Eric's Review of Oblivion
Oblivion is the most original take on the alien invasion genre that I've seen in a long, long time. It's also the best.
Some people like Tom Cruise. Others hate him. He's a polarizing mega-star that can bring in audience as well as keep some away. I myself think he's a fine actor who only suffers from having too much on screen personality (and perhaps offscreen as well?), making really hard to forget you're watching Tom Cruise instead of the character he's portraying. The Last Samurai is a great example of an excellent film with a strong performance but where you can never see the character as not being Tom Cruise. Oblivion suffers from the same problem.
My anticipation for this film stemmed from the excellent trailers depicting a compelling sci-fi story with a thoughtful plotline where all was not as it seemed. Right up my alley. Then there was the fact it was directed by Joseph Kosinski whose previous work was Tron: Legacy, a film I adored despite it's failings (say what you want, but the problems with that film were not the directing).
Oblivion was one of my most highly anticipated films of the year. That's saying quite a bit when you consider what films are on the docket to be released. Did it let me down? Quite the contrary.
The premise of the film is that Earth was invaded by an alien race called Scavs (short for scavengers) by the remaining survivors. Humanity won the war but devastated the planet in the process so the remaining survivors had to emigrate offworld into a massive station known as the Tet (short for tetrahedron?) leaving behind massive fusion processors that are sucking up the Earth's oceans to make fuel for the trip to and colonization of Titan (one of Saturn's moons). Only a few maintenance crews remain behind to oversee and repair robotic drones used to protect the fusion processors from Scav remnants still remaining on the planet seeking to destroy them. Jack and Victoria are such a two man crew. They only have two more weeks on the job before they get to join the others on the Tet and make their way to Titan. Victoria can't wait. Jack is beginning to dread the idea as Earth is his home, and he's starting to have memories of the past, before the war, that he shouldn't have.
The film starts off slow, and takes it's time getting into things. This is a good thing as it really helps the audience buy into this world and the lives of these two survivors Jack and Victoria. The character development that results is important to the emotional impact the film strives for later.
Unfortunately, the trailers for this film spoil quite a bit. Morgan Freeman's character should have been a huge reveal but instead it's more of a, "I was wondering when we'd get to this part of the story," moment. Fortunately, this film has several other tricks up it's sleeve to keep you guessing and surprise you with. Just avoid any spoilers (including the trailers) if you can help it.
While the film has some big twists, the plot points in between are relatively straightforward. This has lead many to call the film predictable. I am reminded of a little film called Star Wars. Was anyone surprised that Luke used the Force to blow up the Death Star? Of course not, and it was still satisfying. But no one saw Vader being Luke's dad. Oblivion is a lot like that; it progresses along paths you'd expect until every once in a while it hits you with a curve ball. And like Star Wars, Oblivion liberally and unapologetically borrows from past sci-fi classics, but in doing so makes something wonderfully new and exciting.
Oblivion is a strikingly beautiful film with fantastic visuals. Joseph Kosinski has an eye for visual storytelling that certainly carried over from Tron: Legacy. He apparently has an ear for music as well. Tron: Legacy was hailed for it's musical accompaniment, and the score for Oblivion is almost equally as powerful (coincidentally pairing up with a different Tron composer, Joseph Trapanese). Because of this, I highly recommend seeing this film in IMAX.
All is not perfect with this film. As much as I liked it and want to praise it, I struggle with giving it five stars. There's just something intangible missing from it that I can't put my finger on. It's definitely a film I need to see again, but more importantly for the purpose of this review it's definitely a film I want to see again.