The top of The Empire State Building. That’s where Oblivion begins. It’s a dream sequence, where Jack Harper (played by Tom Cruise), is standing with a woman. He wakes from his dream to live a remote existence as a drone repairman on Earth. The year is 2077, and as we learn from Harper’s voice-over, this is an Earth virtually destroyed by war. Years before, the moon had been blown apart by Scavs, an alien life form attacking Earth. This caused massive earthquakes, tsunamis – every natural disaster you can think of. Humans fought off the Scavs, but the Earth was left in ruins. What remained of the human race went to live on a colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Harper and his mate, Victoria Olsen, are on Earth protecting Hydro Rigs which suck up the remaining sea water, removing all sustainable life from Earth. Little does Harper know that his dream of The Empire State Building is really an unlocked memory.
Oblivion’s visual style is exceptional right from the beginning. The contrast of colors – the dark brown sand, white jumpsuits and air ships – work wonderfully together. The vast sea deserts covering bridges and buildings were sights to behold on the big screen. The imagery of the moon, blown apart yet still stationary in the daytime sky, was majestic. Aside from the unforgettable aesthetics, Oblivion delivers on many levels. The film’s visuals and intermittent attacks from Scavs kept me engaged, until the mystery of Harper’s dreams was unveiled. Responding to an object falling from the sky, Harper discovers the safely preserved and sleeping body of a woman, Olga Kurylenko – the same woman from his dreams.
Aside from a somewhat unsatisfying ending, the deliberate pace of the film is praiseworthy. The story took its time. There were definitely moments of high-octane action, but the audience had just enough time in that world, which was refreshing. All too often, directors move us so quickly through a story; we can’t catch our breath, especially in sci-fi. This works in films like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, but at other times, it can lead to a level of dissatisfaction. Director Joseph Kosinski allows the story to unfold slowly, effectively balancing characters, plot and good old-fashioned space ship chases. Another notable success is Tom Cruise. He is likable and engaging. The film follows him solely, and he’s up to the task of keeping the audiences attention. Morgan Freeman is also very appealing. The only draw back is that I wanted more of him. His presence was memorable, but not enough to be satisfying.
I enjoyed the amount of sci-fi references in Oblivion, which paid homage to such classics as Planet of the Apes and TRON. The drones were reminiscent of V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. from The Black Hole, the circular robots with blasters at their sides (although V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. were good-natured, unlike the foul tempered drones).
All in all, Oblivion was enjoyable. It was a good sci-fi ride, taking its audience into post-apocalyptic Earth, focusing on desolation rather than gritty despair. I found this happily refreshing. Aside from its recycled ending, the film held my interest from its opening moments onward.