By no means a bad apocalypto-sci-fi outing, but it's much more predictable than it thinks it is.

Released in 2013, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 12 Jun 2013 by Scott Morris
Oblivion image

For the obligatory jokey intro to this, I could not decide whether to go with a riff on the somewhat out of date Xbox role playing game Oblivion, or the really out of date Terrorvision song Oblivion from their seminal 1994 album How to Make Friends and Influence People. So let's all just agree that something particularly hilarious was written here, and move on to the parts of the review actually relevant to the Tom Cruise vehicle currently bothering the multiplexes.

There's been an apocalypse! Oh noes! As Tom's character Jack informs us, there's been an invasion, from a foe known as Skavs. Humanity won, although you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the state of the planet, levelled and largely barren. The survivors of the war have headed off world, leaving a skeleton crew of drones and maintenance personel in outposts, one of which contains Jack and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). They look after the colossal machines extracting the water from the oceans for off world transport, under occasional threat of attack from pockets of Skav survivors trapped on the planet.

And so it goes, until a craft crashes in Jack's area. Checking it out, he finds human survivors, cryogenically sleeping in escape pods. He's not long on the scene before his drone buddies show up, but rather than aid his rescue attempts they start blowing the pods up. You just can't trust robots, I telling you. Even the little Roomba electro-dreams of vacuuming you to death.

He manages to pull rank on the drones enough to get one pod back to the outpost, where he finds that it contains Julia (Olga Kurylenko), which he finds surprising, as he's also been dreaming about her and a non-ruined earth. This would be the start of his realisation that Things Are Not What They Seem, although the trailer has given us something of a head start on him.

Given that it's unveiled relatively early in proceedings, it's not a deal-braking spoiler, but I feel it'd make for a better film if we were not forewarned of everything Jack's about to uncover, for at least for the first two thirds of the film, so I'm not going to promulgate that information. I do this out of a sense of loyalty to you, dear comrade, and also as it gives me an opportunity to use the work 'promulgate'.

So, if we're not going to talk about the plot, what else can we discuss? I find that a little bit of a struggle, as I don't think there's all that much of interest in the film. Not that it's necessarily bad, you understand. Just not that it's all that interesting.

Call me a curmudgeon if you must, but the whole post-apocalyptic, desert reclaiming ruined cityscapes visual thing has been done so often that even when it's done well, and Oblivion does it well, just doesn't seem all that interesting anymore. Even in IMAX, it's nice, but not jaw-dropping. The more futuristic elements of Jack's refuge, runabout and weaponry fare better, with a pleasing futuristic sheen reminiscent of the Mass Effect video game series. The drones also remind me of their non-evil counterparts from Terrahawks, although they can't match their personality.

The performances contained within are generally more than adequate, although Morgan Freeman's tending more towards his "paycheck" attitude than I'd like in his relatively brief part, but nothing too obnoxious is going on. M83 provide a pleasing soundscape, and it seems director Joseph "Tron Legacy" Kosinski is convinced of the value of a good soundtrack between this and the Daft Punk laden Tron outing, and he has a good understanding of the pacing and beats of the story.

Now he just needs to find more interesting stories. I don't intend to come across as harsh, admittedly partly because I'd like to see more big-budget sci-fi stuff in the future, but also because Oblivion's far from a bad film. It's just one that's a great deal more predictable than it thinks it is. The supporting elements to the story are well enough put together to stop the film collapsing, but it should be building on top of those, not slumping down all over them.

Overall, despite not really containing anything that's actually bad, it's just a little bit too close to mediocre to recommend.

Joseph Kosinski
Cast list:
Tom Cruise (Jack)
Morgan Freeman (Beech)
Olga Kurylenko (Julia)
Andrea Riseborough (Victoria)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Sykes)
Melissa Leo (Sally)