While I had no interest in it myself, Joseph Kosinski’s sole previous film, ‘Tron: Legacy’ successfully resurrected a long-dead franchise and made Disney a truck load of money. He probably had a number of established directorial gigs offered to him subsequently, but, all credit to him, he’s instead opted to adapt a story of his own, based on an unpublished comic he wrote, giving us a new, non-franchise sci-fi blockbuster, an all-too rare experience these days.
So while ‘Oblivion’ isn’t nominally based on anything we already know about, it’s not a particularly original film at all. It contains numerous bits and pieces from many other sci-fi films, both classic and modern, in terms of plot, character and imagery. Key moments bare more than a passing resemblance to scenes from ‘The Matrix’, ‘Independence Day’ and in particular; ‘Moon’. There are also similarities to other bright, harsh, post-apocalyptic settings, such as ‘The Book of Eli’, and the off-world colonies of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Wall-E’ plus clear nods to ‘Planet of the Apes’ and most obviously, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Perhaps less intentionally, the very recent ‘Prometheus’ also came to mind briefly, which shared Icelandic filming locations.
The set –up is, an alien invasion destroyed the Moon, rendering the Earth mostly uninhabitable. The humans eventually won the war but now most live on Saturn’s moon Titan. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough play a work-team/couple who are dispatched to a high-up station on Earth, where they monitor and repair ‘drone’ robots that patrol the earth looking for remnant aliens, which they call ‘scavs’ and mining remaining resources.
The leisurely paced opening section of the film, as Cruise goes about his daily duties, may only establish the setting, rather than advance the plot, but is among the more interesting parts of the film (minus the football stadium bit). Soon though, he comes across a crashed ship with one survivor (Olga Kurylenko), whom he feels he recognises, but for unknown reasons.
‘Oblivion’ then feeds us its series of familiar plot twists, and Sci-Fi fans won’t be taken aback by any of the developments, it sure looks great though.
This may have put Tom Cruise back on the top of the box office yet again but he’s just playing yet another typical Cruise character. He can be very good on those rare occasions when he challenges himself but is all too happy to keep doing the same old thing. Similarly Morgan Freeman, who gets second billing, has barely more than an extended cameo.
Well-intentioned, visually striking, but overly familiar.