Oblivion (2013)


Tom Cruise may not be able to dunk a basketball, but he can save the world, right?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a lone soldier who lives in the clouds above a post-apocalyptic Earth after a war made the surface uninhabitable. He lives a steady life where all he does is repair drones, in hopes that they will stop any hostile aliens from taking over and destroying the world that Harper now knows and has come to terms with. But things take a turn for the worse once he encounters a crashed space pod with a mysterious woman survivor (Olga Kurylenko), who makes him question everything he knows.

You can’t help but feel pity for most of the sci-fi movies that come out nowadays. It seems as if they aren’t taking something from a piece of sci-fi literature that they read as a big-glassed, tike, they are taking something from another form of media, whether it be intentional or unintentional. That’s what makes so many sci-fi movies hard to follow along with and get wrapped up into because nine times out of ten: it’s been done before. That was my exact problem with Oblivion: been there, done that, 1,ooo times over.

The fact that this movie isn’t anything to scream about in the writing-department is in no way a hit against director Joseph Kosinski. If anything, it’s Kosinski who saves this movie with his inspired-vision and dedication to making every single scene pop-out at you, as if you’ve never seen anything like it, although you have. That’s where this film gets you, but that’s where Kosinski keeps his feet moving and at a steady-pace too. While the film looks beautiful and never seems to look at all fake (IMAX is pretty glorious), the story’s beginning is what really got me because it wasn’t what I was expecting from seeing the trailers, advertisements, and even the numerous posters.

"Neo...uhm..I...mean: Jack."
“Neo…uhm..I…mean..Jack.”

Rather than making this a movie about Tom Cruise, going around, and shooting the hell out of aliens/unknowns that inhabit his dying-land, it’s more about the pace and the mood. It sets you into this cold, dark world where everything is beginning to die down and sooner than you know it; the Earth will be nothing more but it’s own worst enemy. By that, I mean that it will eventually dissolve into nothing. That’s the sad, but true reality that these two characters, Jack and Victoria, are left with and to see them come to terms with that made me feel as if I was watching a different movie than I was promised. Yes, there is Tom Cruise; there is CGI; there are robots; and yes, there are some weird creatures on Earth, but is this a drama I see? I thought so. That is, until I realized that I spoke a little too soon.

The first instance I knew where this movie had a problem was when it’s first batch of twists and turns came, and I had no idea what to think of them except for, “unoriginal.” That’s all it seemed like and without delving into spoiler-territory, the places this movie goes with it’s plot shenanigans don’t really add to anything, except more and more predictability. Once Jack gets to see these warrior humans, he finds out more about himself, his species, and what he was put on this Earth to really do, but none of it seems to make any sense, yet, have us care in the least bit.

I mean, I could go on and on about how none of this plot really seemed to make a lick of sense, but I don’t care too much about that. The story made fine enough sense to where I wasn’t scratching my head too much and to where I wasn’t looking around to see if anybody else was, neither. It was fine the way it was, but I just didn’t have any feeling with it at all. And that word, “feeling”, is exactly what this flick was building on. It tried to go into spots where we were supposed to feel compelled and hit back in our seats, but those moments never came. The movie just sort of went through the motions, gave us sci-fi movie convention after convention, and went on it’s way, like we expected it to from the trailers, advertisements, and posters.

See, the beginning really screwed the rest of this movie up because it makes you feel like you’re in for a somber-look at a dystopian future. But once it gets going, the movie dives into more action-y elements that are fun to watch, but feature no human-connection involved. When I see an action scene go down, I want to feel raw and terrifying emotion as if I was right there, cheering these characters on for fighting the good fight and hoping that they come out alive. However, that movie didn’t have that. It had alright-looking action scenes, but with nothing underneath it. All flair, but no substance. And that would have been fine, if the flair really kept itself going but after awhile; I stopped caring and just wanted more with my story. Now is that too much to ask?

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.
Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

But no matter how shitty the script can be (and definitely is), you got to give some credit to Tom Cruise for at least taking a step by deciding to take this material and make it his. Love him, or hate him, Cruise is a bonafide movie star, and an action one, at that. Cruise is good here as Jack because he gives him a lot of charm and likability that makes us feel like he’s one of those guys that knows it all, what to do, and how to do it, yet, is also just like us in where he doesn’t believe everything around him is really happening, and has the nice-enough soul to realize what’s right and what’s wrong. Of course the guy hits some holes on the way, but Cruise keeps him grounded in reality, where a film doesn’t seem to want that.

