Sci-fi has to be one of my favorite film genres. Not only does it lend itself to so many varied and complex fictional universes, but it also has the ability to show off spectacular imagery through the use of both practical as well as computer-aided effects. Some of the most renowned films to date are ones that were able to use every advantage that sci-fi offers and then give the audience something new and exciting. Take Back to the Future for example (my favorite film); at its core it’s a time travel movie plain and simple, however Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were able to weave an exceptionally written and performed story with now iconic sci-fi images. The fact that nearly every time someone sees a DeLorean today their brain instantly goes to Back to the Future is proof that great sci-fi can leave a lasting impression. The problem is that this is not the case with Joseph Kosinski’s new film Oblivion.
In the future, a war for Earth was fought against an alien force that destroyed the moon. Even though the humans won, the planet is now almost entirely devoid of life and livability due to effects of the war. The majority of the human race was able to escape Earth by boarding an exponentially large space ship which now hovers over the planet. They then plan to colonize Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and make that their permanent residence. Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are a couple assigned to aid in the protection and maintenance of giant mechanical drones used to process Earth’s oceans and turn them into energy for the future colonization. Jack goes out when needed to repair defensive drones that protect the processing ones from attacks from aliens still inhabiting the Earth. Victoria stays in their floating home in the clouds and serves more of a “lookout” role helping Jack with drone locations and such.
Oblivion walks a thin line when it comes to borrowing from other sci-fi films and it does so in an almost unabashed fashion. Right from the setup of the plot, within the first fifteen minutes of the film I knew what one of the major twists would be. This is because I watch a heck of a lot of films and Oblivion kept using major points from a recent sci-fi film I have seen. I’m not going to say what that film is, but if you have seen it more than likely you’ll start making the same connections that I did. That being said, another major twist comes later in the film which I didn’t see coming and which helped to redeem the film because of it. Overall, the story isn’t bad or boring; it’s just a little overplayed and it transforms itself into a mindless action film even though it didn’t need to.
Fans of any of Tom Cruise’s action films won’t be disappointed with Oblivion whatsoever. Cruise is at the top of his game and performs some amazing stunts that truly show why he is the A-list actor that he is. The sights and sounds of the film’s harrowing space ship battles were able to envelop me with sheer delight. The resonance of Jack’s bubble ship as it dashes through canyons has a great startling tone and the visual impact of said scene leaves the viewer on a truly edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. I must commend the digital artists that worked on this film for being able to seamlessly blend CGI effects with real life to such a high degree. Never once during this film did I notice a computer effect that I would consider sloppy or put together in an unrealistic manner. Having said that, even though I wish they could, the film’s visuals can’t make up for the rest of its narrative shortcomings.
To some, this review may look like I am simply bashing the film because I have seen another film with similar plot points; that isn’t the case whatsoever. What I am doing on the other hand is explaining the need for Hollywood to embrace originality and stop recycling story after story. I thoroughly enjoyed Oblivion even with its inadequacies, but when all is said and done and I walked out of theatre there wasn’t a DeLoreon to make me want to revisit that universe again.
FINAL TAKE: 7/11
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Synopsis: In the future, a war between humans and aliens was waged that left the Earth in shambles. Now a man and woman repair team must help protect drones that are needed to harvest Earth’s last resources.
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Actors: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman
Run time: 126 min