Film Views: “Oblivion”

Oblivion Poster

Tom Cruise’s latest movie is one that combines science fiction themes and plot points from movies like Blade Runner, The Matrix,  Planet of the Apes, and a hodgepodge of other, better made, films into one package.  And if I may cut right to the chase:  my initial takeaway is that Oblivion is a very nice looking, but only mildly entertaining film.

Set in the year 2077, the film begins in the aftermath of an alien/earthling war that resulted in the aliens losing, and Earth’s inhabitants losing even bigger.  Because the aliens destroyed most of our moon, the Earth was subjected to massive environmental and seismic changes that destroyed almost all the habitable land.  Add to that the human’s use of nuclear weapons to “win” the war, and you have a planet that’s pretty much shot to hell.

Where are all the humans?  Well, Jack (Cruise)  tells us that most are living in a huge space station called the “Tet” but will all eventually all move to Titan — one of the moons of Saturn.  Why is he still on Earth? His job is “drone maintenance” — which basically means that he’s the guy who repairs the robotic flying drones that protect these huge turbines that are converting sea water into fuel for the Tet.  Why do they need protection?  Well, that’s because the aliens who attacked Earth are still on the planet trying to destroy these turbines and salvage their parts (they call the aliens “Scavs” in the movie — which is short for scavenger.)

Okay, so that’s the set up.  The conflict comes when Jack is captured by the Scavs (who are really human) and is asked to send one of the drones to the Tet and blow it up.  Add to that Jack’s frequent dreams about a woman he meets on top of the Empire State Building (before the alien attack) and you have something cooking that’s very different from what we’re told at the outset.

I won’t give away any of the “secrets” if you want to see the film, but one thing I noticed is that the filmmaker, Joseph Kosinski, had a challenge on his hands:  how to balance a Tom Cruise film (which, at this point in his career, is mostly about action) with more thoughtful elements that are central to good science fiction movie making.  Sure, you have to have fights with other people involving guns, fights with the drones in space ships, and fights with…Jack’s inner turmoil, but you also have a plot where “things aren’t what they seem to be.”  So, there’s a sleight of hand that is being played. But if you’re a fan of the science fiction drama, chances are you’ll be two to three steps ahead of the story as you’re watching the action unfold on the screen. That’s not to say that it’s a poorly told tale.  Rather, the plot (Well, really a series of plots stitched together) is one we’ve seen in other films.

Is it worth seeing?  If you like a movie theater experience, you may enjoy Oblivion.  However, if you don’t care about films in XD, or if you’re not into sound, mixed for Dolby Atmos, then this may be worth a rental or Netflix stream — which will probably happen in mid-June or July depending if Tom’s visage can keep the audience coming back week after week.

Oblivion starring Tom Cruise

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