We’ve witnessed the end of the world…multiple times, now Oblivion continues the year of post apocalyptic films in grand fashion and manages to pull off a great plot while looking damn good too. But have we seen it all before?
After a cataclysmic war against an Alien threat, the Earth has been left in ruins – irradiated from nuclear deterrents and the catastrophic disaster that occurred following the destruction of the moon by the off world invaders – the war was won but the planet was lost. Jack is an engineer overseeing the final stages of preparation before returning with his partner to the Tet (a massive space-based refuge) and traveling to Titan – the new Human stronghold – but the discovery of a mysterious survivor of a spaceship wreckage leads Jack on a path where he will learn the truth about what really happened to Earth.
Oblivion is one of the biggest releases on the sci-fi calender, it’s not for everyone though – the pacing is a little odd and viewers that have trouble with slow films ought to think twice about a ticket (someone actually fell asleep during the press preview and their snoring was evident). That said, it has a lot of appeal for anyone interested in a good mystery film.
The Bottom Line
If 2012 was the year for end of the world films, 2013 must be the year of the aftermath. As a fan of science-fiction and suspense/thriller/mystery films, Oblivion really hits the sweet spot offering a compelling plot beneath a candy coated exterior. The story isn’t revolutionary but it provides enough questions to keep the audience guessing, sometimes the twists are a little obvious (at least to the keen observer) but that makes them no less rewarding.
There’s also no shortage of action to compliment long periods of puzzle solving and wandering across the post apocalyptic ruins. Tom Cruise, while not a young buck anymore certainly looks the part and the stunts always hit a note that isn’t over the top but still manages to astound. The action comes at a price though, and that price is some bizarre pacing to a film that attempts to structure itself equally around mystery and gun fights. What this means is that you should be prepared for a film that is caught somewhere between the two and never finds just the right kind of balance – often times I was feeling the frustration of lack of decisive editing for the story but the curiosity of learning the truth behind the story kept pulling me back.
Oblivion on the surface is a gorgeous film, filled with seamless cutting edge visuals that has a unified theme and style, the art direction strikes a good balance between classic clean edges and a more modern look complemented by grittiness and a mechanical feel. Essentially the film borrows a lot of what it is from several other films while remaining original and fresh. Needless to say, jaws will drop at the flawless integration of CGI and filmed elements.
The ultimate disappointment of this film is that it doesn’t leave anything open to interpretation, rather choosing to tie the plot up neatly and cutting off any loose ends. In any other genre this choice would be perfect but with sci-fi I like to leave the cinema with questions, not necessarily questions that would deserve a sequel but a tidbit that one can ponder on and fill in the blanks on their own. Oblivion may bridge the gap between hardcore sci-fi and mainstream fantasy but the mark of complex plot will always be that effect of curiosity that all the greats leave behind – greats like 2001 or even more recent efforts like Duncan Jones’ Moon.
In spite of some strange structure and a soundtrack that can be overly obnoxious , Oblivion manages to elevate itself to a level of science-fiction that has staying power. It’s visuals are jawdropping, the plot is compelling from start to finish, and performances are right on the money. The short story is that Oblivion is the product of a passionate filmmaker with little to no budget limitations, a movie worth seeing and one worth remembering for the right reasons.