With Tom Cruise anything can make sense. Maybe.

Featuring

Tom Cruise as Jack Harper
Andrea Riseborough as Victoria Olsen
Melissa Leo as Sally
Olga Kurylenko as Julia Rusakova
Morgan Freeman as Malcolm Beech
with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Sykes

As science fiction stories go, there are usually a few templates that are combined together.

There is always the space opera type, where big ships, big guns and (sometimes mystical) heroes rule the show while battling evil-doers in a spectacular, laser filled, choreographed and explosive fashion.

Then, there are the stories about a post apocalyptic world in the not too distant future due to a war between ourselves or against aliens or robots (or all of these somehow combined).

Oblivion takes us to the latter kind of story. A quick spoken, somewhat philosophical exposition by Tom Cruise‘s character Jack Reacher Harper flashes through the daily routine of dreaming about a Bond Girl he met in New York then waking up next to, showering with and eating breakfast with an impeccably dressed red headed woman with a British accent named Victoria. Who’s not a Bond Girl.

It turns out the Earth was doomed by some alien invasion about sixty years ago where the precursor was destroying the Moon, leading to stuffing up the environment. This is of course predicated on the fact the entire Moon, all 7.3477 × 1022 kg of it is disintegrated, destabilising the Earth’s axis of rotation. Of course, the Moon is mostly still there, but in many Photoshop blurred pieces strewn across the sky. I’d hardly call it destroyed. Also, its gravity would still be acting on the Earth (although somewhat diminished overall) but at only 1.23% of the Earth’s mass, it really wouldn’t have affected THAT much, certainly not in sixty years which the movie states it has been since the war.

I digress. Earth is devastated and lots of tall, New York buildings have been buried by mud and swamp (wait…really? How?), life is nearly gone and the whole place is a radioactive mess. This explains why Jack and Victoria live in a building ten kilometres up in the sky built on a giant tripod and a really flimsy…pole. At least the sunsets are nice and the built-in swimming pool has a nice clear bottom so you can clearly see how far the fall is.

In any case, since the Earth is stuffed beyond repair, the rest of humanity has high tailed it to Saturn’s moon Titan. Because a freezing, methane filled atmosphere is just the thing for billions of humans. Seriously, what was wrong with Mars? It’s much closer, has must closer gravity levels to Earth than Titan and there’s actually water there!

Anyway, Jack’s job is listen to the British lady and central command whilst flying around in his plane from the Apple design studio plane and repair drones that have also come out of Apple. The drones protect these giant pyramids floating in the air that convert sea water into hydrogen fusion fuel from the aliens that are called Scavengers. This is cool! But why do they need to fly? Couldn’t they just sit there in the sea? It would be more energy efficient.

In any event, the film does set up a nice, richly detailed universe and canvas on which to create something really grand and different. Unfortunately, that does not happen. The rest of the movie is pretty cliche. We meet Jack’s Bond Girl, who turns out to be his wife who spent the last sixty years in cryogenic sleep. Then the Scavengers are not aliens, but actually the remaining humans in unnecessary gas masks, led by Morgan Freeman and a very sword gun happy Jaime Lannister. The friendly humans watching over Jack are actually the aliens. Finally, Jack and Victoria are both clones and we finally find out the aliens are actually the machines.

Somehow, this is all getting a bit Mass Effect on us. Except Mass Effect was much better because the characters were actually believable and had a rich backstory. Also, Mass Effect had a great and terrifying enemy. Once you introduce clones into the story though…well there’s more where that guy came from.

Then, in the end, the alien enemy turns out to be some sort of artificial intelligence with an enormous HAL9000 eye (yeah, it’s a red eye pissing contest) who oversees the harvesting of the world’s resources so that it can sustain itself while it moves from planet to planet. My first question is…why the hell would you hoover up the ocean to convert it into fusion fuel which is bloody energy intensive when you could fly up to Jupiter (or Saturn…or Uranus…or Neptune) and suck up their atmospheres? Hell they’re mostly made up of hydrogen. Why would machines need anything apart from energy to sustain themselves?

As it is, the movie was, despite its scientific flaws, not too bad. The visuals were great, the machine designs were great and its pacing was just right. It’s a pity that the film was let down by lack of character development, some not so good acting and a nonsensical semi happy ending.

Rating

So much promise, so little reward.

Should I watch this?

Are you a Tom Cruise fanatic? No? Toss a coin.

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