Warning: this review contains some minor spoilers.
Science fiction should be the last genre of any medium to be exhausted of ideas: by design it opens itself to have stories unique as fantasies and as exciting as action-adventure films.The genre unfortunately has been lacking and “Oblivion,” directed by Joseph Kosinski, attempts to offer a unique sci-fi story but ends off coming off as a derivative “Hollywoodized” action movie under a thinly veiled thought-provoking plot. Everything this film does attempts to present itself in a grand manner, but in the end just comes off as underwhelming.
The hero of the story is Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, and while I don’t have any problems with Cruise or his personal life, his role in this film follows his trend of recent years to remind everyone that he is still a relevant action hero, evidenced by every movie he’s starred in for the few past years. Jack Harper is part of a clean-up crew whose goal is to collect the world’s resources for a refuge on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. They are going to Titan because Earth was attacked by extraterrestrials called “scavs” who blew up part of the moon, causing traumatic changes in weather. The resulting war saved humanity, but in the process left Earth in a state of disrepair, completely ravaged by nuclear warfare with nothing but scavs still roaming in the shadows.
Jack’s partner, Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, is his wife who assists him on his mission as they make an an “effective team.” The only contact they have with the refuge is a satellite connection with a woman named Sally who is supposed to be the overseer of their mission. We find out right away that Jack and Victoria have had their memories wiped of anything older than five years which should already raise some red flags. Jack is plagued by dreams from before the war where he sees a woman and takes her to the top of the Empire State Building.
Things go awry when Jack finds a crashed vessel with a crew suspended in hypersleep on board. The drones, which are supposed to assist Jack in his mission, all of a sudden begin killing everyone on board the crashed vessel. Jack is able to save one of the hypersleep pods and it contains the girl from his dreams. The girl is Julia, played by Olga Kurylenko, and she almost instantly recognizes Jack after she awakens from hypersleep, which she had been in for 60 years.
The story then proceeds to throw every imaginable twist and turn at the viewer. It does attempt to provoke thought in the viewer and does pose some introspective questions as Jack starts to question everything about the mission and we learn more about his history. The post-apocalyptic setting may be overdone but the aesthetic design is very interesting and nice to look at. The interesting set pieces and juxtaposition of Jack’s sterile home compared to the war-torn earth was enough to keep my eyes busy but wasn’t enough to keep my head together throughout the entire thing.
There is way too much being thrown at the viewer, and much too often the film finds any way possible to simply devolve every scene into a typical Hollywood shootout even when it doesn’t feel necessary. “Oblivion” also seems to borrow a lot of aspects from other sci-fi films like “Independence Day,” the less well-known “Moon,” and even “Wall-E.” It had a lot of original ideas such as the scavs targeting the moon in order to turn the Earth against the humans, but overall it felt a little uninspired.
“Oblivion” tries to appeal to hard-core science fiction fans and typical popcorn movie audiences at the same time and ends up being a movie with very messy pacing and and a lot of needless action. I would recommend the film to science fiction fans who just want a fun movie to watch before the big summer blockbusters start coming out, but for anyone else, you should just save your money.