Movie review: ‘Oblivion’ is oblivious
Tom Cruise has starred in some great science fiction movies: “Vanilla Sky,” “Minority Report,” “War of the Worlds.”
“Oblivion” is not one of them. “Oblivion” is from a special subgenre of science fiction movies: Huge-budget films that feature wild action sequences and beautiful people and supposedly thought-provoking ideas, but when you get down to the bottom of it all, don’t make a lick of sense.
A recent example of this was “Inception,” but that film was saved in the end by a combination of stylistic grace and an intelligent overview.
In “Oblivion,” the stage is set with a narrator telling of an interplanetary war, in which Scavengers from another world destroyed our moon, throwing Earth into physical chaos, then attacked Earth and destroyed it, but lost the war. Earth’s survivors have since flown off to live on one of Saturn’s moons. But in the year 2077, a maintenance crew, consisting of Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have stayed behind, making sure fast-moving, heavily armed flying machines called drones can protect the hydro rigs that send drinking water from our oceans to our Saturnian colonies. Protect them from what?
Why, the remaining Scavengers, of course.
Also, know this: Earth’s population has been subjected to mass memory wipes in order to forget to horrid events.
Here’s what’s cool about the film. The drones are similar to, but better than, the ED-209 killer robots in “RoboCop.” Jack, a fearless, hotshot cowboy of a pilot, has no regard for authority, even that of Victoria, who watches over and guides him from a sleek control tower. Their characters are, for the record, an item. But there’s a wrinkle. Jack keeps having visions, sometimes in the midst of his duties, sometimes in nighttime dreams, of a long-ago New York City, accompanied by glimpses of a mysterious beautiful woman. But he doesn’t tell Victoria about any of this.
He doesn’t tell her much of anything until he comes across a freshly crash-landed spaceship that’s been attacked by the very drones he takes care of, and from which he plucks one survivor in a sleep pod.
Wouldn’t you know it, it’s the woman of his visions, going by the name of Julia (Olga Kurylenko), and, not knowing what else to do, he brings her back to meet Victoria.
Here’s what’s not cool about the film. What is this guy thinking? Is it proper protocol to bring a beautiful woman back to a beautiful woman who is, by the way, the last woman on Earth? Or was the last until now. Then everything gets much more crowded. Say hello to the Scavengers, those creepy hooded folks who are always watching our heroes from a distance, and who take Jack captive. And look under one of those hoods to meet Beech (Morgan Freeman), the leader of the ... hold on, these aren’t Scavengers, they’re survivors. Or are they, in fact, Scavengers, or something else?
And who the heck is Julia? Well, when Jack asks her, and she tells him, her answer gets his eyes to widen, but that’s as far as his reactions go. Jack doesn’t show a lot of emotion here. He’s happiest when flying too fast or hiding out at his lakeside getaway (apparently the only one on the charred planet), flipping through his vinyl collection and grooving on Led Zep’s “Ramble on.”
Before it’s all settled, there’s a blatant reference to “Sleepless in Seattle,” the introduction of doppelgangers, some jumping around in time, and a soundtrack that keeps welling up to levels of pain. I’m pretty sure there’s a happy ending, but I still can’t figure out what it is or how the story gets there.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt; directed by Joseph Kosinski
With Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman