With homages to so many classic works of sci-fi and references to multiple great films, it is quite extraordinary how Oblivion manages to feel so new and fresh. It is the latest picture by Tron:Legacy director Joseph Kosinski and it is most surely one of the more intriguing films I’ve attended this year.
The screening I attended was, however, almost ruined by a near-constant buzzing noise from one of the speakers and with a movie where the sound design and music are this spectacular, that is not a problem you wish to encounter. But there is more in Oblivion to be adored than just the way it sounds.
The story takes place on an almost deceased Planet Earth in the year 2077. Sixty years ago, an alien race known to us as The Scavengers invaded our home planet by destroying our Moon, which resulted in the destruction of almost every living thing on Earth. The surviving humans have made their way to Titan, largest moon of Saturn, leaving only a few aliens behind on Earth. At least, that is how the story is known to Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). These two are some of the only humans left on Earth. Humans assigned to extract the remains of Earth’s resources and use so-called Drones to fight off what Scavengers might be left to ruin their mission. The whole operation is being overseen by Commander Sally (Melissa Leo) from the enormous space station Tet, which will be used to transport the rest of the humans to Titan after the mission.
All is not so simple, however. Jack is plagued by constant dreams in which he sees images of Earth, seemingly from before the Scavenger invasion. Things become even more confusing for him when he encounters a fallen space pod that contains a hibernated woman (Olga Kurylenko) whom he recognizes from his dream. He also runs into a mysterious and intensely badass Morgan Freeman, proving not only that there are other humans left on Earth, but that the enemy may not be who he thought it was and that he himself may not be the human being he thinks he is. Action, drama and additional confusion ensues.
Oblivion is an often messy film that requires your complete attention. Even I wasn’t sure if I had truly understood everything after I watched it. I had to think about it for a while afterwards before I realized how everything made sense. I thought at first that maybe the film had too many ideas going on and that maybe it was a little too confusing at times, but then I thought about all the connections and twists yet again and it became outright brilliant. So, my advice is to not only pay attention during the movie, but also to think about it afterwards. You might enjoy it even more, unless all that extra thought power goes to nitpicking instead.
I mentioned that this film was directed by the man who made Tron: Legacy, which, to me, has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Well, he doesn’t disappoint here either. Oblivion contains some genuinely fantastic music composed by the likes of M83 and they go with the amazing visuals just perfectly. Just like the signficantly less entertaining Prometheus, this film was shot on Iceland, which is one of the most rewarding shooting locations for any visionary filmmaker, with its grand waterfalls and vast ash-laden landscapes. It makes for an eye-popping post-apocalyptic setting.
The only real nitpick I have off the top of my head is that I do not remember finding all of the characters particularly strong. Morgan Freeman plays by far the most intriguing character in the film, even though he’s not in it so often. I didn’t really care that much for the other characters and I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t respond to all of the performances or the characters themselves weren’t sympathetically written enough. If I had enjoyed the characters more, I probably would have given Oblivion a 5/5. But keep in mind, a 4.5/5 still equals greatness, at least according to my system.
One thing that’s certain, though, is that this is one hell of a smart movie. Having finally seen Oblivion, I know that I will have to go see it a second time. After that, I will almost certaintly want to go see it a third. It shall be interesting to see how the two other upcoming Apocalypse movies this year, After Earth and Elysium, compare.
Why are there so many “After The End” films coming out this year in particular? I dunno, but I’ll bet you anything that right now there’s a conspiracy theorist having a field day somewhere.