Review: Oblivion


Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Tom Cruise stars as Jack in the movie Oblivion, director Joseph Kosinski's (Tron: Legacy) cinematic reinterpretation of his own graphic novel. The year is 2077. Jack keeps drones in maintenance; these drones protect ginormous "hydrorigs," which suck in seawater to create fusion power for the removed citizens of Earth. Attacking the hydrorigs and drones are alien-like "scavs," who, Jack tells us, are behind the destruction of the Earth. "We won the war, but lost the planet," he states during some fairly trite narration.

In this post-apocalyptic film, Tom Cruise is onscreen fourth-fifths of the time. If you don't care for Cruise, odds are you won't care for Oblivion.  Still, Cruise isn't really the complete problem with the movie. Let me count the ways I was disappointed.

  1. The hollow depiction of women in Oblivion. Jack works and sleeps with teammate Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, Happy Go Lucky, Made in Dagenham), who has large pupils (especially obvious on an IMAX screen) and no personality. She looks forward to going back to their home on Titan and has sex with Jack in a pool. Jack goes out to check on his drones in his functional clothing, while Vicka, as communications manager, hangs around their pad in tight sheath dresses and stiletto heels.

    Upon our introduction to Jack's dream girl, Julia (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace, To the Wonder), I halfway expected we might learn something about her work as an astronaut. Nope! What we learn about Julia is only how she figures in relation to Jack. Besides these two ladies, the females include Melissa Leo appearing through a video-com and a warrior woman who doesn't get to speak. Without spoiling who is who, I'll just note that these characters are all tired types we've seen before: the tempting whore, the sacrificing wife, the scheming bitch.
  2. Oblivion is too dependent on cliches and tropes (see the above paragraph for an example).  The few plot elements that aren't predictable occur after one has stopped caring.
  3. The story is drawn out and confusing, with the exposition arriving too late. By the time we learn that everything may not be just as Jack perceives it, the film is halfway over and I'd lost interest.
  4. Morgan Freeman doesn't appear until the last half of Oblivion, and Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones (aka Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) only has about four lines! Sorry, ladies.

I might compare Oblivion to Spielberg's A.I. in that both films make revolutionary use of elegant visual effects, yet lack real depth. In this film, the scenes of an overgrown New York City are stunning, but there aren't enough of them to justify paying extra for the IMAX.  The futuristic score by M83 is another draw for Oblivion, and pairs well the action onscreen.

The man sitting next to me in the small, eau-de-gym-sock theatre where the preview was held threw up his hands in a questioning motion at one point of the movie. I basically agree. At many moments during Oblivion, I thought to myself: I wish I were home watching Knight and Day instead. I mean, if I'm going to watch a ridiculous Tom Cruise movie, at least that one makes me laugh.