‘Oblivion’: derivative but satisfying sci-fi


Jay Whang

Tom Cruise’s latest movie, Oblivion, successfully plays out like a middle-of-the-road, straight-forward science fiction tale. It has some moments that provoke the audiences’ thoughts on the post-apocalyptic world the main characters Jack Harper (Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, Welcome to the Punch) live in.

Based on the unpublished graphic novel co-created by the director of the film, Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), the story follows Jack Harper and his lover Victoria, two of the few surviving humans on Earth. They are in an operation to extract resources from a post-war Earth. Weaponized drones are everywhere, floating above the surface and detecting remaining aliens and eliminating them.

Before the mission, their memories on Earth of the time before the alien invasion are erased, which is mandatory. As Jack nears the end of the mission, the spaceship The Odyssey crashes onto the surface. The only survivor of the crash is a woman named Julia (played by Olga KurylenkoQuantum of Solace), and she has a mysterious connection with Jack from his past on pre-invasion Earth. This leads to several mysteries surrounding the surviving aliens on Earth (the leader played by Morgan FreemanThe Dark Knight), the floating drones and the commander behind this mission (played by Melissa LeoThe Fighter).

The plot may be derivative and unoriginal. It borrows lots of elements from well-known sci-fi films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and The Planet of the Apes. Everyone, including sci-fi buffs such as me, can recognize that the drones resemble Hal-9000 a bit and famous landmarks are destroyed, all things involving human civilizations in space.

But the film’s pastiche may be intention, considering the director of the film, Kosinski , said the film homages sci-fi classics from the 1970s. This is what I like to call it “A George Lucas Throwback”: going back to the tradition set up in the past by popular films in the genre.

What made this movie feel alive, despite its unoriginality, are Cruise’s charisma and the striking visuals. Cruise gave his usual maverick persona to his own character (who strangely enough, has the same first name from a few movies he starred in), and at the same time, he reacted how any normal human being would in a past v. present conflict.

The visuals gave more life into the film than anything else. The landscape shots and photo-realistic special effects gave some depth to the world that the characters lived in and reflected the thought-provoking themes within the film.

The movie is never boring; it has some action scenes that are well-shot and directed and also has enough pacing to explore all the usual themes you see in many other science-fiction films. There are some twists and turns, and some people might find these lame because these twists happened in other sci-fi films a decade ago. The film may turn some people away because it lacks originality, but it’s worth a watch if you are fan of typical Tom Cruise action films and traditional sci-fi films.
By Jay Whang