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Review: Oblivion

Apr. 18, 2013by: Eric Walkuski

PLOT: Years after a war with an alien opponent has left Earth a barren wasteland, a lone member of the mop up team will discover the secret to humanitys fate.

REVIEW: While watching OBLIVION, it quickly becomes obvious that Joseph Kosinski has seen, and liked, a lot of sci-fi films, TV shows and books. Any geek worth his salt will be quick to point to the numerous inspirations (be they intentional or unintentional) behind Kosinskis story: MOON, WALL-E, I AM LEGEND, THE MATRIX, 2001; the list goes on as the movie does. Its definitely not a film of groundbreaking concepts, but its also never quite a secret that the director is more interested in the aesthetic nature of his world than the fine print of his simple drama regarding a man discovering the truth about himself and the planet he takes care of.

Kosinski presents a very cinematic landscape indeed: an Earth wrecked by natural catastrophe has been coated with dirt; landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge are up to their necks in solid soil. Many years ago, an invading army of extraterrestrials literally blew up the moon, which of course revved Mother Nature into action, resulting in earthquakes, typhoons, the works. Earths surviving residents defeated the invaders, but the planet was left practically uninhabitable. In an effort to salvage whats left of humanity, we have moved on to Saturns largest moon, Titan. An effort is underway to transform the water of the oceans into something drinkable for the people inhabiting the space-station beyond the stars.

But the surface must still be protected from stragglers of the alien species and all other potential threats, and so a few brave souls are tasked with keeping tabs on the machines at work on the ground. One such soul is Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a man of simple pleasures who enjoys his sojourns to the Earth; its a planet he doesnt remember, but has read much about, and any opportunity to walk among its scenic forests or thrashed buildings provides considerable comfort to him. His actual home is positioned miles above the surface, a clinical, glass-paneled enclosure he shares with a partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) with whom he has a professional-romantic relationship. Jack and Victoria are scheduled to join the rest of society on Titan in two weeks, something Jack is unsure hes prepared for.

Things in Jacks world change after a series of events alter his view of his job, his surroundings and his very existence. First, an encounter with members of the enemy alien race, dubbed Scavengers, doesnt go expectedly when it appears that theyd prefer to capture him instead of kill him. Second, the crash-landing of a pod that has apparently been orbiting Earth; a pod that contains a woman (Olga Kurylenko) whom Jack has seen in his dreams.

To go on longer would spoil some of what OBLIVION has to offer in the way of surprises, although to be perfectly truthful, none of the films revelations are of the mind-blowing variety. The films script (toiled over several writers off an original idea by Kosinski) motors through some fairly predictable material, including the emergence of a scruffy band of human survivalists led by a wise, sardonic old warrior (Morgan Freeman, because who else?). And is anyone surprised when it turns out the government agency (which is represented by the sinisterly chirpy Melissa Leo) that monitors Jacks work on the surface has ulterior motives? Just about every scene in OBLIVION calls to mind another movie.

However, OBLIVION has something to offer, if not in originality, then in sincerity. The films first half has a thoughtful, solemn quality that is refreshingly devoid of the chaotic frenzy expected of a sci-fi blockbuster. Not unlike I AM LEGEND, OBLIVION early on prefers mood and a false sense of serenity over bombast, and though there are visual effects at work in practically every scene, theyre at the service of an expansive palette created by Kosinski and crew. On the technical end, theres almost nothing to complain about. There are some wonderful moments crafted as Jack surveys the land below in his flying pod, and the sterile home in the air is a knockout. Seen on an IMAX screen, OBLIVION is a beauty. The director has also made another wise musical decision (after enlisting Daft Punk to score TRON: LEGACY), bringing aboard French electronic band M83 to create a powerful soundtrack.

But you cant avoid the obvious: that OBLIVION is frustratingly derivative, and the more it builds to an expected climax, the more the buzz achieved in the first half deflates. (The stuff involving Morgan Freemans Mad Max-looking tribe is especially unexciting.) Cruise, as usual, can be relied upon to bring charm and seriousness to the table, but the casting of Kurylenko as the mystery woman is a serious misstep - the actress is gorgeous, but emits almost zero emotion. Another glossy image without much resonance in Kosinskis world.

