Rama Rating 7 out of 10
Want to know what has happened in science fiction films in the last 35 years? Sure, you could go watch a comprehensive list and spend weeks viewing them all; or, you can just watch Oblivion. A hyper-mash-up of sci-fi, Oblivion pays homage to several great films, all while delivering it's own intriguing plot and entertaining action.
While this isn't likely to be mentioned alongside many of the films it draws from, including Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even more recent fare like Moon and the video game Portal, it does find an interesting way to bring elements of each all together while creating a unique story of its own. Centered around Tom Cruise's Jack Harper, the film is set on a future Earth where the Moon has been destroyed and the Earth thrown into chaos after an alien invasion. Harper works as a technician, guarding and repairing drones that in turn guard massive devices in the remaining oceans, converting Earth's sea water into fuel for a massive ship known as the Tet.
But while the trailers may show a seemingly generic plot of Harper going up against survivors who may not be what they seem, the twists it takes keeps you guessing and manages to deliver one or two genuine surprises (and a couple most sci-fi fans will see coming a mile away).
It's hard to talk much about this movie without dishing out massive spoilers. It's amazing how well the aforementioned properties fit together into one big mush. Cruise and company do an incredible job holding all the pieces together. Cruise in particular is remarkable - he has several long moments on screen alone, and makes every one of them stay compelling. His pair of female co-stars Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough, both do a fair amount of butt-kicking on their own, as well, and help ground the movie more in a bit of reality. Morgan Freeman's role is surprisingly small, but effective, and a surprise second-in-command wil get geek fans excited.
Director Joseph Kosinski, to his credit, also does a great job juggling, and seems to have learned from his work on Tron: Legacy (not to mention his love of that movie's score). Every scene in the movie is very deliberately shot. There's not a lot of hecticness to it, almost to a fault. Things happen almost a little too cleanly, giving some of the action sequences a clinical surreality. It's unclear whether that's what Kosinski was going for, and while it didn't affect the actual viewing of the movie, it lingers in retrospect.
It's a shame we'll never see the original version of the story, as the "graphic novel" that it's based on was never actually made, and according to sources close to Radical Comics it never will be. It would be interesting, with how much the movie rests on other films for everything from action to plot twists to tension, to see how that translates into a comic book story.
Regardless, Oblivion is a pleasant surprise and a very good sci-fi popcorn movie. It's a welcome distraction with a strong sense of hope and optimism in the face of impossibility - something the world sorely needs at the moment.Oblivion is in theaters today, April 19, 2013