Review of Oblivion (2013)

Moving picture, 124 minutes

Seen in 2019.

You know what you said to me once? You said you’d build me a house on a lake. We’d grow old and fat together. And we would fight. Maybe drink too much. And then we would die; and be buried in a meadow by the lake; and the world would forget about us, but we would always have each other.

Arguably hard SF, although power sources make great bombs. Both pros and cons are plain to see. It’s beautiful big-budget substance-monist SF, not drawn from a franchise. It’s clearly influenced by “La Jetée” (1962) and other worthies. Although it does descend quite a ways into mindless The Island-like spectacle along the way, the ending is unusually anti-essentialist and “sfnal” for Hollywood: Tech-52, a non-protagonist clone of the main character, whom the protagonist clone Tech-49 wrestled and left bound, takes his place and everybody’s fine with it.

On the negative side, there’s Tom Cruise, constantly at the focus of the narrative. I like the humble technical brilliance of his character, but you can’t do your own stunts when you’re playing two clones at once, even if you do have scientological superpowers like sensing your own hunger. There are also green screens, a tepid romantic triangle drama where the women keep acting without internal consistency, an indifferent score, an implausible guerilla war, massive earthquakes as the illogical main consequence of the moon breaking up a bit, and a villain who is ultimately reduced to an easily blown-up Death Star that has terrible scanners and inexplicably gives its borrowed voice a theatrically evil tone. Its agenda does not ultimately make sense; it should just be building a Dyson sphere.

References here: Edge of Tomorrow (2014).

moving picture fiction