Source: JoBlo.com

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7:08PM on 04/22/2013
Totally kept thinking.."Isn't this plot just Moon, but on Earth instead?" There's a difference between being influenced and paying homage to past works, but the plot is just plain unoriginal. Had it a better script, I think I could have ignored the similar plot, but since it's pretty boring dialogue and story beats it's hard not to notice the similarities.
Totally kept thinking.."Isn't this plot just Moon, but on Earth instead?" There's a difference between being influenced and paying homage to past works, but the plot is just plain unoriginal. Had it a better script, I think I could have ignored the similar plot, but since it's pretty boring dialogue and story beats it's hard not to notice the similarities.
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1:15AM on 04/19/2013

Same as Tron.

Petty but empty, everybody in my theater was waiting to end.
Petty but empty, everybody in my theater was waiting to end.
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11:05PM on 04/18/2013
Damn that was quite a spoileriffic review, ever motice when Mr. Bumbray doesn't care for a movie he basically gives away the entire movie?
Damn that was quite a spoileriffic review, ever motice when Mr. Bumbray doesn't care for a movie he basically gives away the entire movie?
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1:39AM on 04/19/2013
Ever notice how this review isn't from Bumbray?
Ever notice how this review isn't from Bumbray?
7:19AM on 04/19/2013
well my apologies for an honest mistake.
well my apologies for an honest mistake.
+2
8:48PM on 04/18/2013
Cruise rarely disappoints. Even Jack Reacher wasn't all that bad, and when it comes to action, he usually delivers. So, I'll check this out. It looks like fun and I can deal with the mostly cliche script as long as there is something of value in the film.
Cruise rarely disappoints. Even Jack Reacher wasn't all that bad, and when it comes to action, he usually delivers. So, I'll check this out. It looks like fun and I can deal with the mostly cliche script as long as there is something of value in the film.
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+4
8:08PM on 04/18/2013

I thought it was great

Wow, I thought it was great. At least an 8. It wasnt original, but no sci-fi is original any more. Star Wars ripped off a bunch of Westerns and swash buckling films after all. Come on now. The film itself, was great. It looked great, the pacing was spot on. Some people think it's slow, but Im sick of fast cut,cut,cut,cut films. This film let the content breath a little which is refreshing and nice.

The best thing about Oblivion, is unlike Promethus (which I also liked, but this is better), I
Wow, I thought it was great. At least an 8. It wasnt original, but no sci-fi is original any more. Star Wars ripped off a bunch of Westerns and swash buckling films after all. Come on now. The film itself, was great. It looked great, the pacing was spot on. Some people think it's slow, but Im sick of fast cut,cut,cut,cut films. This film let the content breath a little which is refreshing and nice.

The best thing about Oblivion, is unlike Promethus (which I also liked, but this is better), I left the cinema feeling fulfilled and satisfied.
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12:18PM on 04/18/2013
Wasnt Blade Runner a flop when it was first released? Just a thought.
Wasnt Blade Runner a flop when it was first released? Just a thought.
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12:30PM on 04/18/2013
Comparing this movie to Blade Runner is like comparing Jaws to Sharknado.
Comparing this movie to Blade Runner is like comparing Jaws to Sharknado.
4:21AM on 04/19/2013
I wasnt comparing.
I wasnt comparing.
-7
10:13AM on 04/18/2013
A 6 was being generous. The movie bites off pieces of other, better sci-fi movies to such a point that you'll be quoting famous lines from these movies when you see them. It's a bad movie, made even worse by the drawn-out length of two hours (that feels like four hours) and excruciatingly bad non-chemistry between Cruise and any of the female cast. It's visually pretty, but then again, so was Tron: Legacy. And we all know how that turned out. Wait for the dvd rental on this one and save your
A 6 was being generous. The movie bites off pieces of other, better sci-fi movies to such a point that you'll be quoting famous lines from these movies when you see them. It's a bad movie, made even worse by the drawn-out length of two hours (that feels like four hours) and excruciatingly bad non-chemistry between Cruise and any of the female cast. It's visually pretty, but then again, so was Tron: Legacy. And we all know how that turned out. Wait for the dvd rental on this one and save your money for some of the better stuff coming out this summer.
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11:04AM on 04/18/2013
You miserable sod!
You miserable sod!
12:28PM on 04/18/2013
You pompous troll. There. Do you feel like your half inch penis is now 4 inches long? Run back to the AICN chatrooms since you have nothing to add to the discussion.
You pompous troll. There. Do you feel like your half inch penis is now 4 inches long? Run back to the AICN chatrooms since you have nothing to add to the discussion.
5:00PM on 04/18/2013
Tron: Legacy was awesome...especially give it was a sequal made 25 years later. Go blow your dad.
Tron: Legacy was awesome...especially give it was a sequal made 25 years later. Go blow your dad.
6:55PM on 04/18/2013
That's your opinion (which doesn't count for shit, btw). I saw the original Tron in the theater as a kid, loved it, and the sequel was pretty, but empty as a story. Just like this movie. Everyone has different opinions about movies, and some have more refined tastes than others. So just because someone says that the gay porn you whack off to nightly isn't to their liking, it doesn't make them stupid, it just makes them straight.

