Weekend Viewing Roundup – OBLIVION Review

Photo courtesy of StarTribune.com

The weekend is coming to a close as I’m writing this, hope y’all had a nice one… especially in the weather department. It’s really the kind of “Spring” that does NOT add an extra spring in your step, unless you want to slip on ice and fall over into a puddle 😦

I mean, just look at this photo from a couple of days ago!! THAT’s the reason I couldn’t see Mud last Thursday! And this is the kind of stuff we could expect for this week, courtesy of our local meteorologist at the Star Tribune:

A rain/snow mix tomorrow evening – but temperatures boomerang to near 70F by Saturday afternoon, maybe even a few severe T-storms late Sunday? Something for the entire family.


Anyway, I did see quite a few new films this past week, five to be exact:

Disconnect, Unfinished Song (both reviews are up), Caesar Must Die, I, Anna and Oblivion. Stay tuned for the reviews of the other two, but now, here’s my thoughts on…



Post-apocalyptic science fiction films are a dime a dozen and there seems to be no shortage of it. Even before the start of this film, there are trailers for a couple of them (After Earth, Elysium) and the world we live in is almost always depicted in a state of doom, with humanity facing extinction with the rest of well, what’s left of our universe.

OBLIVION begins with a voice over exposition courtesy of Jack Harper (starring the virtually ageless mega star Tom Cruise) who now lives in a high tower above the earth, Tower 49, which looks like a very expensive high rise penthouse, complete with built-in swimming pool underneath. Not a bad living quarter for a ‘mop-up crew,’ that’s what Jack refers to himself and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). They’re only two weeks away on completing their mission of drones repair on earth before they could join the entire remaining human population in their new home in Titan. Now, you’d think he’d be excited for that but Jack still can’t let go of earth & his earthly house by the lake, and he’s also still haunted by his memory of a woman from 60 years ago as they walk up to the Empire State Building [is this like the only romantic rendezvous place for New Yorkers in the movies??].


Well, what do you know. On a routine mission, Jack ended up meeting that very woman who was in one of the delta-sleep pods that crash landed on earth as Jack was relaxing by the lake. Now, the arrival of ‘Julia’ who claims to be his wife, and then later meeting a group of human survivors hiding underground, led by cigar-smokin’ Morgan Freeman, Jack’s life quickly begins to unravel as he discovers just who his true identity is. He starts to question the things we’ve also been curious about from the start, and the last half of the film follows Jack in that journey of self-discovery… and more.

Now, all of this is intriguing stuff and director Joseph Kosinski builds this film with so many beautiful vistas and cool-looking robots to mesmerize us, but the plot leaves way more questions than the film could even begin to answer. Now, I don’t want to discuss ’em here without revealing a bunch of spoilers, but let’s just say I have similar questions as this guy in Film School Rejects post. Well, I don’t really care about ‘why was Beech [Freeman’s character] is always wearing sunglasses’ but the rest are definitely valid plot holes issues. I feel that my beef with Kosinski’s first film, Tron Legacy, where it’s mostly style over substance, also applies to this one. The one advantage is that this one he has a far more charismatic protagonist than Garrett Hedlund (more on that latter). But similarly, Kosinski seems far more concerned with building cool looking stuff than he is about crafting a real ‘meaty’ story that goes beyond a mere ‘intriguing concept.’

That said, I still find this film entertaining and I’ve got to admit I was wowed by the visuals. Everything from the bluish-hued barren landscape of earth in ruins, to the ultra sleek sky tower and Jack’s collapsible Bubbleship [apparently the design was a hybrid of a jet fighter and a Bell 47 helicopter – per We Are Movie Geeks], there are visual eye candy aplenty for the sci-fi geek in all of us. I saw this in 2D which was perfectly fine, but I bet this film would look pretty stunning on IMAX.

The pace is pretty good and I never find myself bored in the entire two hours. I also think there’s a balance of quiet moments and full-throttle action, which makes it more effective when it does happen. The aircraft chase with the drones in the narrow canyons remind me too much of so many other sci-fis, most notably The Phantom Menace. But then again, this film borrow a lot of sci-fi concepts from other films so I shouldn’t be surprised by that. Despite all the plot holes though, I’ve got to give props to the filmmaker for at least attempting to inject some humanity into the story.


As I’ve alluded to earlier, Tom Cruise is still more than capable to carry this film. I don’t think Jack Harper would make my top 10 Tom Cruise roles, but still he’s very watchable. Some of the flying sequences made me think of this movie as Top Gun meets Minority Report, it’s amazing Cruise still looks pretty much the same as he was in Top Gun which was released 27 years ago!! One of Cruise strengths is that he is believable in the action as well as the more emotional scenes. Interestingly enough, the part of him reminiscing on earth—recalling his old days of watching baseball, playing sports in his back yard and listening to old records—are more effective than the ‘romantic’ scenes of him and his female co-stars however. I don’t exactly know why that is, though I give Cruise some credit for not looking creepy romancing actresses nearly half his age!

