At the Movies: Oblivion

I get tired of writing the same thing again and again, just as I’m sure you get tired of reading it.

How many times have I said some variation of the following when talking about a science fiction or fantasy movie: “It looks great but the story is lacking” ?

Yeah, I’ve lost count as well. But brace yourself, I’m about to say it again.

“Oblivion” features impressive special effects and set designs and is very entertaining to look at. The story is meh.

It’s a shame the visual effects people keep making improvements year upon year but the writers can’t advance past Rod Serling circa 1960.

oblivion-posterAt some point in the future, alien invaders blow up the moon, and in retaliation the earthlings nuke the planet which scares off the invaders. With a ruined moon and an irradiated earth, humans pack up and move to Titan, a moon near Saturn.

Some large recycling plants are sucking dry the ravaged earth and sending that energy to Titan. A two-person team — technician Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and communications officer Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) —  remains on the planet to protect the power plants from scavengers, or Scavs. They are aided by round robotic drones.


Jack and Victoria aren’t just teammates, they’re lovers. Although lately Jack has been having dreams about another woman (Olga Kurylenko) and the world before oblivion. Jack and Victoria are just days away from retirement and a new life on Titan, but Jack’s not sure he wants to leave earth.

Be it ever so irradiated, there’s no place like home.

As always happens when you’re days away from retirement, something happens that turns Jack and Victoria’s world upside down. In this case, an encounter with the leader of the Scavs (Morgan Freeman) and a crashed spaceship.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski and based on his graphic novel, there is a lot to like about “Oblivion.” It’s a feast for the eyes. From the high-tech home in the clouds where Jack and Victoria live to the scenes of post-apocalyptic Earth, the movie is visually compelling. The drones are nifty with clever designs. The special effects are sharp. The actors are fine.

If only the story were as polished. Kosinski does a nice job of building the mystery and suspense but when he finally has to start delivering answers it’s not very satisfying. I’m not even sure it makes sense.

Still, if you’re a sucker for post-apocalyptic sci-fi and style over substance, “Oblivion” is worth seeing on a big screen. And best of all, for some reason it’s not in 3D.






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