Oblivion: A Review
Oblivion – Dir: Joseph Kosinski; *ing: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman
Does this plagiarism make me look fat?
Well, calling it plagiarism is perhaps a tad harsh. But Oblivion emits more than enough of a whiff of several sci-fi films, old and new, to warrant at least a ‘rip-off’. Or ‘heavily inspired by’, if one is in an exceptionally charitable mood. A dash of Inception here, a sprinkling of Looper there, a pinch or two of Solaris, Moon and Prometheus, and to top it off, a generous dollop of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and hey, presto! – you have Oblivion, fresh and steaming from the mish-mash oven. Overall, it also reminds one of that ad for a local cellular service provider in which a lad, besotted with a pretty young thing he sees at a roadside café, experiences a rude awakening when said beauty turns out to sound like a boy going through the customary adolescent voice-box malfunction. Similarly, Oblivion is stunning to look at but then it opens its mouth and you at once feel your enthusiasm deflating, like a Belieber finding him/herself at a Metallica concert – the pyrotechnics may be great, but it’s really not what you paid for.
The story of the film is of your standard post-apocalyptic-scenario kind: Earth devastated after nuclear war, off-world colonies, lone defendants at the rogered planet’s outpost fighting off threats from mysterious forces; cue jaw-dropping twist. Or at least, it would be jaw-dropping if the audience had been living under a moon rock through the big sci-fi boom of the last couple of movie seasons. Nonetheless. So we have Jack (Cruise) and Victoria (Riseborough) as the last of humans left on what’s left of Earth, carrying out their duties, blah blah blah. Between taking orders from authorities somewhere in space and watching over Very Important Equipment, Jack continues to have dreams about a beautiful woman he doesn’t recognize (Kurylenko), until one day a shuttle crashes into the midst to reveal Jack’s mystery woman as the sole survivor inside. And soon enough it dawns on our intrepid hero that perhaps he and his companion aren’t as alone on the planet as they thought they were.
The main problem with Oblivion is not so much the fact of it being a retread of already well- (and better) trodden material, but the feeling that in fashioning a stylistic smorgasbord, the brains behind the film forgot to give it – like Oz’s Tin-Man – a heart. The love story at the centre, with its metaphysical pretensions, comes off as somewhat cynical, designed to lend heft to the myriad scenes in which Jack, hair all aflutter, rides his futuristic dirt bike with a typically steely Cruise expression in place. Director Kosinski, whose previous outing Tron: Legacy elicited similar criticisms of being style-over-substance, hasn’t quite figured out what to do with the people inhabiting his admittedly awesome landscapes; he seems more at home with creating otherworldly visuals than with character arcs and narrative depth. Besides which, the plot takes so long to get going that everything that comes after the inevitable twist seems to gallop clumsily at warp speed, finally crashing into a climax that, with its Matrix-like elements, feels like yet another déjà-vu moment. The film may present many a breathtaking picture, but at the end of it, it amounts to little more than a Polaroid posing as a Grand Master.
Cult: Solaris (1972) – Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky’s mind-bending sci-fi classic is also big on soul.
Current: Star Trek Into Darkness – J.J.Abrams’ second Trekkie outing is notable for much, but probably most for featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, from TV’s cult smash Sherlock, as the villain.
Coming Attraction: Elysium – District 9 director Neil Blomkamp will helm this one, another in a long line of ‘ruined Earth’ narratives.