Oblivion ★★★★

Science fiction is about ideas. It imagines, "what if?", and presents a unique vision of life, and in many cases future life, divergent from our own. But my favourite scifi films do that by extrapolating from our own experiences and imagining a future that places great importance on the past. It's why movies like Waterworld and District 9 - films that I realize have flaws and lose points with critics on a number of levels - still resonate with me more than epics like Avatar. All of these films pose incredible visions of the future, but the former do a better job of connecting me to the worlds that are created, and crafting a story based on a core idea that's tangential to my own experiences. That core idea is often a sense of 'home', of a place and purpose in the vastness of time and space, and that's certainly true here in this film.

Oblivion isn't a masterpiece, but its vision of the future (and the art direction supporting that vision) is certainly masterful. The technology and environments that Kosinski has brought to life are exceptionally well-realized (not to mention sexy as hell). There's a set piece near the finale that I won't spoil but feel the need to recognize as a stunningly beautiful sequence of heavily-designed compositions that, as a graphic designer, made me gush.

Oblivion is rife with references that do a great job of never feeling too forced - they barely feel like homages and rather some of the ideas and visuals feel like coincidental visual cues rather than outright reference. But it works well within the genre to avoid cliché and craft a unique new world for itself.

The movie falls short of this as the story unfolds and presents its 'survivors', those left behind on the planet, and Morgan Freeman and his people truly feel like the one major cliché that the film isn't able to avoid. There's a 'walkabout' moment where the protagonist is urged to uncover his own truths that took me out of the narrative briefly, but fortunately the truths he discovers make that experience forgivable because of its wonderfully compelling revelations (I'll say no more). There's a last major action sequence that also leaves much to be desired, but would be difficult to avoid in this storyline.

The score by M83 is exceptional, and fits perfectly with Kosinski's aesthetic here. And it's another feather in his cap for his ability to tie the movie together with exceptional control over his vision of this future Earth.

But that vision would be nothing without the ideas that truly empower this film.

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