“Oblivion” Review: A Movie That Will Fade Into…


By Wesley Emblidge

Oblivion Image

In 2010, director Joseph Kosinski came out of practically nowhere to helm Disney’s franchise-relauncher “TRON: Legacy,” a film that no one seems to have liked all that much and that didn’t light up the box office the way Disney might have hoped. I really only enjoyed parts of the film, mainly Jeff Bridges channeling “The Dude” and Kosinski’s slick, stylish sensibility. So the idea of him moving on to an original science fiction movie (something studios will really only take a risk on if they really believe in the material) without his “Tron” writers really appealed to me. Adding in Tom Cruise certainly doesn’t hurt, so all in all “Oblivion” could have been the real deal. And really, it’s not that “Oblivion” is bad, it’s just a very derivative and uninvolving piece of science fiction that goes on far longer than it should.

Half a century in the future, earth has been attacked and mostly destroyed in a war against alien life. Cruise, as Jack, a mechanic still on the planet fixing drones puts it, “we won the war, but the destroyed the planet.” Those still alive are living in a large space station above earth, waiting for these big power plants on earth to finishing generating enough energy for them all to move to a new planet. Jack’s drones protect the plants from remaining alien life, and Jack lives with his team member and girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough, great in the upcoming “Shadow Dancer” but not with much to do here) in a small station in the remaining safe zone of the planet. Two weeks before their mission is over however, a crash landing of a human ship starts to lead Jack to think everything might not be as it seems.

There are certainly some cool ideas in here, primarily in the setup, and Kosinski has teamed with his “TRON” cinematographer Claudio Miranda (who recently won the Oscar for his work on “Life of Pi”) to create some really stunning visuals. However, the longer the film goes on, the influences become more and more apparent, the “twists” become more cliche and predictable, and the movie just gets boring. The big twist of the film was something that popped into my head within the first few minutes, and something I spent most of the runtime praying wouldn’t come true. When the twist comes, the film is already dragging, and everything after that is just kind of a bore. The movie’s runtime is barely over two hours, but coming out of the theater I would have guessed at least two and a half. I haven’t even mentioned Morgan Freeman’s character and his band of Mad Max-esque survivors yet, but that’s because they’re barely in the movie. They’re some of the more interesting people, but most of the movie is just Cruise flying around in his little (admittedly, very cool looking) bubble ship.

I almost feel like half of why I like this movie is because it does so many basic things right that other blockbusters don’t, yet still it isn’t all that good. For starters, it’s original, not based on a toy or board game, but at the same time it feels so derivative of hundreds of other movies. Trope after trope show up, almost as a game, seeing how many movie twists and ideas they can cram in before the movie ends, to the point where it just feels kind of silly. I’m happy it avoided 3D, that there aren’t gaping plot holes, that a lot of the characters actually have arcs, you know, those things a movie is supposed to do.

Essentially, the movie gets a pass just for being competent. Kosinski is a talented guy, he knows how to build tension, shoot action, deal with huge FX sequences, he just needs to find a script that isn’t so damn boring. “Oblivion” could sure be a whole lot worse, but I’m still not sure that makes it all that good.

3/5 Stars