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Again Hollywood appeals to our end of the world obsessed fantasies and releases another post apocalyptic science fiction blockbuster. With the director of Tron: Legacy and Tom Cruise signed on, this adaptation of an unpublished graphic novel (authored by the director) was greenlit.
Oblivion is set in the year 2077, long after a race of aliens known as Scavs has waged war against Humanity. The humans were forced to use nuclear weapons to end the war, which left all of Earth uninhabitable. The remaining humans have been moved to Titan, a moon of Saturn, with a very select few left behind on Earth to manage and repair drone units. The drones protect massive structures which suck up ocean water and convert it to energy that will later be sent to the colonies on Titan.
Tech 49, or Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), and his lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are one such couple. They keep in constant contact with the orbiting space station, The Tet, and their direct supervisor Sally (Melissa Leo). One day Jack discovers a strange beacon attached to the remains of the Empire State Building. He follows a set of coordinates attached to the beacon and discovers an escape pod full of human survivors that have been in cryogenic sleep. One of the survivors (Olga Kurylenko) seems to have appeared literally out of his dreams and he joins forces with her to uncover the truth behind her crash landing.
The film looks simply stunning. The epic CG visuals look good. The film also plays with both favorite settings of the sci-fi genre, the grungy, realist future (made famous in films like Star Wars and Aliens), and the sterile environment of a controlled dystopia (think THX 1138 or 1984). Alongside this mixed vision of the future is the Earth itself. Crumbled cities have become jungles, vast prairies have been split in two by great fissures. All of this may sound somewhat jarring when put together, but director Joseph Kosinski near flawlessly weaves them together in a way that supports the story.
The first half of the film stands out as the most interesting. Following Jack around the Earth as he seeks out broken drones, while at the same time learning about this version of our beloved home planet is a fascinating ride. The film however does begin to drop twist after twist shortly after Olga Kurylenko’s character is introduced. Many of the twists, unfortunately feel redundant. Many times I found myself reminded of huge reveals from some of science fiction’s most acclaimed works. Soon, though all these big moments begin to compound, and you can be left feeling a little overwhelmed. This isn’t helped by the cast’s woeful underacting. Even Morgan Freeman, who makes a glorified cameo, seemed just a little too passive in some situations.
In spite of a few flaws, Oblivion is an enjoyable adventure. The plot does take a few tried and tired turns, and the actors could have put more into their performances, but these are relatively small complaints. The interesting and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, and the overall execution of the story are enough to make Oblivion a fun night at the movies.