"Oblivion" is a gorgeous movie with a dreamy soundtrack that recalls the ultra-modern look and feel of classic science fiction films of the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s, such as 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey" or 1972's Russian masterpiece "Solaris" (or the 2002 George Clooney-vehicle semi-remake, for that matter). That's a refreshing take on a genre that has sought to reinvent itself as gritty.
Yes, there was a time when science fiction largely visited possible futures where technology has completely implemented itself into our lives in a fluid and omniscient manner, and all of that is fully on display here. The problem here for hardcore sci-fi fans, though, is that the film may recall too much of that former era. This is a genre where fans actually defy immersion to find as many angles to discredit any new releases as possible, but that's just the scene and it's tragic in cases like this.
Tom Cruise shines here in full star-power as Jack Harper, also known as Technician 49 to his management in a massive space-station called Tet. Harper is tasked with repairing security drones that fly around Earth looking for remainders of the alien species "Scavs," who left the earth barren, scarred and destroyed beyond all recognition from a war that took place 60 years before Cruise walks it in 2077. The drones remain to protect giant, floating generators that suck up the ocean's water to create power for the new human civilization on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
Well, the Earth isn't beyond all recognition. In the greater New York Metropolitan region that Harper oversees, the suspension towers of the George Washington Bridge can be seen shooting out from the black sands that cover what was once the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan. The sand has left the very top of the Empire State Building, including the former observation tower, uncovered.
It's this observation tower that continues to come to Harper in his dreams. His memory, as well as the memory of his communications officer and lover Victoria (played perfectly by redheaded British actress Andrea Risenborough), had been erased three years prior, when they were first given their mission and returned to Earth as the sole inhabitants until all power had been harnessed. The erasure was to protect the new civilization should Jack or Victoria be captured by Scavs, they're told. But trace memories remain - especially a dream where he proposed to a dark-haired woman, who remains in all his dreams, on that observation tower many years before he was to be born.
Depending on your level of familiarity with science fiction, and I'd rate myself in the midrange for that category, events in this film will either come as major surprises and twists, or you'll have the whole
thing figured out within 15 minutes. Either way, there's no reason not to enjoy this well-made film.
Coming fresh off his directorial debut, 2010's "Tron Legacy," there was very little hope among most viewers, I'd guess, that Joseph Kosinski would have long telling stories on this big screen. Tron was all style over substance, but that style almost elevated the images seen on the screen to an art, even if their connection amounted to little more than a laser light show in terms of storytelling.
That's different here. The style remains, but in a muted and ethereal way, like the dreams Jack has. The Earth is scorched but there's something comfortable to be found. Not only does he share his life with the beautiful Victoria, but he has been given a suspended home on a pole many meters above the surface of the Earth where they can swim nude in a suspended pool or walk from their polished, marble floors to recessed, '70s-chic couches. Everything is comfortable.
The world barren, there is room for Jack to think about what once was. Where Victoria wants only for the mission to be over "two more weeks, Jack" he dreams of the civilization before the war. He can recite what he had read to be the great final Super Bowl game of 2017, or read classic poetry left in decaying libraries somewhat preserved by the sand. He even turns off his communications, sometimes, and hangs out in a secret cabin he had built himself in one of the only remaining spots of vegetation and beauty. There, he'll play classic Led Zeppelin records or Procol Harum.
There's something he wants from this Earth and there's something wrong.
There's also something wrong with this movie. Every action sequence will remind you of something you've already seen before, from the original "Star Wars" films to "Logan's Run" to "Terminator," everything. The film is a moving homage.
If you can suspended disbelief, and let the lush soundtrack provided by French electronic shoe-gaze band M83 draw you in to the blue-tinted dream world, you will have spent your money well and will want to spend it again. Suspend disbelief and enjoy this film.
(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews appear in Thursday's Arts &?Entertainment section.)