Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Superb visuals can’t hide ‘Oblivion’s’ shortcomings


For sci-fi fans, “Oblivion” will satisfy your taste for beautiful and mesmerizing special effects and a new and inventive storyline, but it is unable to thrust itself into orbit with other sci-fi classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Terminator” or “The Matrix.”

“Oblivion” is a very complex story about a ravaged and uninhabitable Earth which was destroyed in a war between Earth and aliens called “scavengers.”

Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, is a drone technician whose objective is to patrol areas of the earth, around a desolate and covered New York City, and fix patrolling drone robots that protect water converters that take water from the oceans and transfer it to Saturn’s moon, Titan, where the remainder of humanity has colonized.           

Things begin to change for Jack when a space shuttle crash lands and he meets a survivor, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), who has been recurring in his dreams. Things change even more for Jack and his reality begins to turn upside-down when he is captured by Morgan Freeman and it is revealed that there are still some survivors on Earth. Jack begins to question his directives and the truth behind what happened on Earth.

Tom Cruise gives the best performance of any of the cast and he is what holds the movie together. Although he is now 50 years old, Cruise is able to take the reins of his action-packed character and gives a thrilling performance, both in terms of action and drama. Kurylenko is very weak and her on-screen relationship with Cruise is strained because of the awkwardness between them. “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski does a solid job of piecing the movie together and he nails the action scenes, but his pacing is a bit off.

There are some parts of the movie that seem a bit sluggish and the finale escalates too quickly. The opening 10-15 minutes are striking visually but they are accompanied by a narration of what had happened to the earth, but it goes on for a tedious five minutes. Also, the non-existent chemistry between Cruise and Kurylenko drags down the pace of the film and makes the film tiresome during dialogue scenes.

“Oblivion” is absolutely incredible to look at. Overall, the special effects and CGI are beautifully executed and this film has set the benchmark for all future sci-fi. The aerial scenes are a thrill to watch as are visuals of the few national landmarks that remain in the desolate wasteland. The futuristic technology is also very cool in its design and function, especially Jack’s bubble ship. This is really where “Oblivion” shows its strength. It is a joy to look at and an exhilarating spectacle, but the execution on the story is where “Oblivion” falls out of orbit.

“Oblivion” is hodgepodge of former sci-fi films and any sci-fi buff will notice the many similarities, which is where the movie flops in regards to innovation. It is almost as though they used the stories from various sci-fi classics and just compressed them into one film. There are similarities to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Terminator,” and even the dreadful “Waterworld.”           

Movies like “The Matrix” and “Terminator” are far superior to “Oblivion,” when it comes to the execution of the story and inventiveness, but “Oblivion” trumps these films in terms of visuals. “Oblivion” will likely leave sci-fi fans satisfied, but not enthralled, whereas for a casual viewer “Oblivion” will seem to be one of the best movies they have seen in recent years

“Oblivion” is in the minority group of genuinely unique material that will hit the silver screen this year. Sequels will be everywhere this year, so it takes guts and talent to come up with a new story and put hundreds of millions of dollars toward the project, so “Oblivion” and its director are worthy of praise. The major problem with “Oblivion” is that it had the potential to be considered one of the best sci-fi films of all time. It had the visuals, music, mysteries and the overall story was interesting, but the execution and predictability is really what detracts from the effectiveness of the film.

One of the best things in “Oblivion,” besides the visuals, is the soundtrack. M83, famous for its hit “Midnight City,” put together an intense and thrilling soundtrack that is a mix of Daft Punk’s “Tron: Legacy” and Hans Zimmer’s “The Dark Knight”/”Inception.” The soundtrack is majestic when there are beautiful aerial shots or mysterious scenes, but it also is greatly thrilling during fight scenes and air fighter warfare.

Overall, “Oblivion” is a very mixed bag. Casual moviegoers will very much enjoy this film all the way through and will talk about it once they are out of the theater, but sci-fi fanatics will only feel satisfied and will soon forget it for its story and only remember it for its stunning visuals.

Ryan Sacco can be reached at [email protected].

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