Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo
First order of business, any gaming nerds who have turned up here expecting a review of an updated HD version of the Elder Scrolls game, or indeed a movie adaptation of the material, unfortunately this does not concern you. Please return to your parent’s basements.
This review concerns the Joseph-Kosinski-directed and Tom-Cruise-headlining sci-fi movie which has absolutely nothing to do with fantasy, but is based on the original story/graphic novel written by Kosinski.
Set some time in the future, the world has been ruined following an invasion by alien forces, who first destroyed our moon to cause natural disasters, and followed up with an invasion to try to pick clean the survivors. Humanity was succesful in winning the war, however the planet was left in a devastating state, which meant that it was necessary for almost all of the population to migrate to Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). A few were left on Earth as the “Mop Up crew” to ensure that any remaining aliens were killed, and to protect our attempts to extract the natural resources for the benefit of the rest of the population.
Jack Harper (Cruise) is one such tech left on Earth, with his partner Victoria (Riseborough), who are described as an ‘effective team’ by Sally (Leo), their supervisor living on an orbiting space station. They have two weeks left on his assignment before they are due to be transported to Titan. As we join the story, Harper is starting to have flashbacks of his life before the war (all those stationed on Earth have had their memories wiped to protect humanity) and is questioning whether he wants to leave the planet.
Not long after, he comes across a crashed ship containing a number of survivors, one of whom is a woman who has appeared in his dreams. After rescuing Julia (Kurylenko), and being captured by insurgent Malcolm Beech (Freeman), it becomes clear that not everything with the world is as it appears.
It’s hard to actually categorize Oblivion. It’s sci-fi, that’s obvious, but whilst it does have some action sequences it’s not an all out battle. Similarly, whilst the first 60 to 90 minutes are fairly slow-paced, it’s hard to really call it a cerebral film, in the mould of Solaris.
If I had to pigeon hole it, then I suspect ‘sci-fi mystery’ would be as good a term as any. We see Tom Cruise try to uncover the truth about Earth and his assignment, however it lacks any real gravitas or moral dilemma to leave you questioning our own society.
Kosinski has gone on record as saying Oblivion is intended as an homage to 1970s sci-fi films, however for me there was something else that the film emulates, intentionally or not: the Mass Effect games. You see, scattered throughout the film are a few things that are far too similar to things found in the universe created by Bioware.
The first thing I noticed was the score. It absolutely reeks (if sound can smell?) of the haunting tunes that play in the background whilst playing Mass Effect, especially during the time spent the ship.
Follow that up with Cruises uniform, neatly sporting a numerical badge (49) on his right breast/shoulder plate, not massively dissimilar to the N7 on Shepard’s right breast/shoulder plate, whilst the rifle Cruise uses seems all too familiar as well.
The last part of the puzzle is regarding the ultimate villain of Oblivion who shares far too many characteristics with someone from the Mass Effect stories. To ensure there are no spoilers, I will not say who, but the similarity is there.
Whilst the visuals of the film are undeniably stunning, they don’t offer much new and original in the creativity department, instead it seems they mostly visited a futuristic IKEA and picked a generic sci-fi design. What with the above Mass Effect issues it does make me question whether the rest of the designs have been stolen, sorry, heavily influenced by other properties.
Following Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and his turn in Rock of Ages, I had hoped that Cruise was back on the map, however Oblivion does little to show his resurgence as one of cinema’s leading men. His attempt to portray both a highly trained tech/military soldier, with an ‘everyman’ idealistic approach gets a little lost, and the first hour is mostly content with him moving from one desolate environment to the other, without furthering the story particularly.
In fact, it isn’t until he encounters Kurylenko and Freeman that the story actually starts to unfold, however as we are already halfway into the movie, and have witness an hour plus of very little, the second half is responsible for telling the whole story and naturally things get a little rushed.
Kurylenko plays the mysterious stranger well, and Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman but in steampunk attire. Arguably the best performance goes to Riseborough, whose character has one of the best journeys in the film, her devotion to the mission and her man are both clear to see, but she is also able to conjure up more emotional scenes perfectly. Whilst no stranger to the big screen, I fully expect Riseborough’s star to continuing rising after this and join the already long list of well respected British actresses.
Overall Oblivion is a somewhat enjoyable film, with a few good scenes of action, however whilst it attempts to be more than a run of the mill action film, it ultimately fails due to the pacing in the first half and a weak story. Never mind though, After Earth is out soon, and M Night Shyamalan is a dependable director…..
Rating – 3 out of 5
Did you know? Oblivion is the first film to feature the Dolby Atmos surround sound technology from beginning to end.