Oh, and your mom says 'hi'. I'd let her tell you herself, but
That's your opinion (which doesn't count for shit, btw). I saw the original Tron in the theater as a kid, loved it, and the sequel was pretty, but empty as a story. Just like this movie. Everyone has different opinions about movies, and some have more refined tastes than others. So just because someone says that the gay porn you whack off to nightly isn't to their liking, it doesn't make them stupid, it just makes them straight.

Oh, and your mom says 'hi'. I'd let her tell you herself, but she shouldn't talk when her mouth's full.
1:13AM on 04/19/2013
Agreed my friend... your words are mine! this movie is a insult.
Agreed my friend... your words are mine! this movie is a insult.
9:30AM on 04/18/2013
I will be checking it out, and if does good in the box office, hopefully Kosinski can bring more originality into the the installment. Just thinking.
I will be checking it out, and if does good in the box office, hopefully Kosinski can bring more originality into the the installment. Just thinking.
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9:24AM on 04/18/2013
Haven't seen it, but plan to this weekend. It looks like a fun/refreshing sci-fi film. Pretty much any movie these days is taking from previous films. Don't know why sci-fi is given the expectation to only ever be new and original. Personally, I'd like to know how this draws from the Matrix, as far as I can tell there are no machines people get plugged into. And Matrix wasn't the first movie to do post-apocalyptic Earth. Anyways, I don't get your rating, your entire article states that
Haven't seen it, but plan to this weekend. It looks like a fun/refreshing sci-fi film. Pretty much any movie these days is taking from previous films. Don't know why sci-fi is given the expectation to only ever be new and original. Personally, I'd like to know how this draws from the Matrix, as far as I can tell there are no machines people get plugged into. And Matrix wasn't the first movie to do post-apocalyptic Earth. Anyways, I don't get your rating, your entire article states that it's a good movie in spite of it drawing from previous sci-fi films. You really only slam the movie in the last paragraph, seems by even your own review you should be giving this movie at least a 7.5
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8:35AM on 04/18/2013