Speaking of the actresses, I was impressed with Andrea Riseborough once again (she was also in Disconnect), she’s truly a star on the rise [pardon the pun] with a chameleon-like ability. I don’t think Olga Kurylenko is as versatile, but she actually impresses me more here than she did in Quantum of Solace. She has an earthy and mysterious quality about her and though she is stunningly beautiful, she doesn’t come across as flighty. Morgan Freeman of course adds gravitas to his role, Beech is the kind of ‘cool but eternally wise’ character he’s played in so many films that it probably doesn’t require much effort on his part. Hunky Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau also has a small part as Freeman’s cohort, but I think he’s more capable than that.

Final Thoughts: I don’t think Oblivion will be a sci-fi classic. I appreciate it for what it is, which is popcorn entertainment, but not profound enough to be memorable. I don’t mind watching it again down the road though, even if it’s just to gawk at the marvelous visuals. It’s the kind of escapist entertainment that’s tailored to maximize Cruise’s massive star power. The film’s box office prowess will prove that Cruise’s certainly still got it.

Three and a half stars out of Five

3.5 out of 5 reels

Well, what did you think of this film? Did you enjoy this more than I did?

94 thoughts on “Weekend Viewing Roundup – OBLIVION Review

  1. Very good review Ruth! We’re not too far off in our score. I think the difference is that the story really didn’t bother me much and I kind of felt there was more going on under the surface. But it definitely makes no effort to answer certain questions.

    I thought Riseborough and Kurylenko were quite good here. Two very different performances no doubt. I am anxious for you to see Kurylenko in To the Wonder. She really blew me away there.

    1. Hi Keith, it didn’t ‘bother’ me but I can’t give a high score because of it because I felt like it was a major flaw with the film. It did have enough going for it that I was still entertained though.

      I haven’t dismissed Olga entirely, so yeah I’m still curious to see her in To The Wonder.

    1. So did you still get a lot of snow this weekend too? It’s incredible that we still got a friggin’ BLIZZARD at the end of April! 😦

      Well, if you’re not too keen on the story and/or cast, I’d think this would still make a good rental Chris.

        1. Ah I see. Well I don’t mind a sprinkling but the flakes were as big as my hand last Thursday! We’re gonna get another dumping later tonight 😦

  2. I probably won’t be seeing this. The trailer just didn’t grab me even though the visuals looked good. Sci-Fi’s is a tough genre to pull off although recent movies like Moon, District 9, and Sunshine came out quite well. Oddly enough some of my favorite sci-fi has been from TV like the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Firefly. Looking forward to Elysium though.

    1. The trailer didn’t lie, visually it looks amazing. But you’re right, it’s more of an empty thrill compared to those films you mentioned as it didn’t really linger with me other than all the questions they couldn’t answer. Oh I LOVE BSG too, I miss that show. Sooo many great characters, esp. the Adamas! Yep, Elysium seems to delve a bit deeper into the social issues, so I’m looking forward to that as well.

  3. Hope that snow and ice clears up for you Ruth, it looks horrendous! As for Oblivion, I enjoyed it but I wasn’t blown away by it for the same reasons as you. It looks amazing but is a little flimsy on plot. It was a decent watch but not one I’ll be rushing to see again. And whatever Tom Cruise eats and drinks, I’ll have some of that. I can’t believe how good he looks!

    1. Hi there Chris, hope you had a nice weekend. Yeah, it’s depressing to see all that snow in my neighborhood and there’s like 2 feet of snow up north which poses a huge flooding hazard 😦

      Ahah, Cruise still looks amazingly good doesn’t he? Maybe his Scientology thing has something to do with it? If so, he can keep it, I don’t want to have anything to do with ’em, ahah.

  4. Ted S.

    I didn’t get to see Oblivion over the weekend, was planning to go see it last Thursday night but of course the snow storm happened! I’ll check it out sometime this week, want to see it at IMAX before they take it out and show Iron Man 3 there.

    1. Bummer Ted, ’cause you got those free IMAX tickets right? I couldn’t go see MUD on Thursday either because of the stupid blizzard!

      I think this one would look amazing on IMAX, that Kosinski knows how to make cool-looking stuff!

  5. Great review Ruth. Mixed opinions on this one but the overall consensus is that its passable entertainment. I love a bit of sci-fi so I’m sure I’ll take something from this one.

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        1. Ahah, sorry I’m such a stickler w/ spelling as a product of my ESL (English as a Second Language) schooling I had to go through before college 😀

            1. Ah Dyslexic you say, excuses, excuses 😀 Just kidding!! It’s funny but I don’t think I could spell Indonesian as well as English anymore as I don’t use it as often, I’m much better at speaking my mother tongue now. Btw, I never asked you but where do you live in England? I’d love to go back to visit London one day, LOVE that city!

