By Jeff Walls, Seattle Movie Critic
Based on his own graphic novel, director Joseph Kosinski’s new movie Oblivion is, by all accounts, a post-apocalyptic tale. But just watching the trailer for the movie one can easily find one obvious difference between it and other movies dealing with life after an apocalyptic event: it’s bright! Usually these movies are dark; taking place under a scorched sky as gray as the ash that is constantly falling. That is not the case in Oblivion and you might not even know that a devastating event had taken place were it not for the now mostly buried New York landmarks sticking out of the desert floor.
It’s explained that the cause of the devastation came in two waves. First, an alien race known as the Scavengers destroyed our moon, causing Mother Nature to wreak havoc down on Earth. The aliens then invaded and our only option was nuclear war. Humans won the war, but were forced to leave their now uninhabitable home planet. Most of them have fled to one of Saturn’s moons, known as Titan, after first stopping on a giant space station that orbits the Earth. Only two humans remain on Earth. They are Jack and Victoria and their job is to maintain and repair weaponized drones that protect the giant machines harvesting the Earth’s oceans from the Scavengers who constantly attempt to sabotage their efforts.
This is all explained to us by Jack, but he also tells us that per protocol, his memory is periodically wiped. Still, Jack is haunted by memories that he can’t explain; memories of a pre-war Earth that only existed before he was born. His dreams also feature a beautiful young woman who seems very familiar to him. When Jack tracks down a small space ship that crashes on the planet, he is shocked to find this very woman as the wreck’s only survivor. This discovery will soon lead Jack towards many more, eventually leading him to the realization that the true purpose of his mission may not be what he believed it to be.
Although there are a few scenes in caves and underground bunkers, most of the action in Oblivion takes place in the daylight, which is a refreshing change. Jack and Victoria share what has to be the coolest penthouse apartment ever constructed (I want to swim in that pool!) and despite the devastation to the Earth, Jack is able to stroll the landscape without any kind of protective covering. He has even found a nice little retreat where life is returning to the planet.
Much of the action also takes place out in the open, usually involving those weaponized drones that, honestly, are seriously scary (a possible political point?). These drones are big, fast, loud, and deadly. They also have some seriously frightening-looking faces, which is even more impressive considering they aren’t actually faces. In action, they come dangerously close to those annoyingly loud circular saw-like devices from Battleship, but fortunately they don’t strain the senses quite that far. The action scenes in Oblivion are entertaining, for sure, but lack any real “wow” moments.
Much like his last movie, Tron: Legacy, Kosinski creates some dazzling special effects that look flawless, even when seen so often in the daylight. That holds true for the devastated, fallen landmark-laden surface of the planet, those deadly drones, and the slick bubble-ship that Jack flies around in.
Jack is played by Tom Cruise, who essentially plays Tom Cruise, which is all this movie asks him to do. Andrea Riseborough, as Victoria, and Olga Kurylenko, as the mystery woman, are both good as the two competing women in Jack’s life, and Morgan Freeman shows up in one of those “is he a good guy or is he a bad guy” role and he’s always a welcome sight (and sound).
The ending was a bit too similar to that of a 1997 blockbuster about invading aliens, but it works for the movie. Oblivion may not be great, but it is entertaining and a nice stepping stone towards the Summer blockbuster season that begins in just two weeks.
Oblivion is rated PG-13 for “sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.” In addition to those reasons mentioned, younger viewers will also likely find the drones to be too scary.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Oblivion.