Movie Review: 'Oblivion' is gorgeous and fun, if a little slight

‘Oblivion’ is a thoughtful, well-made sci-fi action movie that will divide movie goers.

The degree of enjoyment may depend upon what expectations and science fiction film history each audience member takes into the movie theater with him or her.

‘Oblivion’ is not Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ nor is it simply popcorn entertainment full of explosions and aliens.

Thankfully devoid of the pseudo-intellectual pretensions of Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus,’ this film does bear similarities to Scott’s film in its attempt to deliver a more intelligent science fiction product. On those merits alone, ‘Oblivion’ succeeds.

Director Joseph Kosinki has crafted a beautiful visual palette to frame the story of Jack Harper. Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last remaining residents of Earth. After a battle with an alien invasive force, Earth has been left unable to sustain human life. Humanity thwarted the alien army, but the resulting damage to the planet has left Earth uninhabitable.

Harper repairs armed drones which patrol fuel stations. These stations are mining what’s left of our natural resources and which convert water into a useable fuel. The fuel will be used to transport the remaining human survivors to our new home on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.

During the course of these repairs, Harper encounters an anomalous signal which leads to the discovery of other survivors and into a journey which will ultimately decide the fate of the human race.

‘Oblivion’ trailer

Director Kosinski was criticized for his lack of storytelling cohesion with his first feature (Tron: Legacy) and ‘Oblivion’ suffers from the same problem, to a lesser degree than that film. There are some unresolved plot points and a few lapses in narrative logic. These are minor points of contention, as the film still relates to the audience a compelling and interesting story.

Where the film shines is in its visual style and the on screen presence of Tom Cruise who is perfect for this character. Where the visuals are futuristic and barren, washed out of color and defined by their sharpness, Cruise’s scenes often bring a humanity and warmth to the film which gives it a sense of balance. It’s a combination that works.

There are moments in the film that brought to mind other science fiction films in my own viewing history. To delve further into that would possibly spoil some of the genuinely cool things about this movie. The film is not without original ideas, but there are some elements to the story which may seem familiar.

To judge this film on its own merits will reward you. Comparing ‘Oblivion’ to other films would lessen its substantial entertainment value. Viewing it for the sci-fi action film that it is, as opposed to the sum of assembled parts, will positively enhance the viewing experience.

‘Oblivion’ is a terrific start to the summer movie season. Fantastic visuals, interesting characters, and a compelling plot (with a few twists and turns to it) make this a highly entertaining sci-fi action film.  Cruise still delivers the goods as an action star, and ‘Oblivion’ is poised to be the first big hit of the summer.

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