Movie Review: ‘Oblivion’ is Oblivious to What a Good Sci-Fi Movie Should Be (Connie Wang)

OblivionSPOILER ALERT: Do not read any further if you haven’t seen this movie. 

Reel Rating: 2 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity
Released in Theaters: April 19, 2013 (2D, IMAX)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 126 minutes
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell
Official Site: Oblivion

I went to see “Oblivion” this weekend and came away feeling … nothing. I couldn’t decide if I liked it somewhat or hated it a lot. What I did notice was that the film seemed to rip off every other movie out there. If America is the melting pot for people, then “Oblivion” is the melting pot for all things sci-fi.

The story takes place after Earth has gone to war with aliens known as Scavs. While we won the war, the Scavs ravaged enough of the planet that it is barely inhabitable. The world has since been abandoned and everyone has migrated to a moon around Saturn.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) — also known as Tech 49 — and his assigned partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), keep watch over the Earth by day and fix the drones as needed that scout the area. By night, they copulate since it’s just the two of them and no TV so what else is there to do? It’s the same routine for this couple day in, day out.

Jack somehow finds the time to escape off grid over the years to fashion a lake house in this oasis of land while the rest of the Earth is a dust bowl. Apparently, no CDs or CD players survived the war, only classic vinyl albums from the 1960s – 1980s. Luckily, he was able to scavenge a perfectly working Victrola for his secret hideaway.

Even though his memories were erased with a mandatory mind sweep several years ago, he still has images of a woman and of the observation deck at the Empire State Building. Guess there was a glitch during that sweep! When an object comes parachuting out from the sky, Jack goes to investigate and discovers Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the woman from his dreams. He is able to save her before the drones fire upon her, believing she is a Scav. How convenient!


As the story goes on, we find out the Scavs that are roaming the earth aren’t aliens at all, but humans that survived and went underground. Jack starts unraveling the truth and finds out his idyllic life with Victoria isn’t at all what it seems to be.

When he comes across himself in another plane, well who didn’t see that coming? No one, because that was ridiculously predictable. I was already questioning how two people were left to look over the entire Earth when his clone came along.

Vic has a constant dialogue with Sally (Melissa Leo) on the mother ship, or Tet, as it’s called. Sally talks like a hillbilly with her southern drawl. We find out later Sally isn’t really a person, but the Tet itself. So does that mean aliens think we all talk like we’re on “Duck Dynasty”?


Let me point out a few other issues I had with the movie.

Clearly the filmmakers were fans of “Star Wars” and “Doctor Who,” to say the least. The drones reminded me of Daleks with their one-track objective, while the Scavs’ costumes seemed to be a melding of Jawas and Sand People from “Star Wars.”

When Jack is flying to evade some drones, it was almost as if I were watching Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” when he takes the trench run to destroy the Death Star, but with different graphics and scenery. In fact, Jack’s flight vehicle seemed to be an amalgamation of an X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon. Not necessarily by its design, but by its function.

Harper’s flashbacks and the Scavs’ underground dwelling reminded me of the movie “Demolition Man” with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes.

At one point, Jack Harper leaves Julia in a cave a la “The English Patient” (a movie which I abhor).

When Jack goes down into a pit, it is almost exactly like the stunt he did in “Mission Impossible” where he entered a room through the ceiling.

As Jack enters the Tet, he sees scores and scores of gestating bodies. “Matrix,” anyone?

Julia gives birth apparently by herself without any help at all (which they already covered on “Boardwalk Empire”). She’s able to nurture a perfectly healthy little girl which begs the question, where does she find toddler clothes in the middle of nowhere? Julia also has a great little garden growing – did she find wild tomatoes growing somewhere?  Do tomatoes grow wild?

She is finally reunited with Jack, but it’s not Jack Tech 49, the one who returns to her is Jack, Tech 52, because he has the same memories of her. Does this mean Techs 1-48, 50, 51, and 53 and beyond will come looking for her at some point? Is that a bad thing Multiple Tom Cruises running around the quaint oasis fixing things, building more homes, etc. etc?

Even the movie poster has been said to evoke Cruise’s iconic role as Maverick in “Top Gun.”

Is “Oblivion” better than “Prometheus”? Most definitely. But an original movie it is not.  The only thing missing is an “Alien” and Bill Murray as a Ghostbuster.

What did you think of “Oblivion”? Would you go see it again?


4 responses to “Movie Review: ‘Oblivion’ is Oblivious to What a Good Sci-Fi Movie Should Be (Connie Wang)”

  1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

    I agree with pretty much everything you said, although I’ll probably give it a little better rating in my forthcoming review. Maybe 3.5 out of 5. I found it entertaining, and I liked the special effects.

    That “Star Wars” trench scene – I mean, they couldn’t have ripped it off any more than they did. Total rip-off.

    I didn’t really get the ending. So … the original Jack Harper was long gone, and all of these are his clones? I guess they’d all have the same DNA, right, so the little tyke at the end was actually sort of like the original Jack’s child? And you’re right – Julia can just cycle through all the Jack Harpers until she dies. I guess? Wouldn’t that be a little weird for her, though?

    Yeah, that oasis. Nice little bubble of life in an otherwise barren earth.

    Oh, and Morgan Freeman is in the movie for 3 minutes and gets top billing. I was hoping for more Morgan.

    Also was hoping for more Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. That one line: “Who ARE you?” was the closest we got to his Tom Cruise-ness.

  2. josh Avatar

    How come you didnt mention “The Island”
    The plot reeked of it

  3. K.L. Connie Wang Avatar
    K.L. Connie Wang

    Because I never saw The Island. Now I may have to rent it!

  4. Holly Graham Avatar

    I enjoyed the movie enough, I didn’t take it very seriously but I did feel like the ending was really awkward. Was it supposed to be a happy ending cause really it was just a really creepy ending. All these fake Jacks upon fake Jacks and even the main character fake Jack wasn’t alive anymore. Very strange to me, couldn’t tell what they were going for emotionally.

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