The best genre films take the genre forward, not backward. Oblivion lies in the second category. Sci-fi films are currently in a prolific phase in the mainstream flock. Oblivion has a charismatic star and a good band of technicians to support the large enterprise, what it lacks are a good script and a director. The result is a science-fiction film so dull and unimaginative, you almost feel bad looking at the impressive imagery.
My main problem with this post-apocalyptic tale is how derivative it is. It borrows too much from previous films. A bit too much. It doesn’t even let the recent ones go. I could see everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Wars (1977), Total Recall (1990) to I Am Legend (2007) here. Cruise’s own Top Gun (1986) is also given a nod. I’m all for movie referencing, even lovingly borrowing the good stuff but only if it has an original mind observing it. Otherwise you get a product, which makes neither the old ones nor itself look good.
The screenplay is a hollow pit of non-ideas. Almost nothing rings true. A film like this can easily be saved if it has a human story at its core. The relationships between the three main characters played by Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough are ultimately clunky and devoid of emotion. A plot reveal about some of these characters could make a case for it being intentionally so but then I could show you another sci-fi movie called Wall-E (2008) where the characters don’t have mouths to speak or emotions to convey and yet make us fall in love with them. This film is like a serious/ bad version of the Pixar gem.
Joseph Kosinski has a checklist of what a sci-film must contain and expects us to be satisfied by merely touching upon each of them. Including an ending, which makes the genre look embarrassingly awkward. The director who could have made this film interesting is Duncan Jones. His Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011) also have traces in this film but the thrill or the imagination aren’t replicated. I also couldn’t help but think of Minority Report (2002), another Tom Cruise sci-fi tent pole which is heavy on genre conventions from Hitchcockian thrillers to film noir but expands them with virtuoso filmmaking.
The final moments of the film are clumsy. There is a twist that you can see coming miles away but when it arrives you are neither amused nor stirred. To top all this, the scenes now start looking glaringly mechanical as well. What made sense before starts looking problematic. The foundation of the idea seems inert.
Apart from Claudio Miranda’s effective cinematography, I loved the score by M83 which is reminiscent of the band's 80s synths and percussions. I wish Anthony Gonzalez had thrown his epic voice in there somewhere. The original song sung by Susanne Sundfør over the end credits is addictive. Oblivion is amazing to look at but leaves you bored and unimpressed. Where is a Morgan Freeman voice-over when you need one?view less