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Movie Review: Oblivion
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Oblivion
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Screenwriter(s): Joseph Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt
Cast: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo
Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 130 Minutes
Release Date: April 19, 2013

2077: Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last remaining drone repairmen stationed on Earth, which was nearly destroyed by an alien invasion 60 years earlier.

As part of a massive operation to extract the planet’s remaining vital resources, Jack lives in a Skytower floating thousands of meters above post-apocalyptic New York.

He is joined by Victoria “Vika” Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), a by-the-books navigator with whom he shares a romantic interest. In his Bubbleship – a futuristic hybrid of a jet fighter and a Bell 47 helicopter – Jack works with Vika to repair downed drones and dispatch “Scavs” – the aliens who turned Earth into a wasteland.

Their mission is almost complete. In two weeks Jack and Vika will leave Earth behind forever as they travel to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. There they will join a lunar colony established by Earth’s survivors. The fateful arrival of a stranger (Olga Kurylenko), however, triggers a series of events that forces Jack to question everything he knows about the war and its aftermath.

Written and directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy), Oblivion is an ambitious hodge-podge of science-fiction clichés that borrows from nearly every science-fiction film of the past 50 years – from The Planet of the Apes to Star Wars and The Road Warrior, to Independence Day and I Am Legend, there are an abundance of familiar elements that comprise Kosinski’s stylish, futuristic saga.

At one point, Jack Harper accompanies Kurylenko’s character, Julia, to the site of her downed spacecraft to retrieve the flight recorder. The two are quickly outnumbered by a band of resistance fighters led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), who tells Jack the world in which he lives isn’t what it seems.

As a low-level custodian of the planet, Jack has been told to stay clear of the radiation zones – a scenario that’s almost impossible not to relate to The Forbidden Zone from The Planet of the Apes. Of course Jack eventually travels into the radiation zone where an impossible revelation is revealed – making for a convoluted narrative that relies on surprise twists to keep the audience invested.

In 2005, five years before Joseph Kosinski directed his first feature, TRON: Legacy, the director wrote a 12-page story titled Oblivion. Kosinski met Barry Levine and Jesse Berger, co-founders of Radical Studios and together the men partnered to develop the story into a graphic novel.

The illustrated novel would become a pitch for a feature-length film. Universal Pictures came on board to develop the project with Kosinski and Peter Chernin, the veteran producer who successfully rebooted The Planet of the Apes franchise with the 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The screenplay was written by Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt.

Oblivion has a lot going for it – incredible special effects, gorgeous cinematography by Oscar-winner Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi) – but the script takes an interesting premise and turns it into a mediocre rehashing of sci-fi standards. Actually, I kind of feel the same way about Kosinski’s previous film, TRON: Legacy – a movie with amazing production design, stellar special effects, and a fantastic score wasted on unmemorable characters and an insufficient script.

Tom Cruise does a decent job with the material here, but there’s really no depth to Jack Harper – he isn’t really a character. He’s just Tom Cruise in a cool costume doing stunts and flying around in a sweet-ass Bubbleship. The characters portrayed by Riseborough and Kurylenko are underdeveloped and the actresses’ talents are misused – Vika and Julia are nothing more than motivation for Cruise’s character to do his day job and eventually unwrap the film’s central mystery.

Kosinski’s lover letter feels like it could have been titled Science-Fiction: The Video Game: The Movie. It’s nothing more than a collection of concept art and exciting visual effects; surface-level sci-fi with an emphasis on action and a complete disregard for emotion and substance. It looks gorgeous, it sounds great, but Oblivion lacks the emotion and depth needed to elevate it above being a glorified video game cut scene.

Trailer

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6 Comments »

  1. This is officially the last movie review I will read on this website. I never have any clue where you guys are coming from. I love pretty much everything else on GoD, but your movie reviews are mystifying to say the least. Hansel and Gretel gets a better review than Oblivion? C’mon son.

