(DL) – Science Fiction asks us to accept a false reality based on plausible possibility. Great stories are best when each turn comes as a surprise. Neither takes place in Oblivion. We enter Earth in the year 2077. Earth won a war against an alien race called Scavs. In winning the war 60 years prior, humans lost the planet. Our protagonist Jak Harper (Tom Cruise) tells us he is working on drones that protect giant mechanical beasts harvesting water for Earthlings now living on the Saturn moon Titan. The drones fight remaing Scavs that fight on against humans despite losing the war. Now the story begins. Jak is part of a two man team about to finish a tour of duty and join other Earthlings on Titan but his human nature and fragmented memories push him to get answers. His curiousity and love for Earth is not shared by his assigned romantic team mate Victoria yet he accepts her affections.
Homage to just about every other sci-fi story and film take place in Oblivion. To mention those films would spoil the story and will be left out of this review. The land is as open and elegant as the details of the story are simple. Iceland stands in for a desolate yet somewhat inhabitable Earth during filming. Despite the ominous predictability Oblivion's first act is promising. Establishing combat scenes have purpose yet don't instill and real concern. A certain level of mystery remains entact.
What will the story be from here out? You are meant to experience plot twists and nuanced changes that draw you in wondering what will happen next. However when a protagonist in the story tells you in the first 30 seconds of the story he and everyone else that works on Earth's drones must undergo a memory wipe, a smart theater goer figures out the entire film in seconds. In fact you may have done so even now.
Jak's story is one of self-awareness, acceptance, redemption, love and of course overcoming unsurmountable odds. Without latching on to any one of these plot lines the feel and believability of the characters is not enough to overcome the fact you have figured out what is coming next. In some films this is acceptable, look at the classic horror movie Jaws. You know the shark is going to eat someone but wow is it exciting to watch. This doesn't take place in Oblivion at any point in the story. There is zero tension.
This takes place over-and-over throughout Oblivion making an otherwise well acted, well constructed world that is spectacular eye candy – just another sci-fi. I give it two of five Danger's due to the weak story and overall predictablity, while it is still a watchable film. I experienced it on IMAX. For such stunning cinematography this is a must see on the big screen.
The other saving grace for Oblivion is it's pacing and direction. As outlined earlier the soul reason for watching this film is its stylistic cinematography of a post-apocalytic wasteland and special effects. The few gadgets such as the Skytower Jak and Victoria live in and Jak's transport vehical become character's in the story, one's you understand and expect use from.
Some Trivia: Jack's Secret Valley: June Lake - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Oblivion was originally planned as a graphic novel by director Joseph Kosinksi & Arvid Nelson for Radical Comics in 2005. Oblivion has never been published and is confirmed that it will never be printed as a graphic novel but may be printed as an illustrated novel with 40 or more wide format images. The screen play is by Michael Arndt utilizing earlier drafts by Karl Gajdusek and William Monahan (all of which are based on the unreleased graphic novel by Kosinski and Arvid Nelson). Kosinski also directed the video game Gears of War commercial featuring Mad World (Tears for Fears) performed by Gary Jules.
Soundtrack by: M83
Starring: Tom Cruise (Jak Harper) Olga Kurylenko (Julia) Andrea Riseborough (Victoria) Morgan Freeman (Malcolm Beech) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Sykes)
Written by: Joseph Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek & Michael Ardnt
Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Previous film credit - Tron: Legacy)
Run Time: 2hr 5 min