oblivion

Dir. Joseph Kosinski
(2013, PG-13, 126 minutes)

Oblivion is a passable actioner, but it has the problem of reminding me of better movies. Perhaps unintentionally in some places but unmistakably in others, this sci-fi mash-up recalls WALL-E, 2001, Independence Day, Moon, and maybe others that didn’t come immediately to mind. Certain action scenes feel like they were designed more for video games than for movies, with their high tech weaponry, heads-up displays, aerial maneuvers that look like they should be executed with an Xbox controller, gun battles that resemble first-person-shooters, and powerful enemies with one extremely exploitable weakness. Don’t get me wrong, I love video games. I’d just prefer to be playing them.

Tom Cruise stars as Jack, part of a two-person cleanup crew left on Earth after the planet has been decimated by a war with the “Scavengers.” He pilots a nifty looking plane with a bubble cockpit and rotating engines as he surveys the planet’s surface, repairing equally nifty looking security drones. (A lot of time must have been spent to create these elaborate machines, and a whole movie could probably be made around their niftiness, but movies like this are more interested in technology as window-dressing and don’t express enough wonder at these wonders.)

The film opens chock full of exposition, the kind where a voice-over flatly explains the world we’re entering; I prefer a film to allow me to discover it over time, rather than do information dumps. Later on, plot details get murky, and the script that started by explaining everything ends up withholding details until another information dump later on. It means to surprise us with its twists and developments, but it doesn’t really have anything new up its sleeve, so the film’s key revelations lack impact. Oh, I thought to myself, that’s kind of like what happened in that other movie I could be watching instead.

 

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