Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough
You may like this if you liked: The Island (Michael Bay, 2005), Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002), Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)
So what is Tom Cruise up to this summer? Well, this summer he has left behind being a tough ex cop in the present day and is now Jack Harper (no, not Reacher), a human living in a future earth that has been left devastated, contaminated and uninhabitable after a huge global war. Jack and his partner Victoria (Riseborough) are a team that maintain the drones that protect the machines that excavate the last of earth’s final resources to be transported to one of Saturn’s moons in which earth’s remaining population now inhabit. Jack has to protect the drones from the ‘Scavengers’, the alien race who started the war and still walk the earth. Haunted by dreams and visions, and having a collection of literature and music that he has managed to salvage, Jack starts to question his surroundings and investigate as to who the ‘scavs’ as they are referred to, actually are. One day Jack goes to investigate an explosion at one of the mining sites. He finds out that a ship has crashed there, on the ship are humans in cases maintaining them in some kind of forced permanent sleep state. The drones destroy all of them, but Jack manages to save one, a woman that is identical to the one in his dreams and visions. He manages to take her back to the metallic house on a giant pole that he and Victoria live in an attempt to find answers to his many questions. I am afraid I cannot tell you anymore as that would class as spoilers.
When Tom Cruise gets curious in a summer blockbuster we all know what is going to happen. Especially in this case if we have seen other sci-fi films set with a similar premise. Trust me.
So, in a summer yet again dominated by sequels it is refreshing to have an original sci-fi film to look forward to. Though I am afraid Elysium is not out until September. An immediate problem with Oblivion is that despite all the marketing, it is just a copy and paste of various other sci-fi films. To even mention them would be almost plot spoilers, but as I was watching this I was pretty much ticking them off. Trust me, you will too. All the themes, ideas and various ‘plot twists’ contained within the narrative have all been done before, leading to a rather predictable and flat experience. All the ideas presented here have been done many times, and this is fine if a film brings something a little new to the table. However it feels Oblivion does not even try.
Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski’s eye for visual flair is there for all to see. There are some beautiful and striking landscapes created. M88 take over from Daft Punk to also produce a rousing techno score that brings the images to life. However, also like Tron: Legacy striking visuals and atmospheric music are pretty much all there is (apart from a clean shaven Tom Cruise instead of a hippy Jeff Bridges), with shoddy plotting and even shoddier dialogue, the actual story can only feel a little laboured, over familiar and all a bit of an anti climax. It seems Kosinski has passion for bringing what is his own idea to life on the screen, but appears to be too afraid to push any boundaries.
Oblivion is by no means a failure, far from it. I found it to be a perfectly enjoyable and well made sci-fi film, but unfortunately no more. The story does plod along quite nicely, but unfortunately that is part of the problem. There is nothing memorable or surprising here, almost a sense that Kosisnki does not want to take too many risks with the story so as not too risk losing the potential box office takings from it being a Tom Cruise movie. This is pretty much the definition of a ‘3 star’ film. Unfortunately Oblivion feels like a B movie sci-fi movie that happens to star a Hollywood megastar and cost a lot of money. I was not sure if the title is Oblivion or Tom Cruise Oblivion as these days his name is in letters as big as the film title. Tom Cruise is undoubtedly one of the greatest film stars of all time, not necessarily actor, but film star. Once again he does not disappoint here, he is as committed and as energetic as ever, definitely being one of the films plus points and one of the reasons it is so watchable. As per usual, he is pretty much in every scene. However, this is a constant reminder of a fact that proves just how average a story we have here; if Tom Cruise was not the star no one would bother seeing it as the story itself, or at least how it is structured, is simply not particularly strong, unique or memorable. Maybe having Tom Cruise is part of the problem, he is Tom Cruise, and it sometimes feels like Tom Cruise protagonists have their own narratives. This could perhaps immediately add a sense of sour over familiarity and predictability. I am personally a big fan of Tom Cruise, but maybe he should not be the star of a sci-fi film that prides itself on having unravelling secrets that try to surprise the audience as the narrative develops. The fact it is Tom Cruise could perhaps ruin this, as for me it simply adds such a feeling of over predictability and safeness to what is going to happen in some ways. There is almost this safety net covering the film’s narrative, and particularly Tom Cruise’s protagonist which stops it from ever being surprising, and therefore memorable. However, as I said before; no Tom Cruise, no huge budget. It may be a vicious circle and have some kind of internal message about the state of modern movies, but that is a discussion for another time. However, Duncan Jones proved that ambitious and memorable sci-fi can be produced on a small budget with Moon, so maybe Joseph Kosinski should have a chat with him sometime as he is obviously a director with an eye for visuals and good ideas.
Oblivion has all the basics right to be a classic blockbuster: striking visuals and music, and a committed turn from a Hollywood megastar in its leading role. However that is unfortunately it, a surprisingly weak story and predictability that lacks any oomph and only appears to copy ideas from various other sci-fi films. It is perfectly enjoyable and good fun, but due to the laboured structure and predictability, no more.