“Oblivion” is one of those films that acts a bit like a clever trickster. It lures you in with promises of a fascinating-sounding premise, one that any writer would be foolish not to utilize every bit of, only to fail to deliver what it sets up. Here we have a futuristic science-fiction tale that takes place several decades into the future after a war with a race known as “The Scavs” has left the moon shattered and the Earth devastated by the effects of tsunamis, earthquakes, and nuclear weapons. Almost the entire human race has been evacuated to Titan, a moon of Saturn, with only a few left behind for security and repair purposes.
At this point, most people would probably be saying something along the lines of “Gosh, that sounds like it could be rather exciting. There’s a war (nuclear no less), Earth is in ruins, the moon has been blown up, AND there’s a new colony on Titan! There’s so much there to work with that it would nearly be impossible to deliver anything less than average.” However, the story continues on.
Those left behind include Jack (Tom Cruise), a drone repairman, and his communications officer, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). These drones are primarily used for hunting down the last of the Scavs left behind on Earth after the war ended, meaning that Jack’s job is not as easy as it would seem since he’s pretty much risking his life every time he goes out to make repairs. On top of that, he’s still haunted by dreams that show him how Earth used to look, despite him having never seen it with his own eyes. This mystery only deepens when he rescues a survivor, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), of a crashed ship. It just so happens that Julia features prominently in his dreams and could quite possibly hold the answers to what really happened all those years ago.
Even now, the summary might not grip you as much as the opening, but it still sounds as if it could be an entertaining sci-fi adventure. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of movie we get. What we do get is an intriguing prologue, a so-so first half, and a second half that has such silly twists and turns that you’re more likely to laugh than gasp at the surprises. We even get a little sideplot about a group of surviving humans led by the always dependable Morgan Freeman, whose presence is completely wasted in a role that comes to little more than a cameo.
Luckily, the film is not as bad as all that. If nothing else, it provides a lot of eye candy to marvel at. Cruise spends most of the movie driving futuristic vehicles and blasting across beautiful CGI landscapes. A lot of work went into the design of the film, and it shows in everything from these vehicles and landscapes to Jack and Veronica’s base of operations. The drones themselves were even a little reminiscent of the space pods in “2001,” making for a nice little homage.
This is the second feature from director Joseph Kosinski, whose previous effort was “Tron: Legacy.” You may recall that that was a film that also had an intriguing premise and a great production design, but faltered a little when it came to telling an engaging story. However, in the end, I was able to recommend it because it looked great and I was entertained throughout most of it.
“Oblivion” comes somewhat close, but the second half really spins out of control and made me lose interest rather quickly, and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly glued to the screen for the first half as Cruise flew from one spot to the next. It seems like Kosinski and his co-writers wanted to tell a profound story with these characters, but they weren’t able to accomplish this due to the direction they chose to take it. If they had worked more with what they had in the setup, then it’s quite possible that something better could have emerged.
This is one that we’ll basically have to write off as a missed opportunity. It looks great and is mildly interesting at times, but in the end, there’s just not much that’s particularly memorable here. Hopefully Kosinski will break out of this habit of concentrating more on the look of the film rather than the story he wants to tell. He got lucky the first time, but this time it was much more noticeable. Up next for him is supposedly another “Tron” film, so it looks like we won’t have to wait too long before we find out.
Turning now to the disc itself, the film is presented in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that is absolutely gorgeous. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of eye candy to be marveled at throughout the film, which makes it a relief that it was given such a sharp and clear transfer. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, allowing every little sound to be heard with crystal clear quality. A film filled to the brim with effects like this depends heavily on both aspects, and for this release they certainly didn’t disappoint.
The disc comes loaded with special features which includes:
- Five Making of featurettes: Voyage – Discover the bubble ship, Combat – Action-packed stunts, Destiny – How the epic film was shot, Illusion – Groundbreaking visual effects, and Harmony – The music of M83
- M83 Isolated Score – Watch the entire film accompanied by the evocative music track
- Deleted Scenes
- Feature Commentary with Tom Cruise and Director/Story Writer Joseph Kosinski
Here’s another area where this release doesn’t disappoint. Starting off with the commentary, Cruise and Kosinski make for a somewhat engaging team as they discuss the various aspects of bringing the film to life. It was particularly interesting to hear how they tried to establish the look and feel of the film in just the first three minutes. The deleted scenes aren’t anything to marvel over as they were bits and pieces that were easily snipped from the final cut without effecting anything.
The best inclusion here are the five making of featurettes that cover everything about the film from the making of the bubble ship and Jack’s futuristic bike to the visual effects and stunt work that went into it. I love special features like this that thoroughly cover the production of a film. Even if the film isn’t particularly good it’s still fascinating to see all of the hard work that went into making it, especially when it’s one that requires a ton of CGI and other visual effects. These few extras are sure to intrigue anyone with the same interest.
While the release itself is outstanding, I wish I could say so about the film as well, even more so after seeing everything that went into the making of it. Had Kosinski realized the story’s full potential, this could have been something unique and memorable, but instead he allowed for all the special effects to take over while the story spiraled out of control. Obviously, if you liked the movie, this is a fantastic release of it. Unfortunately, for me, the film is what’s holding it back just a little too much.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Now playing in theaters: Only God Forgives, The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station, The Lone Ranger, Despicable Me 2, White House Down, Monsters University, Man of Steel, This is the End, V/H/S/2 (VoD), Iron Man 3
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This review is based on a copy of the Blu-ray received for reviewing purposes.