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Oblivion was a movie I’d been looking forward to as I’m a huge (dystopian) sci-fi fan. Unfortunately, it was quite a disappointment. Rarely have I seen a movie as unoriginal as this one.

In Oblivion, Earth was destroyed in a war with the “Scavs”, aliens that came, destroyed the moon (the consequences of that alone caused great ruin) and then invaded the planet. They won the war, but the Scavs still roam the planet and humankind had to leave – moving to Titan, a moon of Saturn. We follow drone technician Jack Harper, who is one of the few still left on Earth, together with his partner/communications manager. One day, a spaceship breaks into the atmosphere and crashes. Against orders, Jack goes to check out the crash site and finds something he didn’t expect, leading him to doubt his circumstances.

The Good

Oblivion is visually stunning, without a doubt. The effects are (mostly) great (e.g. the tech, ships, alien spaceship, etc.), and the shots presented us with great views of a destroyed (but still beautiful) Earth and what’s left of New York in particular. All in all, the cinematography was excellent: a lot of attention was paid to the every detail of the filming of the movie –director of photography Claudio Miranda, who won an Academy Award for equally visually stunning Life of Pi (2012), was in full control.


It does seem like Miranda was leading this effort – he worked with (inexperienced) director Joseph Kosinski before, for TRON: Legacy (2010) – another movie that was awesome in the cinematography department, but didn’t have such a great story.

So that’s what you get: a movie that is very pretty to watch, but lacks any kind of content, which I’ll dig into deeper next.

The Bad

Man, Oblivion’s unoriginality was… unique. Let me just list the amount of movies (and games!) this movie was so blatantly inspired by. Warning, this contains some major spoilers.

  • Total Recall (1990): lost memories recovered (and the hero saves the day)
  • Mad Max: the Scavs vs the bandits of The Road Warrior & Beyond Thunderdome in their styling and tactics
  • Moon (2009): the (fooling of) the clones, with their only purpose being maintenance
  • The Matrix (1999): storage of the clones in alien ship vs storing of humans in the harvest fields of The Matrix
  • THX-1138 (1971): Sally kept asking “are you an effective team?” which reminded me a lot of the godlike figure in THX-1138: “Be efficient, be happy”
  • Portal games (1 and 2): Oblivion‘s drones vs the turrets in the Portal games (their sounds and the way their guns popped out of the sides and they scanned their targets before shooting). Sally vs GLaDOS: Sally’s voice like GLaDOS’, was distorted to sound machinelike, and Sally looked like a machine with one all-seeing eye, like GLaDOS.

On to Tom Cruise. He was in need of a lot more direction than he got from Kosinski.  Cruise was a good choice for the lead in that he’s an experienced sci-fi actor, but if he’s not told to do anything different, he’ll just give you the Tom Cruise sci-fi character we’ve already seen so many times now.

The similarities between this character and the one in Minority Report (2002) are astonishing as well. In both movies Cruise is chasing some sort of mental image: a memory in Oblivion, peek into the future in Minority Report. There was even a moment where his eyes were covered with a rag and the similarity to the scene where John Anderton gets his eye surgery in Minority Report is just too much. Look at the poster of Minority Report and the shot in Oblivion and tell me that’s a coincidence:


Minority Report (2002) poster to the left and shot of Oblivion to the right

I wouldn’t even blame Tom Cruise – he’s not that much of an inventive actor – he just does what he knows. I think in this case it was just Kosinki’s lacking experience as a director to take Cruise’s performance to the next level.