It is the future, and Planet Earth has been abandoned, with only two people left there, the husband and wife team of Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who have an important job to attend to, which effectively makes them caretakers of the globe. The world's population have left for a moon of Saturn to live, and need the water from their home to survive which is what Jack maintains, but he is also ever on the lookout for the Scavs. They are the alien race who set off this course of events, since they raided the planet and left it close to devastation; although they were beaten, some remain...
Oblivion started life as a comic book, as many big, splashy blockbusters did during the twenty-first century, and did very well in a summer blighted with the opinion that the biggest budget movies simply weren't up to scratch. But watching it you wonder what audiences were seeing in it, and if that was really what they were looking for, as while it may have been as visually slick as a work hailing from the mind of Joseph Kosinski, the man who helmed the impressive-looking TRON Legacy would have been expected to be, in the story department it suggested he had seen and enjoyed the far smaller budget sci-fi effort Moon, and opted to build on that premise.
He kept his cards close to his chest for the majority of the running time, but so much so that when we were finally told what was actually going on it didn't come as a lightbulb above the head revelation as more prompted questions about how that all would work, exactly. Certainly this was science fiction we were dealing with so Kosinski could pretty much do what he wanted for two hours as long as it wasn't completely outrageous - didn't want to, er, alienate anyone after all - but it was one of those movies where so much care had gone into the appearance, that undeniable suface gloss which was so accomplished here, that it was as if the filmmakers believed this was enough to carry it.
Which was not the case, as it took too long to get to the point, and when it did giving rise to ponderings over which bits were truly necessary. Cruise was in his usual serious but not above a quip or two to show he was human, honest, mode which didn't leave much room for character depth, but then it wasn't a story which was courting that, even if there were scenes intended to make us emotional which was simply beyond this. Some sci-fi fans were satisfied with a work which was ideas-driven and employing comparisons to the cerebral fantasies of the intellectually better regarded genre movies, but that stylish glamour Kosinski did his best to apply to every shot was doing twice as much as anything else in the movie to contribute to that.
What was actually served up with Oblivion was an attractive bauble which when struck sounded like purest tin. Veering between action sequences and low key conversations which made you yearn for the action to commence once again, there was less than met the eye, but if you wanted to drink in the imagery then there was nothing wrong with that, it was plain to see a lot of money had been spent on polishing this to a high sheen. When Olga Kurylenko shows up in an escape pod, lost in suspended animation, it's the beginning of an identity crisis for Jack (of course he was called Jack, wouldn't it be nice to see the Cruiser play a Cuthbert or a Derek?), one which leads him to the real Scavs, which was where second billed but hardly in it Morgan Freeman popped up. It was nice to watch sci-fi taking itself seriously, yet not so nice to realise it wasn't half as profound as it thought it was, or at least wanted to be, and the coda simply prompted more questions about how all this would have happened the way it did. But whoever chose the locations earned their wages. Music by M83.
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