We’re now two films into the career of Joseph Kosinski, and it’s fair to say that as a visual filmmaker he’s incredible. But when it comes to story, he doesn’t have the best eye for material, and that’s been a problem in both Tron Legacy and in his latest picture Oblivion. Tom Cruise stars alongside Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko in this story of a post-apocalyptic Earth. My review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Cruise stars as Jack, who is partnered with Victoria (Andrea Risenborough) in monitoring the machines that are turning salt water into energy, and the drones that protect those machines. There was a war with an alien population that left Earth mostly a wasteland, though there are still remnants of the aliens (called Scavs) on the planet who attempt to sabotage the machines. Jack is sort of like Wall*E in that he just runs repairs and makes sure everything is tip-top. thoughtlessly But when one of the robot scouts goes down, he comes across the alien presence, and it’s further revealed they may not be what they seem.
This is troubling for Jack as he keeps having visions, with a mystery woman (Kurylenko) reappearing in his dreams, while on his downtime he’s built a cottage and stacked it with the remains of his culture. When a ship crash-lands he investigates, only to find Kurylenko among the wreckage, wreckage that the robot helpers are looking to destroy.
For those who want to watch the film sans spoilers, that’s probably all you want to know, but there are reveals coming that will probably feel pretty familiar, depending on how well you know science fiction tropes. In fact, the narrative is so boiler-plate that it’s hard to engage in, though Cruise has the star charisma turned up to ten for much of the movie. It’s his show, and he does a good job going on the journey of his character. But even during his first interaction with the alien presence, you can tell that they may not be the bad guys (regardless if you saw Morgan Freeman in the commercials or not).
But where the film’s story is all too familiar, Kosinski’s visual sense is spectacular. This is an effects heavy-movie, but his work here blending locations with CGI is unparalleled, while the future tech is believable but advanced. This is definitely a vision of the future where everything has gone Apple, with its sleek design and white surfaces, but regardless of how clean it looks, it also feels lived in. That’s impressive. Someone just needs to hook Kosinski up with good screenwriters, because – though this is a huge step up from the problems apparent in Tron Legacy – he needs find a deeper thinker than himself (he co-created the story here) to ever live up to someone like Ridley Scott, who he obviously seeks to emulate.
The end results are engaging enough, but it’s hard to tell if there’s a great movie in the material, or if it’s just an excuse to let Kosinski do his thing. There’s enough interesting things here to suggest Kosinski will make a great science fiction epic some day. But Oblivion isn’t it.
Universal’s Blu-ray comes with a DVD and Digital Copy, with the film presented in a flawless widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that’s in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a demo disc for sure. The film also comes with an isolated score track in Dolby True HD, and a commentary by Kosinski and Cruise where the two love to talk about motivations and the layers revealed by watching the film multiple times. The film also comes with four deleted scenes with finished effects (4 min.) that are well cut as they seem to be padding. There’s also a “making of Oblivion” featurette that’s broken up into five segments (47 min.), which mostly focuses on the special effects, with the last focusing on M83’s involvement in the film.