Oblivion, Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi vehicle, is a competent if not ground-breaking dystopian thriller. Imagine a big budget version of Duncan Jones’ Moon, starring Cruise instead of Sam Rockwell. (And if you haven’t seen Moon, what are you waiting for? It’s great.)
It’s the year 2077. We’re told that the Earth has been invaded by aliens who blew up the moon, wreaking havoc and causing mass destruction on Earth. It isn’t really explained why they blew up the Moon. I guess blowing up the Moon is the most cost-effective way to kill most of the people on Earth. Fucking aliens, right? Always doing stuff on the cheap.
Anyway, the good news is that the Earthlings won the war. The bad news is that we had to nuke the planet to do it. So now Earth is almost uninhabitable, and just about everybody lives on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Only a skeleton crew remains behind on Earth to maintain gigantic reactors that are sucking up all the water from the oceans and turning it into energy, which is then beamed to Titan or something. Honestly, the more I think about the whole reactor thing, the less sense it makes. If these are fusion reactors, you could get enough energy out of a teaspoon to power New York for a year, so I don’t really see how they could be depleting the oceans. And how does this energy get to Titan? Microwave beams? That seems really impractical. Isn’t there any water that isn’t hundreds of millions of miles away from Titan?
Tom Cruise doesn’t trouble himself with any of these questions because he’s just a guy doing a job, and he’s only got two weeks left before he can go home. But then things start happening that make him start asking… well, not those questions exactly, but other questions that are also important. Eventually, of course, he finds out that Things Are Not What They Seem.
Oblivion looks great, and it avoids most of the cliche tropes of the genre, although Morgan Freeman as the world weary, shades-wearing leader of the underground resistance movement felt a little tired to me. I mean, I love Morgan Freeman as much as any other straight white man, but between Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix and Denzel Washington in the title role of The Book of Eli, I feel like the role of Charismatic Post-Apocalyptic African-American Prophet Who Inexplicably Always Wears Sunglasses is pretty much played out at this point. It’s the sort of role that Freeman could play in his sleep (and he might have, now that I think about it; those sunglasses are pretty dark).
Enjoyable flick overall. Three stars out of five.