    So many of these criticisms are off base. “Tom Cruise does a decent job with the material here, but there’s really no depth to Jack Harper – he isn’t really a character. He’s just Tom Cruise in a cool costume doing stunts and flying around in a sweet-ass Bubbleship.” What? So it’s just blah that his character differs from all of the other technicians in that he feels home on Earth and actually asks questions? Cruise being a scientologist, I doubt that is Tom Cruise in real life. The character is searching for answers and becomes someone who is willing to sacrifice for the greater good. How is that not depth?
    “The characters portrayed by Riseborough and Kurylenko are underdeveloped and the actresses’ talents are misused – Vika and Julia are nothing more than motivation for Cruise’s character to do his day job and eventually unwrap the film’s central mystery.” So Vika’s portrayal of normalcy in extraordinary circumstances and Kurylenko’s change from confused patient to willing sacrifice means nothing? Vika did not ask the same questions as Jack, but she could also be his strength and challenge his alpha personality. Julia was every bit as willing as Jack to do what is necessary to save Earth. You must have thought Bella’s transformation in Twilight was amazing…

    “..but the script takes an interesting premise and turns it into a mediocre rehashing of sci-fi standards.” That might be the case, if you were talking about ONE stereotypical sci-fi plot twist, but they used about five of them. The clones, the bomb inside the mothership, the initial mission to the mothership, the ole body switcheroo, the alien takeover plot, etc. You could see the marriage revelation coming, but everything else in the last 30-45 minutes was a surprise.
    I simply do not understand what your point of view is when you go into these movies.

    Comment by Jay Bell — April 21, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  2. I enjoyed this film, and feel it is getting overly negitive reviews. Though i have to agree with the main point of predictablity.
    We have see this all before, sure maybe not alltogether in a single film before, but i was able to guess correclty each “twist” around half way into the film, it gave away too much and imade it easy to predict exactly what direction it was going.
    It did have loads of cool scenes and loads of epic backdrops (yeah i spoted that Planet of the Apes refrence) and a very banging soundtrack, but it did lack enougth debth to make it a great movie, it is however a good movie.

    Comment by kaos — April 21, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

  3. I felt the same way. I never said it was a great movie, but it is an enjoyable movie. I just took issue with the statements that the movie and none of its characters had any depth or emotion or substance. That’s a ridiculous statement.
    The movie reviews on this site seem to be more contrarian than anything. I might you can’t really be contrarian to nerd icon extravaganzas like the Avengers and Dark Knight Rises, but so many of the other reviews seem to be written to contrast other reviews instead of standing on their own as insightful analysis.

    Comment by Jay Bell — April 22, 2013 @ 3:07 am

  4. Very rarely do you see any site like this give insightful analysis. If that’s what your looking for i would look elsewhere. These are just one persons opinion, not a deep look into the process of the elements that make the film.
    Personaly i never bother with a review to tell me if i should see a film or not, i tend to read reviews after i have seen the film as i like to see other peoples thoughts. It would be a dull read if they always agreed with mine.

    Comment by kaos — April 22, 2013 @ 5:34 am

  5. Thanks for your comments guys. My reviews aren’t contrarian – for one, I see films a week or two in advance, so there’s no popular opinion to purposely oppose when I write my review. Secondly, for the most part, my opinions are inline with scores from aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes – so to say I’m being contrarian in giving a mediocre film (that sits at 58% with 178 reviews) a so-so review doesn’t make sense to me.

    As far as my point of view goes, I see around 150 new releases in theaters ever year. When you see that many movies, there are a few great ones, a few awful ones, and a ton of average or mediocre ones. Oblivion is one of those C- movies. I didn’t hate it – if I did, I would have written a scathing review about how much I loathed it – but out of the 50 new releases I’ve seen so far in 2013, nothing about Oblivion stood out to me as exceptionally entertaining or intriguing – though, again, there were some great visuals.

    In any case, I appreciate your comments and your opinions – and Jay, thanks for reading my Hansel & Gretel review. I could understand how you might feel I was being contrarian in liking that film – but what can I say, I thought it was mindless fun. Oblivion is just as silly and mindless – the problem is, it isn’t supposed to be.

    Comment by Adam Frazier — April 22, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

  6. […] Click here for full review. […]

    Pingback by North Carolina Film Critics Association — April 25, 2013 @ 1:37 am

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