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Oblivion Review: A Collage of Sci-fi

Sci-fi is a popular stable of fiction and we have seen many great stories in the genre. It is a genre that has many avenues to explore and Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion certainly uses as many sci-fi elements and tropes as possible. The year is 2077 and it has been 60 years since Earth was invaded by an alien race, known as Scavengers, who blow up the Moon. Humanity repealed the invasion but it was a pyrrhic victory, as most of the planet has become uninhabitable and humanity now lives on a space colony on Titan. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are a mop up crew on Earth, with mission to maintain drones to protect sea based power generators from the reminding ‘Scavs’. They are two weeks away to finishing their mission and go to Titan. But despite Jack having his memory erased he keeps having dreams about a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko). He is soon thrown into a conspiracy when the ‘Scavs’ try to capture Jack and make a signal to bring down cryo-pod in space contending the woman of Jack’s dreams, a Russian woman called Julie Rusakova. Oblivion is compilation of sci-fi movies and fiction and if you played a drinking game about spotting each of these sci-fi references: you would suffer liver failure by the end of the movie. The clearest parallels are with Moon, following its set up, the plot points, the reveal and conspiracy, the other being Total Recall as Jack suffers from confessing memories, not knowing what is real sense of reality is and ending joining the rebel forces. Other sci-fi elements used include the manipulation of reality by a distance Big Brother like entity who creates a common enemy like in Nineteen-Eighty Four, to ideas and scenes used in I, Robot, Independence Day, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The 6th Day. Even the art direction within the tower shares a look with white clear look of I, Robot, Star Trek (2009) 2001: A Space Odyssey and Portal and the imagery of the destroyed Earth looks like it was influenced by The Road and Planet of the Apes. Like Kosinski’s previous movie Tron Legacy, Oblivion is impressive to look at, with excellent action and lush production design, but the film never fully fleshes out its ideas. It was clear that Kosinski was committed to the movie, it was based on his own unpublished graphic novel. He wanted to make more then a sci-fi actioneer and make something more thoughtful as it looks at themes of reality, identity and manipulation. It was certainly a noble attempt but Kosinski lets his movie drag and it is a little too easy to think about other sci-fi movies during the proceedings. Oblivion certainly felt like it kept to its graphic novel origins: it had grand images, designs and concepts and its strong action. The reveal about who the Scavs really are would worked better on the page but that is because in a comic book it is harder to see what is coming then in a movie because of the why they are promoted. Some of the dialogue also felt too comic book like, being very clunky and unnatural. The major fault with the movie is it does drag and has at times a slow pace. This is of course a part of the attempt to make Oblivion into a more meaningful movie then being an action movie. But it does not bring anything new to the table and many of the plot points are predictable, especially if you have seen Moon. Oblivion’s editor needed to be a little more ruthless. Whilst Kosinski needs to work a bit more at bringing out his themes and fleshing out idea, he's an accomplished visualist. He does give us a stark view of an empty, destroyed Earth, crumbling away and contrasting it to the ultra-modern, clean look of the tower. Kosinski knows how to shot impressive action sequences and he gives us a lot, from aerial dog fights to gun battles to fist fights. One of the best moments is when the camera follows a drone causing carnage during a battle. Oblivion certainly has a top cast. Cruise continues to show off his leading man credentials and he is a solid presence throughout the movie; though he gets to be with two women who are nearly 20 years his junior. It is good to see Riseborough finally getting a major role in a Hollywood movie and she gave a really good, quiet and naturalistic performance throughout. Morgan Freeman too looked like he was having fun with his supporting but pivotal role. But Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was wasted and underused in his role. Like Tron Legacy, Kosinski brings a major French band, this time M83, to provide the score. Whilst there are some similarities to the score for Inception, it still is a fine score. Oblivion borrows too many ideas and concepts from sci-fi and does not create enough of its own. It is still a solidly entertaining movie with its action and intrigue it creates and the actors were certainly demanded to give good performances during the movie. A final note, Oblivion offers a true cinematic rarity; they play a Led Zeppelin song!


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