‘Oblivion’ (2013) fails to live up to its grandiose name.

12 Apr

Oblivion-Movie-PosterOblivion is undoubtedly the most astoundingly average science fiction film I’ve seen in a while; it is not merely the vanilla ice cream of cosmic escapades, but a medium-grade, slightly yellow vanilla that you’d get in those dodgy-looking cheap food shops in the city. Like the dessert itself, while being fit for consumption, Oblivion will give you what you need without doing anything special. Presumably, in going to a Tom Cruise film set in space, you’re looking for three things: Tom Cruise, space and vintage progressive rock records… Right?

The notoriously loopy star is among his more literal namesakes; he lives with Andrea Riseborough in an implausibly idyllic floating condo, thousands of miles from Earth. Having engaged in a devastating war with alien invaders (which the film constantly reminds us that humanity won, lest we forget), Earth became inhospitable due to the silly amount of nukes needed to shoo the nasties away. The destruction of the moon didn’t help matters either, so what was left of the population relocated, downsized if you will, to the cosmos! Cruise plays Jack, a guy whose job is to find and fix fallen droids which crash land on Earth. But soon he finds more than he bargained for, as memories of another life are slowly flowing back.

Science fiction movies are kind of inherently silly, but they often at least demonstrate a certain level of intelligence in storytelling and character development. Oblivion  is an uncommon example of a dumb science fiction film which disregards any deftness in narrative technique or logic in general for the sake of spectacle, and robots. Earth is ruined, allegedly radioactive, but every time Cruise lands on the planet I noticed a distinct lack of debris. Aside from the ruined Golden Gate Bridge, a levelled apartment complex and the odd smouldering droid, Earth is now 99% sand. While a green glow would be silly, a leaf or two should be taken out of Fallout‘s book.

Perhaps the lion’s share of the budget went towards the special effects, which are simply wonderful. The super-shiny space station sparkles,and the droids were one of my favourite things about the movie; the balance of an adorable machine with their senseless tendencies for murder made them memorable. That said, Tom Cruise spends the majority of the film in a suspiciously retro space suit (the movie is set in 2077), and the gun he wields is clearly hollow, and made of plastic. As per usual, he gives a sterling performance, and I can find no fault with him other than having his character named Jack Harper, and not Jack Reacher like last time. Riseborough returns from Welcome to the Punch, and displays a better performance here, though she is still ‘the woman’ whose main job is to nag and rely upon the man for emotional stability.

Say what you will about his personal life, but Tom Cruise is a movie star.

Say what you will about his personal life, but Tom Cruise is a movie star.

A side-note must be given to the music – through flicking through his record collection we discover that Cruise’s character is a fan of Blue Oyster Cult, Asia and Pink Floyd! Not only that, but we are treated to several Led Zeppelin songs, which had my inner classic/progressive rock snob was figuratively jumping with joy.

Joseph Kosinski directs, and continues his trend of crafting aesthetically impressive yet ultimately soulless blockbusters – this is the guy who made Tron Legacy, after all. Remember that scene from A New Hope when Luke Skywalker is hurtling through the Death Star, all the while being chased by Vader and his legion of TIE fighters? Well, Oblivion sure does, because the exact same bloody thing happens about halfway through. However, this is just the tip of the giant iceberg of plagiarism that floats throughout this movie; it starts out like a wonderful mashup of Omega Man and Moon, before slowly descenting into a convoluted sub-Independence Day cheese-fest.

However, I was never bored, nor did I get a sense of time passing like I do with most bad films. While I didn’t have a bad time, Oblivion lacks any ‘wow’ factor, and suffers as a result. It’s a competently acted, aesthetically pleasing non-story about dystopian adventures through Earth, which while never boring makes no sense, and is about as essential as a hernia.

Simon says: it’s far from out of this world.

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