I love it

Andrea Riseborough was terrific as Vika. And that finale with the brilliant score reminded me a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Andrea Riseborough was terrific as Vika. And that finale with the brilliant score reminded me a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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6:46AM on 04/18/2013
Whats with the comparisons to other sci-fi movies? most of the movies aren't original.they take inspiration from somewhere.Matrix is inspired from The invisibles comics and Ghost in the shell,Inception is inspired from Uncle scrooge comics and Paprika,Avatar-Dances with wolves,Terminator-Harlon ellison novels,ET-satyajit ray's script The Alien
Whats with the comparisons to other sci-fi movies? most of the movies aren't original.they take inspiration from somewhere.Matrix is inspired from The invisibles comics and Ghost in the shell,Inception is inspired from Uncle scrooge comics and Paprika,Avatar-Dances with wolves,Terminator-Harlon ellison novels,ET-satyajit ray's script The Alien
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7:47PM on 04/22/2013
Where as your movie examples take those ideas and make a fantastic script and an original take on said idea (except Avatar), Oblivion takes ideas from all the movies listed in the review and makes a boring run-of-the-mill sci-fi script and adds nothing original of it's own to previous ideas.
Where as your movie examples take those ideas and make a fantastic script and an original take on said idea (except Avatar), Oblivion takes ideas from all the movies listed in the review and makes a boring run-of-the-mill sci-fi script and adds nothing original of it's own to previous ideas.
6:02AM on 04/18/2013
I'm going to see it tonight. My only hesitation to this is the Denis Leary should have played the Morgan Freeman part. I mean, c'mon....from the commercial it looks like the same role from Demolition Man!
I'm going to see it tonight. My only hesitation to this is the Denis Leary should have played the Morgan Freeman part. I mean, c'mon....from the commercial it looks like the same role from Demolition Man!
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5:31AM on 04/18/2013

LOVED IT

Glad to see people are speaking out for the film. I think it has been one of the most refreshing sci fi's I have seen in a long time. Definitely deserves more than the critics are giving it. Yes it does have other sci fi elements in it, but what film doesnt follow similar plot lines these days. I thought it integrated the elements in to a solid story.
Glad to see people are speaking out for the film. I think it has been one of the most refreshing sci fi's I have seen in a long time. Definitely deserves more than the critics are giving it. Yes it does have other sci fi elements in it, but what film doesnt follow similar plot lines these days. I thought it integrated the elements in to a solid story.
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2:57AM on 04/18/2013

I loved it.

Yes there are tones of the films you listed earlier. (I was ticking them off in my head throughout the film) but I found this to combine all those great movies listed into one of the best sci-fi films I've seen since The Matrix. I really couldn't recommend it more. Perfect visuals, Cruise does his job as usual and music so involving, you felt you were there. 8.5/10
Yes there are tones of the films you listed earlier. (I was ticking them off in my head throughout the film) but I found this to combine all those great movies listed into one of the best sci-fi films I've seen since The Matrix. I really couldn't recommend it more. Perfect visuals, Cruise does his job as usual and music so involving, you felt you were there. 8.5/10
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+2
1:22AM on 04/18/2013
Agree with the score. Great build up with an average pay off. And too many plot holes to ignore.
Agree with the score. Great build up with an average pay off. And too many plot holes to ignore.
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1:20AM on 04/18/2013
I gave it a 7. It is wonderful to look at and soak in and has a calmness about it thats hard to find in mainstream big-budget sci-fi these days, but its bogged down a tad by narrative loopholes and a less-than-compelling human element. I guess it might also seem too familiar, looking like it was cobbled together from previous sci-fi classics, but that didn't bother me that much and while the ending was a little too neat, it didn't feel like a cop-out. It's definitely worth checking out at the
I gave it a 7. It is wonderful to look at and soak in and has a calmness about it thats hard to find in mainstream big-budget sci-fi these days, but its bogged down a tad by narrative loopholes and a less-than-compelling human element. I guess it might also seem too familiar, looking like it was cobbled together from previous sci-fi classics, but that didn't bother me that much and while the ending was a little too neat, it didn't feel like a cop-out. It's definitely worth checking out at the theatre.
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1:01AM on 04/18/2013

Loved it

One of the best sci-fi movies of it's kind that I've seen in a long time. Absolutely beautiful. It really needs to be watched on the big screen.
One of the best sci-fi movies of it's kind that I've seen in a long time. Absolutely beautiful. It really needs to be watched on the big screen.
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12:36AM on 04/18/2013

Talk about under selling

I saw the movie tuesday night at an advanced screening and i must say it deserved at least a 8 it looked beautiful the story was well though out and it was well acted
I saw the movie tuesday night at an advanced screening and i must say it deserved at least a 8 it looked beautiful the story was well though out and it was well acted
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+18
12:31AM on 04/18/2013

WHAAAAT

I loved it. It deserves more than a 6.
I loved it. It deserves more than a 6.
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