The movie follows Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) as he repairs drones on an Earth that has been lost in an alien war. According to Harper, the planet was rendered uninhabitable after the aliens destroyed the moon, which caused catastrophes due to the sudden shift in gravity. The nuclear arsenal was also deployed. Harper later finds that this is all a bold-faced lie.
Oblivion is one of those movies that is executed well, but doesn’t have much soul to speak of. The villains are sinister, the scenery is beautiful and the action is actiony, but the things that are wrong with it stand out so much further than the things that are right.
There are too many annoying, lazy tropes that encroach on the film’s potential. Morgan Freeman, despite second billing, has two whole scenes and is much less significant than Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko. The film leads with an extremely weak narration sequence that takes twice as long to set up the plot as the commercials did, and all the information is rehashed anyway. The invasion as it was described doesn’t make any sense, and even though it’s all a lie that’s bothersome.
The film makes a point of glossing over nuclear disarmament, despite it being a hot-button issue. Maybe that’s the moral writer/director/producer Joseph Kosinski (who also wrote the graphic novel on which it is based) was trying to establish — that nuclear disarmament is a bad thing. Or that it’s a good thing. I don’t know. Oblivion seems to have a message about nukes, but that message is unclear.
That’s not fair. This isn’t a bad movie, really, it isn’t. It’s shot beautifully, with Iceland’s odd majesty standing in beautifully for a buried New York City. Cruise, Kurylenko and Riseborough all do well, and at this point no one should expect more than a few scenes per movie out of Freeman.
There’s just something off about the whole thing. It’s one of the better things in theaters right now, but still isn’t worth going out for. Whether its the feel of being a mash-up between other, better films, or the fact that it feels about twice as long as it really is, or that still-so-annoying nonsense with physics, Oblivion just doesn’t have the goods.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. He would like to remind you to never trust strangers in parking lots. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back next week for a review of Pain & Gain.