STARRING: Tom Cruise, Morgan
Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo
2013, 126 Minutes, Directed by:
(Tom Cruise) lives on a post-apocalyptic Earth. As he tells us at the start of
Oblivion, the planet was destroyed in a war with invading aliens which,
by the way, we won.
However, Earth can no longer
support life. Now the remnants of humanity are in an orbiting space station
while Earth’s water is sucked up to be transformed into power for our new life
on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
Jack and Victoria (Andrea
Riseborough) live in a special station on Earth supervising the drones that
protect those generators against the remaining alien scavengers.
That’s an awful lot of
backstory, but director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy)
– who co-wrote the script based on his graphic novel – soon has us following
Jack as he zooms around in his really cool flying machine. The house he and
Victoria live in is also really cool, complete with a transparent pool. Neither
the home nor the vehicle makes much sense – why is the house way up in the air
and jutting out from its support at an angle? – but they look really, really
You may already be suspecting
that something more is up, but that would be giving away the rest of the plot.
While Oblivion is neither stupid nor dull, it is shallow, having only its
few plot twists to offer along with the impressive special effects. What it
doesn’t have is much in the way of character development or a need for the cast
to stretch their acting muscles.
"Little more than entertaining eye candy."
All of the characters are
essentially plot devices. Jack and Victoria have had their memories wiped – for
security reasons – which raises a number of issues. She is counting down the
remaining few days they have left on their Earthbound assignment. Will they be
getting their memories back? The movie eventually answers that question but it
does mean these two characters have little in the way of background or
Oscar winner Melissa Leo is a
face and voice on a video screen for Mission Control. Morgan Freeman shows up as
Beech, the leader of the rebels. We learn little about him or why he is their
leader, and his only point in the story is to rebel against . . . well, that
would be telling.
The most interesting character may be Julia (Olga Kurylenko),
a survivor of a fallen spacecraft who has also been appearing in Jack’s dreams.
Yet she, too, has little in the way of character development, simply revealing
new information about herself as the story requires.
No doubt some critics will go
for the cheap pot shot by saying that Oblivion is aptly named since
that’s where it’s heading, but that would be unfair.
If this was the worst of the
year’s many science fiction epics, it would be a very good year for the genre.
The only ones who will be really disappointed are those who wanted something
engaging instead of what amounts to little more than entertaining eye candy.
Daniel M. Kimmel is a
veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first
novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s
Guide has just been released. He teaches film at Suffolk University and
lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.