Mosaic / Reviews / April 24, 2013

Monochromatic action in ‘Oblivion’ does not innovate

New sci-fi model “Oblivion” comes in all colors, just so long as it’s pale blue.

But wait! You will see so many different kinds of pale blue. A pale blue sky, the pale blue clouds beneath the sky, the pale blue snowcaps on the mountains beneath the clouds beneath the sky, a pale blue IKEA-made space home extending from the mountains through the clouds and the pale-blue jumpsuit Tom Cruise wears, roaming beneath all of the above in the war-ravaged wastelands of a dead, pale-blue Earth.

Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper — I know, Tom Cruise, as another Jack Something-er, but hold on! — a droid repairman employed by the last vestiges of humanity who have fled Earth for Saturn’s moon Titan in the wake of an alien invasion. He patches up robot sentries and fends off the alien “Scavengers” while his live-in girlfriend/pseudo-wife Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, provides moral support from home. They’re supposed to stick around Earth until the humans have siphoned off enough of a certain mineral to fuel their colonies. Something like that. But don’t worry about it! “Oblivion” comes equipped with complementary voice-over cramming all the exposition and world-building and foreign terms into the first five minutes, so you can enjoy the pretty pale blue for the rest of the movie.

If daring, heady science fiction makes you anxious and innovation gives you tachycardia, you have nothing to fear in “Oblivion.” You will recognize over the course of Tom Cruise’s epic quest to find the emptiest stretch of desert to meander in every major sci-fi trope from every major sci-fi film in cinema. Tom Cruise is Jack is Neo is “2001’s” Dave is Luke Sykwalker. He flies around in a bubble spacecraft, a Y-Wing via an Apple product, but really, he loves nature as much as anyone else. “The Earth is my home,” he says, which makes him that Special Future Individual destined to lead a rebellion against the evil forces that have ruined the Earth, represented by Melissa Leo on a video screen. If you’re still burned over the Bush administration five years later, Leo’s Southern charm will have you reaching for pitchforks and laser guns.

Do you retch at the sight of people engaged in genuine conversation? “Oblivion” is considerate enough to downplay such eyesores like human bodies and lively drama in exchange for lifeless tableaus set to faux-majestic scores by the band M83, so even the one shot of a crowd of extras is conducted in the near-dark, the bodies blending together into a motionless muddle. But hold your horses! At least there’s Morgan Freeman reciting his Morgan Freeman speech about Roman law, free will and other lofty subjects. We get to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau re-playing Jaime Lannister, if Jaime Lannister was a grumpy squad leader who hated everything, especially the thought of a personality. These characters are nice side attractions in a plot that wants little to do with them.

Stop right there! You will get Tom Cruise. More than that, order now and you will get one extra Tom Cruise for free, in a plot twist nonsensical enough to keep you watching through the film’s Kubrick knockoff ending. Watch the movie today and you will receive as a bonus two actresses, Riseborough and Olga Kurylovich, sacrificing their integrity as human beings to satisfy your desire for passive, brutalized eye candy. This offer comes with a no-thought guarantee. You can call it clever, but you can’t call “Oblivion” pretentious, or smart!

“Oblivion” can be found at your local theaters with non-3D pricing. It’ll have you saying: “At least it’s more coherent than ‘Tron: Legacy.’”

Tags:  Andrea Riseorough Jaime Lannister Morgan Freeman Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Oblivion Olga Kurylovich sci-fi Tom Cruise

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Ivan Keta
Ivan Keta is a weekly film columnist for The Knox Student. In 2013, he won first place in Critical Film Review from the Illinois College Press Association, competing in the open division against dozens of other Illinois college newspapers.

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