Director: Joseph Kosinski.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo.
ACCORDING to some literary theories, there are only a certain number of plots, which is usually a number between one and 36.
Having just watched Oblivion, I can't help but thinking about this theory in relation to sci-fi films - that there are only a particular number of original plot devices that exist, and once they're used up, all that is left to do is re-arrange them in different combinations.
Of course, there is very little in the way of new and unique ideas left in cinema, but there is a certain overwhelming genericness to this futuristic blockbuster that constantly triggers memories of movies past.
An incomplete list would include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet Of The Apes, I Am Legend, Mad Max 2, Prometheus, Wall-E, Moon, I, Robot, Star Wars, Total Recall, and The Matrix. Their usage ranges from homages and nods to full blown appropriation.
Not that this makes Oblivion a bad film at all. But without a distinctive style or feel of its own, it never escapes the gravity of the sci-fi giants that came before it.
Cruise stars as Jack Harper, a gun-toting repairman left on a war-ravaged and mostly empty Earth. The other survivors are on a space station floating above the planet, preparing to leave for the moon of Titan, and it's Jack's job to make sure the various drones and resource-mining facilities left on Earth are working properly in preparation for the flight to Titan.
But when Jack finds a human survivor has crash-landed on Earth, it raises a lot of questions about his very existence - questions that someone doesn't want Jack to ask and that he might not want answered.
How much you like the film will depend on which side of its percarious balancing act you fall on and how much you're willing to forgive or embrace its possible shortcomings.
For example, Oblivion either fits together reasonably well with a pleasant array of familiar moments or its lack of original parts make for a largely forgettable whole.
Then there are the "what the?" moments, some of which get resolved later on but some don't. The plot moves along at a decent pace but with a few holes along the way. The intended air of mystery doesn't work but the film is entertaining enough to keep you watching. It looks a billion dollars without really having a distinctive look of its own. M83's score packs few surprises but does the trick. Tom Cruise's character is intriguing, but none of the others are. Its technological ideas are fairly cool but it gets a bit bogged down in exposition, especially at the start.
But more than anything, it's the feeling that you've seen it all before, in a dozen different movies, that could make you love or hate Oblivion.
If you think its a new twist on old ideas, you'll love it. To others it will seem derivative and uninspired.
I'm going to sit on the fence because it's still mildly enjoyable, Cruise is good, and it's too middle-of-the-road to really dislike.
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