Monday, November 4, 2013


This is a very delayed review, as it's been sitting in my drafts begging to be edited and posted, and I only just now finally got around to it.

As I was sitting down to begin this piece, it occurred to me that I have no idea why the movie was entitled Oblivion. From my understanding of the definition, it didn't seem to fit the post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, so I asked my faithful friend The definition at the top of the list reads "the state of being completely forgotten or unknown."

I suppose Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is living in such a state. He lives in a pristine little apartment with one other person on an otherwise deserted and desolated earth. The rest of the humans are living off-planet, having evacuated after earth lost its livable conditions in a war against alien invaders. Whoever Jack's friends once were, they have forgotten him. Not that he minds-- he was subject to a mandatory memory wipe for security purposes, so he remembers nothing prior to his assignment to earth, and is far less eager to get off the planet than his partner Victoria. Jack is your typical Tom Cruise action-hero character: quiet desperation, resistance to the system, "moral" core, military fitness, unsolved mysteries of his past, etc. Naturally there is a reason for this, as there always is, and we're given the basic story about halfway through. As for Victoria, all we know is that she is paranoid of the outside world, and dresses for the office every day despite the fact that she never leaves the apartment. She might know more than she lets on, but we never really find out for sure.

This is one of those cases where the trailer to the movie unfortunately gave away too much, at least for me. For example, when we first glimpse the "aliens" dashing in the shadows, we already suspect that Morgan Freeman is somehow behind it. And due to the trailer, I also already had a few guesses about the real plot, and for the most part I was spot-on. I guessed a scenario similar to The Island involving false incentives and dark purposes, and I was correct. Even saying that just now is a huge spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen it, but it wasn't that hard to guess. The point is, going in to the movie I was already suspicious of the setup, so there were a few less surprises for me.

The few surprises that Oblivion did manage to pull off were very Isaac Asimov-ian, but excellent. If you don't know what I mean by that, think I, Robot. Dangit, that's another spoiler. BIG SPOILER WARNING: At the heart of Oblivion is not aliens, but sentient machinery, which is exponentially more terrifying. I don't just mean that this technology has been well-programmed for a variety of scenarios; it is in fact self-aware and frighteningly intelligent. In a way, the main collective consciousness known as "Sally" (similar to V.I.K.I. of I, Robot) is presented as an evil deity full of wrath, that sees all, knows all, and double-crosses its own pawns when they step out of line.

All in all, I would call Oblivion a pretty good and fully enjoyable popcorn flick. Mostly, it just plays like an action summer flick that uses Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman to make it look like a big-budget blockbuster. It also tries to follow the trend of using the captivating one-word title to sound intense. It's not great-- just pretty good, and that's really no one's fault. The fact is, originality is running out. With a few added elements, Oblivion felt like a union of The Island and I, Robot. It was definitely enjoyable, but not entirely novel.