Oblivion Movie Review
The definition of oblivion is "the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening," which, when taking the new Tom Cruise movie Oblivion into consideration, is ironic because the filmmakers, to a fault, are acutely aware of what their movie is. Oblivion is full of good ideas, but unfortunately those good ideas are, scene by scene, pulled from other, better movies. Despite this, the movie serves as good, popcorn fun.
Oblivion puts Tom Cruise in a not-so-distant future where he is one of the few remaining humans left on a desolate, war-and-nature-ravaged Earth. He is essentially a living and breathing version of Wall-E, only not so adorable, his job to perform droid maintenance and protect giant machines that suck up the planet's sea water to convert into fusion energy.
Things are all fine and dandy until he stumbles across something that makes him question everything... and realize just how oblivious he has been all these years. If you've seen the trailers, you have already seen way too much.
Oblivion falls squarely into the sci-fi category where the filmmakers thought what they were making was more intelligent than the final product actually is. The movie looks incredible, with great, shiny special effects. The movie is relatively exciting, as Tom Cruise zips through canyons, battles elusive aliens and has sex with a woman in a glass-bottomed swimming pool elevated high in the sky. And the movie is fun, too.
It just isn't that smart. It's almost there... almost... but just not. When Tom Cruise is told not to go into the radiation zone (a place he has never been because it's a radiation zone), you know that someone is just feeding him lies. When he stumbles across the truth about the remaining aliens, you saw that coming because you've seen the trailers. And when the big twist comes, well... not bad, but not shocking because it has all been done before. The ending is a blatant rip-off of one or two other films I won't name here for the sake of spoilers.
Oblivion is entertaining, and that entertainment factor helps absorb many of the flaws. But when all is said and done, the movie is frustrating because it could have so easily gone into new territory, or at least been more complex than it ends up being. Director and co-writer Joseph Kosinski introduces several intriguing elements - Tom Cruise's fractured past, an intriguing dynamic between his curious character and his by-the-rules partner/lover (played by Andrea Riseborough) and the emergence of another pretty woman (Olga Kurylenko), the lucky bastard - but as with TRON: Legacy, he struggles to go beneath the surface and tap into something truly compelling.
Oblivion is worth seeing as long as you approach it as true popcorn fare. Expect anything more and it will disappoint, which is a shame because even far into the running time it still held so much potential. I am pretty sure the filmmakers were well aware they were recycling old material, but maybe they were just oblivious. I'm not sure which is worse.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.