvas on which to paint in broad strokes of survival, resistance or terror. Often all in the same movie. A movie like Oblivion. Oblivion takes bits of pieces of a number of previous sci-fi movies and attempts to recreate them into something fresh, new and exciting. But while they may have been able to assemble Frankenstein's monster, they seem to have forgotten the thing that makes him move, that makes him walk. The electricity. Without that it's just a pile of stitches and bits of other people's good work. Yes there are many, many referential sequences and ideas in this movie. Some, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wall-E and Cruise's own Minority Report, are obvious, others, though equally obvious, I can't really drop without spoiling the plot. Oblivion's about a man, played by Cruise, and his girlfriend. Apparently the only two remaining humans on earth. After a big war, humanity abandoned earth and took up residence on the planet Titan. Cruise and his little philly have been left behind to maintain the drones, which protect earth from invaders and keep things in order from Scavs. Scavs is short for scavengers and, thought to be alien, they give Cruise & co. a constant headache. And that headache's about to get worse. The rest of the plot is fairly twisty and turn-y and, truth be told, can be hard to follow, so pay close attention. I think the filmmakers are aiming for something that resides a little higher than they can reach, especially when there are so many films with such similar plot devices that do it so much better. Oblivion has a great score, great music, though it occasionally borrows too heavily from the fog horn accents of Shutter Island and Inception. The abandoned world the filmmakers create, stark, cold and plastic, is unnervingly beautiful and always wonderful to look at. The effects are great as well. If you were one of the many (not me) who liked Prometheus only as a visual marvel, Oblivion has that same aesthetic (both films' exteriors were shot in Iceland). The acting's alright. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, no need to make much of a comment on his performance because we've been seeing it from him for the better part of thirty years. He does drive a supercool ship in the movie though. The movie plays like a well oiled machine and it's obvious the filmmakers are good at what they do. It undoubtably would be a better and more effective movie if all the movies it borrows from didn't exist. Of course, if they didn't exist, neither would this.
With a better story, a hipper cast, some more originating ideas and another run at the script, this could've really been something special though. That being said, with a better story, a hipper cast, some more originating ideas and another run at the script, Gigli could've really been something special. Verdict: Derivative and thin, it at least attempts to shoot for the clouds, though misses. It's a very cool looking movie with a great score which means if you're going to see it at all, see it on the biggest screen you can find. Rating: ***