As already stated, Oblivion is a post-apocalyptic movie. It’s set a few decades into the future, in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war between humans, and a group of extra-terrestrial beings that are referred to cryptically as Scavs.
As is stated in the movie the Scavs instigated the war by stealing the Moon, an act which was itself a prelude to a full-blown invasion. The Earth which at the time had been equipped with all the best nukes that modern physics had to offer, fought back bravely. Earth eventually won, but at a great cost, the Earth itself. Not only was the resulting destruction devastating and crippling, the resulting radiation made most environments unfit for human habitation. The war was won, but the Earth was poisoned. It was a conundrum. What could humanity do? Well, leave Earth. Humans decided to move to Saturn’s moon Titan.
Tom Cruise’s character Jack, & his love interest / partner Victoria are introduced in the movie as one of the few stragglers left on Earth. Their job is to take care of the precious & very delicate fusion generators left on Earth (to produce energy for the trek to Saturn).
The pacing at the start of the movie is good. There is some heavy info-dumping in the beginning, which is never a good idea for a movie that’s trying to create a mystery, but overall the pacing was good. The movie is intentionally hedgy in divulging the particulars of this supposed ‘nuclear war’. Thus, there is an engaging thriller quality to the story and a wide, open vista of plot twists and possibilities just waiting to be explored.
But that’s just the beginning, what happens next??
Jack, whose personality leads to bouts of insubordination, uncovers something profound. A spacecraft, The Odyssey crash lands on Earth, and the Drones having been sent to investigate start shooting at the survivors of the crash landing. Not at all an event worth fussing over, that is, if they weren’t human. This is so manifestly counter to a Drone’s programming, that it causes Jack to become skeptical.
Indeed, following the incident, Jack is bothered by what he has seen and the cognitive dissonance that this incident brings forces him to go back to the crash site to investigate. While ambling about, with Julia, the survivor he’d managed to save, he gets kidnapped by the Scavs. It is at this moment that Jack’s parochial nature splinters and the box of mysteries that the movie hinges on to maintain viewer interest is unwrapped.
So as Jack quickly finds out, the Scavs are not the malevolent alien presence they are purported to be. It turns out that they are human. Also, the radiation zones that Jack has been repeatedly told not to cross, do not harbor life threatening radiation, but rather … other ‘Jacks’ that are doing more or less what he is doing … protecting the fusion generators from Scavs.
After these two key pieces of information get revealed, the movie reaches a turning point. Depending on the type of viewer you are … your eyes will either glaze over in extreme boredom … or your interest will probably skyrocket.
The former type of viewer, is probably one who is well-versed in science fiction stories of this type, and has seen this problem approached from every conceivable angle. Given that Oblivion did not do a comprehensive treatment of the issue or give it a new creative twist – in fact the ending was rather dull – it is only natural that it would not sustain this type of viewer’s interest.
The latter type of viewer, is one who is a great deal less familiar with the sci-fi trope of the ‘doppelganger’ and is interested in what new arcana the plot will uncover.
It really does not take long to piece together what is going to happen afterwards. I was the latter type of viewer, but my specific problem was that I overinflated the depth and intricacy of the plot. I was expecting to get wowed by something deep or a well executed plot twist that would perhaps lead to a sequel. But that never happened.
Critics have made a few gripes about the acting in the movie, but I am inclined to disagree. Tom Cruise’s acting was commendable. He played a very believable Jack. Olga Kurylenko’s character Julia did not play such a pivotal role in the first half of the movie, so she did not get a chance to fully show off her acting prowess. However, in the moments she does appear she is absolutely brilliant. Andrea Riseborough, who plays the Victoria, Jack’s love interest, also holds her own in the acting department.
In all, if you are a sucker for pretty visuals, then by all means watch this movie. It is fantastic in that respect and you will not get disappointed. However, if you are looking for a deep, engaging, thought-provoking storyline a la 2001: A Space Odyssey then I’d forcefully recommend that you look elsewhere. Oblivion is not for you.
7 Scav Helmets out of 10