Inevitably, when we get invaded in the future, we’re going to attempt to use nuclear weapons against them; whoever ‘they’ may be. We’ve been taught this by countless movies: Terminator, the Matrix, Independence Day, you name it. You’d think by then there would be someone who would say, “Hey, let’s think of a different option – because you guys all remember how it turned out in those movies, right?”
Oblivion is directed by Joseph Kosinski, and is based on the graphic novel that is conveniently by Joseph Kosinski. We can therefore assume the translation is completely accurate. Previous to this, he was responsible for re-launching Tron and digitally youth-ing Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy.
In both Tron Legacy and Oblivion, Kosinski makes great use of large sweeping landscapes. In Tron they were all digital, but beautiful. In Oblivion, they were all shot in Iceland, then digital remains of current landmarks were layered on top. I would also say both movies also share a small cast for the size of the picture, and run overly long.
Oblivion introduces us to Jack Harper, a drone repairman on Earth – 60 years after we defeated an invading alien race known as the Scavengers. To defeat them, we launched the nukes (no one had seen any movies warning us not to) and destroyed the planet, while they destroyed our moon. Destroying the moon had even more catastrophic results: tidal waves, earthquakes, etc. The majority of the human race escaped to our new colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan. We left the ‘Tet’ in orbit as a way station and mission control for the drone repairmen on earth. The drones protect our large hydro-energy generators that provide energy for the colony on Titan (not sure how that works). The drones are very important, so Jack works a long day of repairing them. He takes his breaks by building a little cabin in the woods. He returns to his partner (work and personal), Victoria, in the evenings, where they share a nice meal, she throws away plants he brings her and they have sex in their glass bottom swimming pool attached to their apartment suspended miles above the destroyed earth. Not a bad existence.
But Jack is starting to have disturbing dreams about earth before the war, and a woman, who knows him. He’s not sure what these mean when one day he disrupts a signal the ‘scavs’ have set up at the remains of the Empire State Building and protects a crashed spaceship containing several human survivors. Drones arrive and shoot all the survivors except one – who Jack manages to save and who also just happens to be the woman Jack was dreaming about. Jack gets captured by the scavs – SPOILER ALERT – who are led by Morgan Freeman, and who have been stealing the power cells from the drones. They’re using them to make bombs, and they have a large one they want Jack to take to a special place.
The cast in this is remarkably small for how big the movie looks:
· Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper or Reacher or Eathan Hunt or whatever. They’re all pretty much the same at this point. He does a good job, like he always does, but he is just playing Tom Cruise. I enjoyed the way he conveyed his pull to the earth, while Victoria kept insisting it was time to leave. He also did some intense running, which seems to be in his contract for every movie now.
· Andrea Riseborough plays Victoria, and actually had more to do that Cruise in terms of character changes. She does a great semi-panicked look and gets to put that into use a few times. Also – the best shortening of Victoria is now Vica.
· Olga Kurylenko plays Julia – the woman from Jack’s dreams who suddenly plummets to earth. She’s fine, fairly one-dimensional, but capable. Apparently Jessica Chaistain was in talks for that role and chose Zero Dark Thirty instead. I did really enjoy Julia’s reaction to Victoria and Jack holding hands. Hilarious.
· Morgan Freeman plays Morgan Freeman. Without giving too much away, he’s powerful, patient and angry and demanding of Jack’s help. He gets a pretty cool costume, and gets to rock a half-cape like Lando Calrissian.
· Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is in this – but barely. I understand if you are a huge Game of Thrones fan, but if he is your reason for seeing this movie, you will be disappointed.
· Zoe Bell is also in this, but again barely. I don’t believe her character’s (or Nikolaj’s) name ever gets mentioned.
- Melissa Leo is in this – marking the third time in four or five months where I didn’t recognize her until the credits rolled. Flight and Olympus Has Fallen were the others. If you find the movie predictable because you can guess the twist – it’s because of Melissa Leo. I can’t tell if that means she did a good job, or a bad job.
Overall, the movie was what I expected, not better or worse. There’s nothing wrong with that; I did enjoy it, but I felt like it could have been better. For one thing, it is way too long. At just over two hours, there are far too many grand sweeping scenes of the decimated landscape. Do not get me wrong, it is very beautiful, and stunning to look at. It feels like the longest short story ever told. It also is a tad predictable, stealing bits and pieces here and there from other various classic science-fiction movies. That is the way things are going currently, it is harder and harder to find an original idea. And, like I mentioned, I saw the major ‘twist’ coming miles away. Because of that, it made the movie feel even longer. Still – it’s worth seeing on the big screen.
6 out of 10. It tried, it’s okay, but it’s not great. Gained points for Tom Cruise running. He’s a very intense movie runner. Lost points for the signal setting and disrupting subplot. Did that make sense? Gained points for the glass-bottom swimming pool; that was awesome. Lost points for the drones being almost animal-like, creepy. Gained points for the ending – which I really enjoyed. Some nice closure there.
Bonus Video 1: Trailer for After Earth – similar to the Olympus Has Fallen/White House Down competition. After Earth and Oblivion look really similar at this point. We’ll see how After Earth does.
Bonus Video 2: Tom Cruise in Legend. 1985 - one of his first, and an old Ridley Scott movie.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews.