If you are a fan of science fiction film dating back to the 1970s, the first thing that you will notice about Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is that it seems familiar. You’ve seen it before but you can’t quite place what movie it reminds you of. Then it starts to dawn on you throughout the film and you might start playing a game of “spot the references”: “Oh, that’s 2001. That’s Planet of the Apes.” And so on, and so forth.
Oblivion takes place on Earth, the year 2077. 60 years prior, a race of aliens known as Scavengers or “Scavs” attacked. In the resulting war, the moon was destroyed and our nukes that won us the war, has rendered Earth uninhabitable. Humanity is either on Jupiter’s moon, Titan, or orbiting Earth in a space station, the Tet, preparing to go to Titan.
Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, the technician in a two person team that includes his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). The pair maintains drones that protect large installations that convert the Earth’s sea water into energy. When he’s not flying around in his awesome bubble ship and repairing drones, Harper dreams of a former life on Earth and a familiar woman. That’s a lot for an audience to take in early on, and there’s more. There is any number of ways that Oblivion could lose focus, but it doesn’t.
We are hit with a lot early on, and then we hit a valley. Very little action happens for a little while as we get to know the character of Harper. However, we are sated by that early action and level of detail. We catch up a little and allow ourselves to take in the stunning visuals of this world that Kosinski has created. Once Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the woman that Jack dreams about comes literally crashing into his life, the action picks back up and we hit one fun ride to the film’s end.
I mentioned above that you could easily play a “spot the references” type game with Oblivion, which might make you think that this is a boring, tired film that you’ve seen a thousand times before. Please don’t mistake my meaning; it plays as a deliberate love letter to the genre.
I was never bored, lost or confused during the movie. The story is compelling and the visuals are stunning. The entire movie looks as if it was shot on location in Post-Apocalyptic New York. What is real and what is effect is blended seamlessly.
One of the more interesting aspects of this movie is the credit that says the film is based on a graphic novel by the director. However, no such book exists. What does exist is a San Diego Comic-Con freebie preview for such a thing. However, the preview became more of a pitch book for the film. While there’s no timeline on it yet, Radical Comics will be publishing the complete illustrated (not graphic) novel of Oblivion.
Oblivion is familiar, but its familiarity doesn’t detract from the overall story. It is crafted deliberately and with love for the genre. Throw down your two bits for the film, you won’t regret it.