Oblivion has a very interesting history. It is the first film to be based on a comic from Radical Press, which was founded to test high concept ideas in comic form prior to producing those same stories as feature-length films. (See more information in this week’s Weekly Reel.)
This particular comic-turned-film is coming to us from the director Joseph Kasinski of TRON: Legacy fame. It is set in a post-apocalyptic future where most of the planet has been left destroyed and unlivable as a result of a large scale war between humans and “scavengers,” an alien race that sought to claim the planet’s resources for themselves.
Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, is a technician in charge of repairing drones that guard a series of machines that are converting the Earth’s oceans into “fusion energy” that is used to power a human colony on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
With only two weeks until Jack and his partner Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, are finished with their mission and sent to Titan, a mysterious spacecraft crashes into their sector of the Earth.
Jack begins questioning the world around him when the drones he repairs fire upon the human survivors of the crash, with Jack only able to save a woman named Julia played by Olga Kurylenko. He also uncovers a group of human survivors, led by Morgan Freeman, who are fighting to destroy the organization that Jack has worked for most of his life.
If you thought that synopsis was long-winded, just wait until you get into the actual story, which follows a more episodic flow than most of its three-act contemporaries. It takes a while for the film’s inciting incident to really kick off. Even after that, it takes a really long time for a lot of the major revelations and sci-fi action to take center stage.
It does an okay job building up some of the mystery, but some of the other introduced elements suffer as a result
This is mostly seen in how the human survivors are developed, if at all, as we follow Jack and Julia throughout most of the film.
For the most part, the story is engaging, but it has its fair share of goofy moments with the big reveals feeling like something out of an episode of The Twilight Zone. While most of the reveals are actually really good twists, the final scene of the film left me with a feeling of confusion.
It does boast some pretty good visuals, but a lot of the artistic choices, while consistent, felt like a blend of various sci-fi aesthetics taking cues from The Terminator, Portal, Total Recall, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek and even 2001: A Space Odyssey. It feels very similar to TRON: Legacy in that regard, as that film also boasted good visuals while having a fairly confusing story.
Overall, Oblivion is fairly entertaining, but didn’t leave as much of a lasting impression as I would have expected from a high concept sci-fi film. Its pacing is more akin to a Stephen King miniseries except with a much better payoff. The visuals are good, but have too many elements that feel lifted from other sources.
It keeps that feeling as subdued as it can but is still noticeable to the trained eye. If you’re into the kind of science fiction one would find in shows like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, you’ll probably enjoy this film. On my personal scale, I give Oblivion a 4/5.