From the director of Tron Legacy comes this Tom Cruise-starring post-apocalyptic sci-fi in which a drone repairman with a testicle-shaped helicopter goes around a devastated Earth working on his final task before being sent to the next planet humans have decided to inhabit.
Cruise is Jack Harper, a normal-enough dude with a penchant for white leather who starts having regular nightmares depicting a life he can't recall. Which makes sense since he and his partner, along with many others, all agreed to have their memories erased after the war... for some reason. Slowly but surely, he starts to find out that his reality isn't quite as straight-forward as he originally believed. It's hardly a new premise but with its cool visuals and fresh-ish approach, Oblivion certainly looked like a promising sci-fi thriller. Director Joseph Kosinski once again delivers a great-looking film full of interesting futuristic technology and big ideas.
Once again, however, there is something missing.
Oblivion is almost completely derivative: for every scene you can probably think of another film that does what it's trying to do, and sometimes much better. The lonely everyday life of Jack Harper in that first half hour is reminiscent of I Am Legend and even Castaway. The whole thing about him having these strange recurring dreams is very common in that genre, too common even (Cypher comes to mind). Every desert-set post-apocalyptic film obviously evokes the Mad Max franchise at least a little, the technology involved is very "Aperture Science" (see games like Portal or Half Life) and amidst several 2001: A Space Odyssey nods and plot developments lifted straight from Moon, we finally get a Terminator Salvation-style ending. And that's just a handful of similar films I've named, you could come up with many, many more. It really is a shame that Oblivion doesn't successfully distance itself from past sci-fi outings because at its core, there was a really good, original movie there.
What we're left with is a film that wants to tell a personal Moon-style story, staying very close to the main character's arc, but also wants to be a big budget Tom Cruise action film with things exploding left and right, twists upon twists and a Wall-E-type scale/environmental message. Sadly, Oblivion should have been one or other, it can't have it both ways. The plot will lose you about two-thirds of the way through and by the end it'll pretty much lose itself.
That said, the cast does fine, it's all pretty entertaining, it looks good, sounds great and although it doesn't really deliver on all accounts and isn't quite as memorable as it should be, parts of it work really well and as a whole it's not bad, it's just...