Oblivion (dir. Joseph Kosinski, 2013) – On war-torn Earth, Jack and Victoria are the sole inhabitants stationed to repair drones. But when a spacecraft crash-lands, questions begin to surface.
A grand but banal landscape describes the desolate planet that once was Earth, as well as the movie that takes place on it.
When extraterrestrial Scavengers ravages Earth, survivors begin to relocate to Saturn’s Moon, Titan. Only Jack and Victoria remain on what is left of Earth from oblivion. Then, a pre-war spacecraft crashes and starts to raise questions about what really happened during the war.
For science fiction fans, Oblivion will look too familiar. The fusion of sci-fi classics adds to a full two-hour experience of déjà vu. Director Joseph Kosinski makes no bones about his love for the genre, his drones likely kin of HAL-9000 and its combat scenes reminiscent of George Lucas’ space battles. The twist will not be much of a surprise either, bearing similarities to a recent movie (that shall remain unnamed, for fear of giving away the plot).
Still, Joseph Kosinski retains his own voice with brilliant visuals. Even as the narrative proceeds with leaden steps towards less-than-surprising turns, the skyline is exceedingly ravishing. Beauty lives even in destruction. His recreation of the post-war planet in light, rather than darkness, is a sight to behold.
It is a pity that he dedicates less time to developing his characters than landscapes. Jeopardising his chance for safe refuge, Jack (Tom Cruise) frustrates with his reckless quest that finds more questions instead of answers. Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) is the very antithesis. She refuses to veer off path, brushing off doubts and running by the book.
Neither makes compromises in the worst of situations. There is little sense in their actions, while the narrative barely grazes their dynamics. This is where we least need an awkward romantic tangle, but we get it all the same. The script stumbles through familiar territory to reveal what we have already guessed, with no characters that we care to sympathise with.
After more than a few awful exchanges (“Are we going to die?” – “No!”), any emotional impact that had been intended dissipates without a trace. Just like that, Oblivion obliterates its potential to sit well with its clear influences. But bearing a less critical mind, we might still enjoy the picturesque experience with massive action-driven set-pieces.
And of course, Ramble On was a nice touch.