By Ashley Bergner
Box Office Buzz
At first glance, Jack Harper doesn’t seem very different from other average, everyday Americans. Each morning, he wakes up, travels to work, comes home, eats dinner, goes to bed, and then wakes up and does it all over again.
Yet there is something that separates Harper, and that’s the fact he happens to be the ONLY person on the planet Earth who is still following this routine. “Oblivion” is set in the year 2077, and Harper (Tom Cruise) and communications officer Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the last two humans left on the now-desolate planet Earth. Sixty years ago, Earth was attacked by mysterious aliens known as “Scavengers,” and though the humans won the war, the planet was so damaged by the battles that it can no longer support life. Most of the humans have abandoned the planet and set up a colony on the moon of Titan, and Harper and Victoria were assigned to remain behind to collect the planet’s remaining resources for Titan’s use.
Harper and Victoria’s knowledge of the past is somewhat hazy due a memory wipe for the sake of “security,” and they’ve been informed they will soon be allowed to finally leave Earth and join the other colonists on Titan. Although Victoria is eagerly looking forward to rejoining what’s left of Earth’s population, Harper is more hesitant to leave the planet. He can’t escape a feeling that Earth is still “home” and that something isn’t quite right about this situation. He’s haunted by dreams of a woman he’s never seen before but somehow feels that he knows. When a spaceship crashes on the planet and Jack rescues a woman from the wreckage who looks just like the woman in his dreams, this sets off a chain of events that forces Jack to re-think everything he’s been told about his mission, the invasion, Victoria and even himself.
“Oblivion” was released in theaters Friday and is the second film from Joseph Kosinski, who also directed 2010’s “Tron: Legacy.” Although reviewers praised “Tron: Legacy’s” impressive visual effects, Kosinski was criticized for neglecting character development and plot. How does “Oblivion” compare?
From a purely visual standpoint, “Oblivion” is one of the most gorgeous science fiction films I’ve ever seen. The movie was shot primarily in Iceland, which seems to be the go-to site for sci-fi films lately (last summer’s “Prometheus” was also filmed there). The country’s vast, lonely landscapes manage to be stark, beautiful and harsh, all at the same time. The bleak, futuristic tone is furthered enhanced by the film’s color palette — composed mostly of whites, grays and blacks — and the sleek, clean lines of the ships and buildings. The computer-generated effects are integrated so seamlessly into the film I couldn’t tell what was real and what had been digitally created. The film has an excellent soundtrack composed by French electronic band M83, reminiscent of the score composed by Daft Punk for “Tron: Legacy.”
“Oblivion” is currently scoring in the high 50s on Rotten Tomatoes, which is not quite enough to certify it as “fresh” but still indicates that more than half of the critics enjoyed it. It’s a higher rating than “Tron,” and I think Kosinski has taken a step forward here. While giving “Oblivion” more heart and deeper characters may have heightened the emotional impact, Kosinski is helped by performances from the always-charismatic Cruise and the quietly tragic Riseborough.
Some critics have also accused the film of being too derivative of other sci-fi classics, but I will say this personally didn’t bother me while watching the movie. After I watched it, I could think of parts that did remind me of other sci-fi films I’d seen, yet I still enjoyed it. I also liked the fact “Oblivion” dared to do something different — the film isn’t packed with non-stop action. Although I love action-filled, big-budget blockbusters like “The Avengers,” sometimes it is nice to take a slow burn approach. There are some good action set pieces in “Oblivion,” but the movie takes its time revealing the mystery.
The final product may not be flawless, but I had fun watching “Oblivion” in the theater. It’s an early kick-off to the summer movie season, and it’s a visual work of art that will appeal most to sci-fi fans.