Oblivion is a rare creature. It is a member of the summer blockbuster movie category and it is not a sequel. Here is a title without the number 2, II, or The Return latched on after it. This sets it apart from the majority of summer big budget films nowadays. However, is this original screenplay completely new? If you have seen Wall-E, it may feel strangely familiar.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) works a monotonous job zooming around in his bubble ship repairing heavily armed drones and fighting off the Scavs, aliens from another world who invaded Earth but lost the war; a war which unfortunately destroyed most of the planet from habitation. He makes time to scour Earth for its cultural artifacts though. While Wall-E collected knickknacks and watched Hello, Dolly!, Jack listens to Led Zeppelin and reads about everything from ancient Rome to old Superbowls.
Unlike Disney’s Earth-cleaning robot, Jack is not alone. Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his partner, acts as both his girlfriend and command and control back at their Jetsons-like house built on extremely tall stilts. She is in contact with a mother-ship orbiting Earth and is not so quietly counting down the days when she and Jack can finally leave desolate and radiation-ridden Earth and join the rest of humanity on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and new home for all those who survived the war.
Jack is a curious guy though. He likes Earth; there is just something so familiar about it all. The best part of his day is not at home with Victoria, but when he secretly breaks away from his daily tasks to collect more memorabilia and hang out in a little Garden of Eden he found amongst the nothingness. Jack is also not alone during his fieldwork either. Something is attacking the drones, which is why Jack must repair them in the first place. These are the Scavs, the alien remnants.
No more plot descriptions from me now. You will enjoy Oblivion less if you learn any more information; a big chunk of the fun comes with unraveling the mystery right along with Jack. There are areas and backstories that I wish were explained in much greater detail, but we are glued to Jack’s shoulder. If he is not there to witness it or talk about it with someone, we will not learn it either. He is in every single scene.
Oblivion’s greatest strength is the scenery. I watched the movie on an IMAX screen and the extra bucks are worth it. It is crystal-clear gorgeous. Flying around in the bubble ship, trying to guess which skyscrapers are remnants of what destroyed city, and even watching Jack and Victoria swim around in their Olympic-sized, glass encased swimming pool are visual treats. M83's score also stands out. Standard scenes are elevated to loftier cinematic tiers because of the accompanying music.
Writer/director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) created an original story and extremely eye-appealing aesthetics but generously helped himself to ideas from Wall-E, Planet of the Apes, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is even a ship named The Odyssey; however, that film reference is geared more towards the will and autonomy of artificial intelligence. Oblivion is so visually appealing we may begin to forgive Kosinski for his TRON: Legacy debacle, but I wish the story was not sacrificed so much at the expense of soaring through the clouds.
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Written by: Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell