Random Thoughts on Oblivion

One-line summary of Oblivion: Ethan Hunt, Nelson Mandela, and Jaime Lannister fight an evil space triangle.

What? That’s not enough to get you to see the movie? Fine, I’ll share some random thoughts on it so that you can see if the movie is worth your money. While I very much enjoyed Oblivion, I feel that it’s important to note that I had really low expectations going into last Monday’s screening. First, I’m still not over my disappointment with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, so I was kind of down on 2013 movies in general. Secondly, I read a couple of reviews that said that the movie was like a stereotypical high-school cheerleader: beautiful to look at, but not a lot there. While the movie’s cinematography was definitely superb, I also enjoyed the story and performances. Oblivion didn’t blow me away by any means, but I had fun with it as a sci-fi spectacle with a touch of romance. Now for some random thoughts (with minor spoilers)!

Story and Writing: Like so many sci-fi movies before it, Oblivion tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic Earth. Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, a repairman who is stationed on Earth to oversee the mining of the planet’s remaining natural resources. He lives in a lovely sky studio (that looks like it was designed by Philippe Starck) with his lover and computer operator Victoria Olsen. The two believe that they’re on the final two weeks of their mission, counting down the days before they can go to Titan (Saturn’s largest moon) and rejoin the rest of humanity…but things aren’t what they seem.

Jack, being the naturally curious repairman that he is, believes that something is amiss and suffers from constant flashbacks (that may or may not have been the result of too many viewings of Sleepless in Seattle). Through a series of plot twists, he’s captured by the Scavengers. He believed that the Scavs are aliens that destroyed the Earth, but in reality they’re just a bunch of guys that dress like the Helghast from Killzone and know the truth behind Earth’s demise. Some critics have said that the movie’s writing is derivative; while it’s true that it borrows several conventions and twists found in other sci-fi movies, I thought that it was put together in a way that stands on its own.

Cinematography: This is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in the last five years. There are several shots that will take your breath away (like in the old Tom Cruise movie). By my completely unscientific estimation, at least 50 percent of the movie consists of scenes featuring Cruise by himself. The DP and director did a masterful job with these scenes, creating palpable feelings of isolation and desolation. (Shooting Cruise by himself also helps mask his height. Bonus!) If you’re a sci-fi or videography fan then it’s worth paying money to see this movie on the big screen. Some of the shots are that good.

Music: One of the few problems I had with the movie was with the score. There are three scenes where the score’s sound is pumped up to create a sense of drama. The technique only worked in the last instance, which was near the end of the movie. That scene felt appropriately climactic and triumphant, aided by the stentorian score. In the other two scenes I was wondering, “Why is the music so loud?” It felt out of place at best and forced at worst. Overall this was a minor problem, but the pair of scenes that featured inappropriately loud music pulled me out of the fantasy and reminded me that I was in a movie theater in Culver City. That’s not what you want a movie’s soundtrack to do.

The Kingslayer: It was fun seeing Nikolaj Coster-Waldau outside of HBO’s outstanding Game of Thrones. He doesn’t do a whole lot and my friend Paul theorized that some of his scenes were added after he became famous. Certainly some of his action sequences feel tacked on and don’t really serve much of a purpose other than to get moviegoers to think, “Sweet! Jaime Lannister is a badass with guns as well as swords!”

Bottom LineOblivion is an undeniably beautiful movie. It’s full of scenes that look amazing and will dazzle moviegoers. The movie’s story is the easiest part to criticize. I understand why some people feel that it borrows from several other sci-fi films and mashes them up into a hodgepodge that doesn’t quite work, but I disagree with that opinion. For me, Oblivion was just on the right side of the line between having a plot that’s entertainingly smart and one that’s too clever for its own good (see Prometheus). While I don’t think it will go down as a sci-fi classic, it’s a fun movie that deftly blends drama and action, while topping it off with a bit of romance.

Author: RPadTV


2 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on Oblivion”

  1. I stopped reading at “minor spoilers” since I hate it when people ruin movies for me before I see them. I’ll most likely see this when it comes out on video. I’m saving up all of my babysitting credits for Iron Man 3, Man of Steel (please don’t suck), and Star Trek. I can’t waste my precious little movie time with random Tom Cruise sci-fi stuff.


  2. I think I have this movie pegged but I’m still interested to see it in case I’m right.

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