Playing the two gal pals of his this time around are Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, who are both good with what they are asked on to do, but nothing more than that. Some scenes where they have to be more than the “romantic love-interest” are fine, but they aren’t called on to do many of those scenes, so it’s rather useless, really. What was really useless in a movie like this is not only having Morgan Freeman in a supporting role, but even going so far as to advertise him like he’s a big part of your movie, when in reality: the dude only gets about 15 minutes or so of screen-time. Yes, THAT Morgan Freeman! Don’t let me fool you into thinking Morgan isn’t good with what he’s called on to do here, because he is; but it just feels like a waste of a big name, for a role that serves no real purpose other than to be the bearer of good news (or bad, depending on the type of person you are). The rest of the cast isn’t really all that filled with many people, but that doesn’t matter because this isn’t the type of film that’s too concerned with that. They just want to show you shiny, futuristic thingy-majigs, blow up and blow other shit up in the process. Then again, it is a sci-fi movie so what else could you expect? But seriously, don’t answer that. Or else we’ll have another four paragraphs to go.

Consensus: Kosinski’s direction is beautiful and always a sight to gaze at, but the rest of Oblivion can’t sustain his look, and drops beneath his feet with a weak screenplay, no emotional connection to anything that’s happening, and a bucket-list of cliches and conventions I think I speak for everyone when I say; we are tired of seeing used, over and over again in sci-fi flicks.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I told you, shit is really fucked-up out there."
“I told you, shit is really fucked up out there.”
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61 comments

  1. Your review is all wrong. Unless you guessed the twist, you shouldn’t have been disappointed. It’s all about the story, and I don’t see how one or two references mean it’s totally cliched in a bad way. I enjoyed the movie, I gave it 10/10. There’s enough there to entertain anyone. Your expectations weren’t my expectations. And learn to edit your reviews (it’s = it is, as well as other weird grammar). But your opinion means something in any case.

    • Hey Chris! I’m soooo agreeing you on this. The first time I saw the Scavs? These are the exact words: “So…did Darth Vader and Predator slept together and made a baby?.” It’s fun pointing out which movie is from which (like HAL 9000’s eyes in the drones), but the most fun for me are the chase scenes – Tom Cruise in his sky-bike – which quickly evokes “Top Gun.” It was fun and all, but was “meh” in the story department.

      • The filmmakers of ‘Oblivion’ said the movie is meant to be derivative. So this review missed the entire point of the movie.

  2. Good review, Dan. I’ll agree that the movie was shot beautifully, but it wasn’t quite enough to help save this thing in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it well enough, sure, but it did eventually almost become a game of “pick which sci-fi flick he stole that scene from”.

    • Hey Chris! I’m soooo agreeing you on this. The first time I saw the Scavs? These are the exact words: “So…did Darth Vader and Predator slept together and made a baby?.” It’s fun pointing out which movie is from which (like HAL 9000′s eyes in the drones), but the most fun for me are the chase scenes – Tom Cruise in his sky-bike – which quickly evokes “Top Gun.” It was fun and all, but was “meh” in the story department.

  3. I enjoyed this a lot more than you did and I found the mix of familiar plots and twists fun to watch. I also thought Melissa Leo was chilling as the “controller” and the ending scenes were all just gorgeous. I like your review but I’d rate this much more highly than you did. I agree with you that Morgan Freeman’s talents were wasted, here, but, all in all, I liked “Oblivion”.

  4. With you on this one, Dan. Very much had the same thoughts while watching the film. Tom Cruise can definitely hold a film together when everything else around it is falling apart through apathy. It was just so humdrum. It was fine, in the sense that the pacing was decent, fairly watchable and kept me entertained, but I demand more from my sci-fi films. Because I know how good they can be. Look at the likes of Moon and Looper. Excellent sci-fi films.

  5. Haha, I love how different some of the reviews of this film are. It really has spilt people down the middle. Personally I liked it. And the script wasn’t that bad. “Are you an effective team?” “Fuck you, Sally!” and the like!

  6. Great review Dan. My main critique of this film is the same: Been there, done that. And the other films that have already done it, like “Moon,” “The Matrix,” “Total Recall,” and “Independence Day” have been better. Kosinski even seems to borrow similar technology and electronic music from “Tron Legacy.” I was also annoyed by the weird ground it straddles between action and drama. There are some serious logic holes and elements which make no sense too. At least Cruise owns it like you said. Morgan Freeman is entertaining as well, despite the fact that his character doesn’t get much screen time.

    • A lot of it just seemed like so many other sci-fi flicks and it got to a point of where nothing really struck me as original. Just re-hash-after-re-hash. Thanks man!

