Sci-fi is a rather slippery genre. The very heart of its concept allows for great leaps of innovation and creativity- to invent new worlds and peoples, to envision an Earth generations ahead of our own, yada yada. Unfortunately, apparently every single great science fiction idea has already been thought up, filmed, and regurgitated. So now, all filmmakers can do is repeat ad nauseum. Enter “Oblivion”.
“Oblivion” follows Cruise’s Jack Harper. Harper is a glorified cable repairman who gets to live in a mile high mansion with an outdoor (flying) pool and a hot girlfriend/dispatcher. Earth of today is gone, ruined during an alien invasion that forced the rest of humanity to leave the planet. He spends his days fixing broken drones and reminiscing about a pre-invasion Earth he’s far too young to have experienced. The pair get their orders from a giddy woman in a pyramid floating in space who control the drones remotely in order to continue exterminating aliens and protect their ocean-sucking fusion reactors. Okay, this sounds fishy already.
… than facing fearful odds…
The movie’s first pitfall is its complete lack of originality. Not a single moment of the film exudes a shred of creativity, and for a sci-fi film that is kind of inexcusable. We get bits of “I Am Legend”, “Moon”, “Total Recall”, and “2001”, but not the best bits of any of them. It’s cliche after cliche. We’ve got the handsome everyman suffering traumatic flashbacks to a beautiful lover. We get the skeezy ragtag team of miscreants hiding out in the desert, fighting the powers that be. Morgan Freeman leads them, and of course this is a twist given away in every trailer for the film.
The visuals are bland and boring. “Oblivion” is saturated with CGI and not even the impressive kind. Some of these effects might have been noteworthy five years ago, but they’re only passable now. There’s a few gorgeous scenes and a pile of mediocre ones. The pacing is off, and the first third of the film is slower than allowable by law. The last third drags more than that, and devolves into a glitzy light show of robotic guns and flying car chases. Granted, they look decent and are kind of entertaining, but it’s nowhere near the film’s saving grace.
… for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods.
The acting is decent throughout, but the writing is horrendous at times and even Morgan Freeman can’t make shit sound THAT good. Tom Cruise plays the same Tom Cruise he’s played for the last decade, and he doesn’t even do any high-intensity sprinting (my god, that man runs so upright). I was so disappointed. There’s a secondary twist (not available in trailers) that is completely underwhelming due to the lack of intrigue following the first twist. And still, it’s telegraphed about two minutes into the film as soon as Cruise’s job title is uttered.
All derivation and cliches aside, the film isn’t horrible. It’s perfectly enjoyable so long as you’re not expecting to be surprised or challenged on any sort of intellectual level. There’s some good action, a couple intriguing characters, and a relatively imposing (yet understated) villain. Not to mention a slam dunk of a one-liner toward the end that didn’t fall nearly as flat as it should have. “Oblivion” isn’t the worst movie you could spend your eleven bucks on. Tom Cruise delivers the Tom Cruise special in his special Tom Cruise packaging. You know what you’re getting. Just enjoy.