Since the international release of Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion earlier this week, I’ve heard a lot of negativity about the film. This weekend I checked it out for myself and was pleasantly surprised by this 70s sci-fi homage.
The movie is set in the year 2077, after a war with alien invaders called Scavengers has left the Earth uninhabitable. What’s left of the human race now lives on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Mechanic Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the few people left on Earth, responsible for maintaining the heavily armed drones that protect the large harvesters that are slurping up Earth’s remaining water supply. He also patrols the region for remaining “Scavs”, ragged Predator looking creatures that still try to disrupt the operations whenever they can. He lives in a futuristic and luxurious pad elevated high above the surface, together with his communications officer/companion Victoria (Andrea Riseborough).
All seems well (besides Earth being ruined by war with aliens that is), and Jack and Victoria are 2 weeks from finishing their mission and joining the rest of mankind on Titan. But it’s clear that something feels off. Their memories have been wiped prior to the mission for security reasons, there are strict regulations in place on where they can and can’t go, and their only contact with the rest of mankind is a video link with their commander Sally (Melissa Leo), who eerily keeps asking with every communication if they’re “still an excellent team.”
The first half of the movie is quite slow, with lots of Tom Cruise walking, flying and riding around devastated Earth (specifically what used to be NYC), repairing drones and patrolling for Scavs. A bit dull maybe, but I didn’t mind; the landscape was beautifully done and the ruins of the old world sticking out of the desert also serve a purpose for the buildup of the story; Jack has unexplained flashbacks of New York before the war and is, unlike Victoria, very nostalgic about the old books and artifacts he finds on the surface. The contrast between the clinical futuristic look of the new technology and the devastation below is very cool. The visuals really make this film worth seeing in the theater.
Then halfway through the movie Morgan Freeman shows up and explains that things aren’t really what they seem (of course). After that the story turns into a sort of blend between 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon and The Matrix, with a little bit of GLaDOS from Portal thrown in. I can’t tell you exactly what I mean by that without giving too much of the plot away, but it is pretty damn cool and not at all where I expected the story to go. At one point I thought I had it figured out but then some new stuff happened that really had me asking what the hell was going on. I also really liked how, towards the conclusion, they used flashbacks interwoven with the final scenes to tie all the ends together.
One thing I didn’t like so much though, was that after the dramatic ending that wraps the story up, they sort of pull a Return of the King and slap on another scene with a forced, happier ending than the real ending you just watched. But that’s just a minor peeve.
I can imagine one could argue that Oblivion doesn’t really bring anything new to the table and just uses concepts we’ve seen in earlier sci-fi, but it worked for me. I was surprised enough by the plot, the visuals were really nice and it had Morgan Freeman reciting poetry. 3 Nerdskulls. Go check out the movie and let us know what you think in the comments!
Here’s the latest trailer: