Science fiction is a genre I feel is admirable and underrated. I also understand, however, that science fiction shares shreds of the same make up as fantasy, action, and horror. These genres can easily slide into the cheesy category at the drop of a dime. When that happens it is easy to lose your audience. I am huge fan of sci/fi. I love it! "Silly" and "stupid"sci/fi even have a soft spot in my heart. I am NOT a fan of lazy sci/fi though...
"Oblivion," the new film starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, and Olga Kurylenko is not a film I would define as lazy...at least not quite. It features pieces of other movies rolled into one super science fiction adventure. There are miss placed memories mixed with lies and deception. This is very reminiscent of "Total Recall" and "Minority Report" (yet another sci/fi film featuring Tom Cruise.) There is a dead planet that civilization has moved on from. An idea that has been featured in so many films, its insane. Even the costume and space design seem to be in the vine of the 1960's and 1970's. This formula is not new in Hollywood...something I feel many people didn't even realize was happening.
Despite vast amounts of familiarity, "Oblivion" is actually pretty good. The cinematography and designs are very cool to look at. There are action beats that are pretty cool. Most of all, it's the actors that really hit this home. No matter what you think of Tom Cruise and his personal life, one thing is certain. The guy gets up in the morning and goes to work. He is a man that seems to really believe in a script, particularly scripts he likes. When he believes in a project, the audience goes right along with him. Morgan Freeman has been good ever since he started acting. I feel like someone could make a movie of Morgan Freeman reading names from a phone book and it would somehow be amazing. Olga Kurylenko is an actress I've liked ever since she was the Bond Girl in 2008's "Quantum of Solace" and I am glad she getting some recognition.
The only reason I am not weeping right now has to do with what I stated above. Every piece of story in the film feels like beats we have seen time and time again in the sci/fi genre. As a person who has mad love for the genre, I find it sad that we cannot think of newer, cooler things to do with the genre. The film tells the story of Jack Harper, a guy who collects natural resources from the Earth, after a war with an alien race left the planet nearly annihilated. He will be returning home to the "Titan" or "Tet" very soon, a huge space station where all living humans are left. Harper spends most of his time talking about old Earth memories and fighting off small legions of aliens left behind on Earth.
And everything is hunky dory until he captured by them...except they're not alien...they're humans.
The movie tries to be clever, particularly at the end of the movie. But again, it is only clever if you have never seen a single sci/fi film in your life. I appreciate the effort and the ambition, but the story just feels way too familiar.
"Oblivion" was directed by Joseph Kosinski, whose latest film was "TRON: Legacy". That film was beautiful to look at, but had an odd, uneven script. I hope whichever film Kosinski chooses to direct next, is a little more unfamiliar, and tries to make a few risks. I feel Kosinski is promising as a director, but his scripts are ever so slightly letting him down. I don't mean to sound like I am picking on "Oblivion". The acting is solid, and the look and action of the film is good. The film makes an effort to take you on a wild ride, but if you've seen other sci/fi films, this will just feel a bit of a rehash.
FINAL GRADE: B
"OBLIVION" opens this weekend.