A little over a decade ago Tom Cruise made his first hardcore science fiction film by teaming up with director Steven Spielberg for the brooding “Minority Report” (2002). The result was a minor classic and a terrific John Williams score where the composer followed up on his use of modernistic minimalism he began in the brilliant “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001).
This time the notoriously hard working actor brings his classic star wattage to the under-appreciated “Oblivion”, a throwback project designed to pay homage to classic 1970s old school science fiction films such as “Silent Running” (1972), “Logan’s Run” (1976) and “Alien” (1979).
“Oblivion” is helmed by “Tron Legacy” (2010) director Joseph Kosinski and shares many of the characteristics and thematic obsessions of that film. Put simply, “Oblivion” is a gorgeous piece of cinematic visual art.
The similarities between “Tron Legacy” and “Oblivion” do not stop with the thematic elements and the visuals, but extend to the soundtrack. After only two films, Joseph Kosinski is proving to be an auteur and just like other film music oriented directors such as Spielberg, he has a very specific style of music he uses in his films.
The “Tron Legacy” score by Daft Punk was a revolutionary soundtrack that instantly attracted a fan base who became addicted to the electronic, techno energy merged with expansive symphonic soundscapes that created aural wonders, taking the movie to a whole new level as well as existing as a fulfilling stand-alone listen.
For “Oblivion” Kosinski turned to another French techno team to create the hypnotic soundtrack, M83 and composers Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese. The resulting score is very much in the Daft Punk “Tron Legacy” mode combined with a huge influence from Hans Zimmer’s work on Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy.
The soundtrack opens with a ethereal cue, “Jack’s Dream”, where we are introduced to a brief snippet of the score’s love motif played on a piano. Track two, “Waking Up” is a pulsating and escalating mix of electronics with that builds into a brooding, thunderous Zimmer-esque crescendo. Play this cue in front of a non-soundtrack listener and they will probably ask, “Is that music from ‘The Dark Knight’?”
But despite the pervasive Zimmer meets “Daft Punk” influence, the score quickly establishes a unique identity of its own by building a melodic rich tapestry of hypnotic electronics combined with irresistible bursts of melodramatic orchestral explosions of color and theme.
The undulating rhythms continue to build into majestic wonder alternating with dissonant suspense motifs in tracks like “Tech 49”, “Star Waves”, the exciting action oriented “Oddysey Rescue”, and the super cool stylized suspense track “Losing Control”.
The soundtrack bursts out into a pop oriented blend of techno orchestral energy in the optimistic “Earth 2077”, followed by the mysterious “Radiation Zone” a wickedly exciting suspense cue that morphs into a blast of frenzied percussive glory.
Make no mistake, this is a score that packs a melodic punch as well. The soundtrack saves the bulk of its emotional material for the moving “Raven Rock” and a reprisal of the love motif from “Jack’s Dream” in “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death”.
Bottom line, “Oblivion” is a hypnotic, entertaining, and at times exciting soundtrack full of mysterious moments that will transport the listener into a sonic world of imagination. Had a few of the motifs been developed into full-fledged themes, this would have been a five star score. Fans of Hans Zimmer’s “Batman” music and Daft Punk’s “Tron Legacy” will love this soundtrack.