Oblivion (2013)
Universal // PG-13 // April 19, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted April 18, 2013
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Graphical Version

Joseph Kosinski's TRON: Legacy reintroduced us to the world of the Programs in 2010. Fast forward three years, and you'll find this writer/director returning to the science fiction genre. His interest in this type of filmmaking is clear, but Kosinski has yet to entirely impress me. I found TRON: Legacy to be entertaining, but I have been curious to see him direct an idea of his own. While Oblivion doesn't necessarily exist as a graphic novel, Radical Publishing has illustrations that created the initial concept. The graphic novel's artist started drawing it, but quickly began developing concept art for the film. This might not be Kosinski's first original picture, but it still offers an enjoyable story, even though he takes material from multiple sci-fi flicks. If you go into this with reasonable expectations, then you'll find this to be an acceptable pre-summer flick.

Earth has endured a nuclear war, which has left the planet in ruins. Commander Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) reside above the clouds in the sky, as they approach the end of their mission. They claim to be an excellent team, as Jack flies to the surface, while Victoria defends him from above. They maintain the planet's defensive drones, while avoiding the dangerous Scavs who inhabit the Earth. When a ship suddenly crashes into his territory, Jack discovers that a mysterious woman is the sole survivor. She ultimately leads him to shocking truths about humankind's legacy, which will change the world forever.

Each section of Oblivion could easily be compared to a different movie. While slight nods can be appreciated, this film takes entire plot progressions from previous science fiction flicks. The first act is the strongest portion of the film, which has numerous similarities to WALL·E. Jack explores the planet he misses, which most certainly takes its toll on his emotions. He begins collecting a variety of everyday objects, which he places in a cabin that he uses as an escape. This segment focuses on Jack and Victoria, as well as how these characters deal with being so close to the planet they once called home. Oblivion takes place from Jack's perspective, as we occasionally watch Victoria help her partner from the house above the clouds. Kosinski's exploration of this world is incredibly absorbing, as audiences will find themselves craving more of these moments. Jack's interactions with this damaged planet definitely held my attention. These characters had potential to become unique and intriguing, but this portion of the picture doesn't last for the entire running time.

Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt wrote this screenplay, which begins by feeling like a character study. However, the second act launches us into a completely different territory. There are numerous plot "twists," but each one is more predictable than the last. The build ultimately feels like a waste of time, since it transforms into a mindless sci-fi flick with some elements from the action genre. This primarily begins after Jack saves the life of the mysterious woman from the crash site. Oblivion becomes a lot less about any of the characters, and decides to focus on Jack's latest discoveries. The dialogue is never fantastic, but it seems to get worse as time goes on. The screenwriters attempted to create earnest moments, but these sequences ultimately come across as being quite corny. The relationships between the characters eventually feel incredibly distant, which truly detracts from the feature's experience. The first act spent the time to make us care for these characters, but that is all thrown away for clichés.

The final portion of Oblivion introduces some entertaining battle scenes, although none of it is fluid. There are some pacing issues, which make the film feel a lot longer than it actually is. The running time barely passes two hours, but the ending drags its way to the finish line. The second half of this picture's duration doesn't spark any curiosity or intrigue, which is a real shame. Kosinski started off with an interesting first act, but ultimately goes down a safe and predictable path. I found it easy to connect with Jack and Victoria, but I was never able to feel sympathetic towards Julia (Olga Kurylenko). Her dialogue with Jack is slightly awkward at times, when it's supposed to be genuine. Oblivion's screenplay has an engrossing beginning, but the rest of the picture heads in a completely different direction.

Enter Tom Cruise, who plays Jack. He doesn't break too far from his typical role, but he manages to bring a solid amount of depth to this character. Morgan Freeman is Beech, who is barely seen on screen. He's an excellent addition to any cast, even though audiences don't get to see him very much. Olga Kurylenko has the look for the role of Julia, but she doesn't have the charm. Her interactions with Cruise are far from authentic. Andrea Riseborough is surprisingly captivating as Victoria. She's quite convincing in this role, as she elevates this supporting character. Oscar-winner Melissa Leo has several appearances as Sally, which work in the film's favor. This cast is better than your average science fiction flick, for the most part.

The most impressive elements of Oblivion are the audiovisual aspects. Joseph Kosinski has incorporated a similar look from TRON: Legacy. Each scene is absolutely stunning with its futuristic atmosphere, which makes for an outstanding IMAX experience. There are an abundance of whites, grays, and blues, which contrast with the heavy blacks rather well. The visuals are only matched by the stunning audio track, as the score sounds phenomenal. Kosinski's audio team utilizes every speaker in the theater in order to create a convincing world, which is one of the few memorable things about this picture. Joseph Kosinski's writing skills could use some help, but he does an excellent job behind the camera.

Oblivion isn't great, but it could have been much worse. The first act is the strongest, as it develops interesting characters. It doesn't take long to connect with these roles, although the feature decides to embark on a completely different path through the second half of the running time. The plot becomes undeniably predictable and it loses a large amount of its tension. There are a few solid action sequences, but they don't hold up to the beginning of the picture. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough are quite good in these roles, but the writing becomes increasingly worse. However, if you're looking for a visually appealing science fiction flick, then this isn't a bad choice. Recommended.

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