  7. I just skimmed this because I’m going to see it this weekend. It looks visualy spectacular. Hope it is better than that dreadful Evil Dead shlock, (see my review to see what I really thought about that one!)

  8. It’s no sci-fi classic, but if you were to compare it to other big event movies, like a Transformers film for instance, it’s a masterpiece. I know that’s maybe damning the film with faint praise, but I liked that it wasn’t too eager to dive straight into the action, that it seemed willing to tell story with some sense of structure. It’s certainly a lot better than Joseph Kos­in­ski’s previous film, Tron: Legacy.

    • It’s a better sci-fi flick than I expected, but there still needed to be more. I’m still trying to figure out what the point of this all was, really.

  9. The more I read about this film, the more I am disappointed. Cruise’s films are usually pretty entertaining and well made (Knight and Day being a recent example of how that’s a lie!) but Oblivion looked the goods. Guess they fooled us all.

    I’ll prolly skip ahead to the Blu release of this one…. also likely is the fact it’ll be a rental first. Thanks for the honest review, Dan!

  10. It’s unfortunate that such a well conceived world/idea would fall so flat in the storyline. I’ll still go see it in any case but I’m getting a little discouraged with this an a few other negative reviews.

  11. Great review. The essence of your review was exactly what I imagined in seeing the trailer for the film (except for the fact that I am not a big Cruise fan). I’ll likely be skipping this one as this seems to be the consensus from those I’ve talked to.

  12. Spud Webb could dunk a basketball at 5’7″ and that is only two inches taller than Tom Cruise. 😉

    ugh, I think we are seeing and reviewing Oblivion this weekend.

    Nice post as usual Dan

  13. Good review Dan, and I agree with completely. There’s one thing I would like to ask that you may find humorous but involves spoilers so, for those of you skimming the comments:

    *******SPOILERS AHOY*******

    Did you find it hilarious that Tom Cruise, himself no stranger to a strong ego, starred in a film where the means by which an alien society is to clone Tom Cruise? Not just Tom Cruise, actor, but Tom Cruise, world’s greatest soldier, technician, and astronaut extraordinaire. Not only that, he dies twice and still gets the girl in the end. In-film implications of that aside, I thought it was very amusing.

    *******SPOILERS BE ENDIN’ HERE*******

  14. I am going to have to disagree with you Dan. This movie was awesome! Sure it look like it borrowed from Vger and the Whale Probe, Hal 9000 on super steriods and everything, but this movie shocked me by moving me. When it ended, I sat back and said, wow this is a good movie. I loved the mystery and the reveals! I wasn’t expecting the twists. I loved the drama aspect of it because it was unexpected. It made me wonder, hlong had Jack and Victoria actually been there? Here we have two lonely people who work all day and maintain a professional air, and then screw at night to remind themselves they are human. I thought the interactions in the clouds, was cold, romantic and sexy. I am a action hound, but I was quite satisfied with the limited action. Actually when it got to the action it took me out a little bit. I loved his search for answers and the mystery of what was going on. I gave it an A+ for providing me with good entertainment and great story.

  15. Hey Dan O, I just thought I would leave a comment on your Blog, as you did on mine. Obviously we are in stark disagreement on Oblivion. That’s okay though. I enjoyed the slow pacing of the film myself. It would seem that this is going to be one of those films that one either really likes or really hates judging from the above comments. Keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

  16. Great review. It’s interesting to note that Kosinski’s background is in architecture. Makes me wonder what would happen if he combined his visual eye with someone who was a more masterful storyteller.

  17. Isn’t Hydrogen also the most abundant stuff in the Universe? If so, why mine it from Earths oceans. Nice review though – and one that I agree with: http://ryesofthegeek.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/oblivion-film-review/

    Marc M wrote that Kosinski’s background is architecture – which is interesting because I thought that Jack Harpers house on a giant pole had the interior decor that Le Carbousier himself would have been proud of. Very minimalist and clinical.

  18. Hey, thanks for checking out my blog! I liked your review too. Found it interesting that you thought the writing was saved by the direction since Kosinski wrote both the screenplay and the unpublished graphic novel the film is based on. Good luck with your future reviews!

  19. seems there is a slight need for defending the Oblivion authors against … er … excessive referencing of other movies. That is not the problem of the movie, it can be fun to play with just about every SciFi icon you can find in the dictionary. The problem is that Oblivion does it in a non-original fashion, that – bluntly spoken – it bored me in the second half (and that would the action half, the slower and more quiet opening sequences have a lot more going for them). When I woke up from my in-film nap, for a second I believed I saw Jeff Goldblum uploading the virus into the mother ship, but must have still been part of my dreams…

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