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As I sat in the cinema watching Oblivion unfold, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “I wouldn’t have expected that if they hadn’t already done it in Planet of the Apes,” or “That was a nice touch, but they did it better in Wall-E,” or “This whole scene would have had more impact if they hadn’t aced it in Independence Day.”
I don’t want to brag about how many sci-fi films I’ve seen, but you get the idea.
Oblivion borrows from ― or pays homage to, if put charitably ― just about every sci-fi movie I know. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film.
You have to give it credit for trying, really hard. All the familiar elements from different sci-fi movies come together to make the idea behind Oblivion quite original.
Set in 2077, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last remaining men stationed on an evacuated Earth, which was nearly destroyed 60 years ago in an alien invasion. Helping Jack is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who mans the operations post at their sky-high condominium. Their mission control commander is Sally (Melissa Leo), who guides them from Tet, a space station that was humanity’s escape vessel after the war.
Like most sci-fi stories, the more you examine the plot, the less sense it makes. But director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) and his screenwriters do come up with truly imaginative details.
You may wonder why Jack’s nose is wounded in an early fight, for example, but the scar becomes crucial later on. Guns, motorcycles, even Jack’s jet-powered helicopter are just plausible enough to keep you involved in the story.
One of the best things about the film is that Kosinski has put his background in architecture and design to good use and created a story full of visual treats. He really focuses on building atmosphere, which is essential in this genre. Just by looking at the scenery you feel sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, uncertainty and fear.
My feeling is that Kosinski’s heart seems to be in making smaller, more intimate movies than Oblivion’s impressive budget and the presence of superstar Tom Cruise would suggest. But without these factors, Chinese sci-fi fans would have missed out on a chance to enjoy a cinematic feast.
Let the critics say what an “empty thriller” the film is as many times as they want, it’s not our concern.