So let’s get the premise out of the way; Tom Cruise stars as Jack, one of only two people left on Earth in a post apocalyptic world which was invaded by aliens. In response to the invasion we used Nuclear weapons and they destroyed our Moon, leaving most of the earth uninhabitable. The few survivors are now living aboard a floating space station above the earth, which draws its energy from fusion devices placed along Earth’s coastlines; turning sea water into energy. Unfortunately there are still a colony of aliens (‘Scavs’) who keep trying to destroy the fusion machines and so Cruise and his partner are tasked with building and maintaining defence drones to keep the Scavs at bay.
Phew that was a bit of a mouthful. Of course being a Sci Fi film there is a twist, some deception and lots of big reveal moments where characters find something out that changes their entire outlook. But are any of them worth it?
It’s difficult to talk about Oblivion without mentioning stealing. This is because almost every idea and plot device is taken from other sci fi classics. Director Joseph Kosinski cites these moments as homage, but in this case that just seems like a posh word to disguise lazy pilfering. The design of the world itself and the fact Cruise is a man desperate to find something that still grows in the wasteland smacks of Wall-E, the design of the giant alien ship’s interior is lifted from Independence Day, one of the main character twists *possible spoiler alert* is ripped from Moon *end spoiler* and the design and story device surrounding the ‘Scavs’ is reminiscent of Mad Max 2.
It doesn’t just stop at the visuals and story. The music too is a cheap rip off. The score (by M83) does have some nice minimal themes, but as soon as any moments of bombast happen you will find yourself wondering why a Primark version of Hans Zimmer was allowed anywhere near a film with a budget the size of this one. The Dark Knight strings are there, the Inception BWAAAAHHHMMMS are there and the use of a rock drum-kit is there. It’s all very familiar, but at the same time jarring in it’s inadequate replication of somebody else’s sound.
Where the film really shines is in its moments of actual originality: The design of the technology and the quality of the CGI are striking and gorgeous. The film is generally very minimal and cool in look, which means scenes that take place underground in very busy and crowded spaces create a brilliant juxtaposition, whilst also ramping up the tension.
“It’s just a machine. I’m the weapon”
The performances are very good. Cruise in particular stands out, especially given that he spends much of the film on screen by himself, giving us much of his character through silent reactions and subtle emotions. Melissa Leo is also great as Sally, the mission controller based off Earth. She plays the character just right so that we are never sure if she has the humans’ best interests at heart; sort of like HAL with a face.
Overall I found this film to be a lesser cousin to the sci fi masterpieces it was ‘paying homage’ to. It is definitely overlong and holds on to its plot twists for so long that when they happen it feels more than a little inconsequential. But for the visuals alone it is worth a look. Just don’t go buying it expecting to want to watch it over and over again; once is enough with this one.