                    1. You’re still in college? You young’un you 😀 VERY cool, I LOVE that we have Google Map now, we can find practically anything in no time flat 😀

                    2. Oh you’re just a baby!! 😀

                      Ahahaha, don’t worry, I live way too far to be stalkin’ you. It’s true though about the privacy thing, that’s why one can’t be too careful these days!

                    3. Ahah, I see. Y’know, I was thinking of using avatar from my fave films but I realize I’m too lazy to keep changing ’em so I just stick with my reel icon 😀

  7. lrstreet

    You hit the nail on the head. Good but not great. The plot holes/questions are legitimate but I didn’t regret seeing it on the big screen because it’s such a beautiful movie.

    1. Oh I didn’t regret it either, and I actually PAID for this movie. I’m so used to press screenings but there wasn’t one for this one but it was worth the admission price for the visuals. I still enjoy seeing Cruise on the big screen too!

  8. “It’s really the kind of “Spring” that does NOT add an extra spring in your step, unless you want to slip on ice and fall over into a puddle” LOL

    Haven’t seen Oblivion yet!

      1. I’d love to live in a place where it snows, since it NEVER EVER snows here but I get why it would be annoying when it doesn’t stop snowing for months and you can’t even go out 😦

        1. Yeah, usually I’m very tolerant of MN weather but this is just ridiculous! It’s gonna be another treacherous commute again tomorrow morning 😦

  9. Spot on Ruth. Even with its flaws, I still found it entertaining enough to justify a decent grade (I think I gave it a 3.5 too, when I submitted my Lamb scores, which are on the 5 point scale)

    Thanks for linking to that FSR column, too. I think thats what’s called “over-thinking things, but it definitely was a funny read.

    1. Hey, glad we’re in agreement on this one Fogs (along w/ a few others). That reminds me, I need to submit my reviews to the LAMB forum 😀

      Ahah, I quite like those plot holes posts, they did the same w/ TDKR and Prometheus. I generally share their sentiment, a lot of the sci-fi movies seem to be built on cool concepts but they don’t want to spend the energy on really polishing the story! I don’t mind if the screenwriters ‘over think’ things as they often don’t do enough thinking, ahahaha. I remember when I was working on Castor’s pitch on my sci-fi concept, it took me months to even figure out the plot, all the details, etc. and it’s not even a script!

      1. No, I was put off by both the negative reviews that are floating around, and the lack of money in my wallet! Finally got onto seeing it though after Keith’s review a few days ago 😀

        1. So you think it was worth the admission price?? I hardly pay for movies these days but I paid full price for this and it was still worth it.

          1. Yeah definitely! It’s hardly going to go down as a sci-fi classic, but I had fun with it and was glad that I eventually went 🙂 Plus, those visuals needed to be seen on a big screen!

                  1. I find 3D does something odd to my eyes; whether it’s the screen or the glasses I don’t know, but I often get a little disorientated and uncomfortable with it 😦

                    1. Yep, disoriented and uncomfortable is right, not to mention irritating. I’m a bit of a crier so when I cried watching Toy Story 3, it smeared the glasses and I couldn’t clean it up, so I had to watch the last 15 min with foggy glasses!! 😦

  10. Thanks, Ruth, for the review! It’s so hard to make an original, thought-provoking science fiction. My instinct always asks me, “Do I care about the character and what happens?” If the answer is no, then all the special effects in the world won’t make it a memorable film.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Cindy! I’m all about the characters and plot myself, though of course I can’t deny the power of visual effects and this film has that in abundance. I think Cruise is perhaps a ‘special effect’ in itself, I mean if it weren’t him as the lead, I don’t know if the movie would be as compelling.

            1. Btw, if you like sci-fis, would you be willing to take a peek at my sci-fi movie pitch I did a couple of yrs ago and let me know what you think? Some of the plot is similar to Oblivion and the upcoming Elysium. Let me know and I’ll send you the link 😀

  11. I was going to see the movie tomorrow but I decided my life isn’t as shattered as it can be and I want to finish my dissertation this week so Oblivion will have to wait for better times 🙂
    God, Nikolaj has small part again? Hopefully he has both hands in this one at least 😛

    1. Oh by all means focus on your dissertation, Sati, this one will likely be in the theaters for a while anyway.

      Ahah yeah Nikolaj has both hands intact in this one, but I wish he had more screen time.

  12. Ughhh bummer to hear it’s still snowing in your neck of the woods. We got a lot of rain last week but it was beautiful outside today.

    Haven’t decided if I will see Oblivion yet. Glad to hear you got some enjoyment out of it, but I’m having a hard time getting too excited. Might be a rental pick. Glad to hear Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is in it though, even if he does have a small part.

    1. I can’t wait to see the sun again Eric! I can handle Spring rain but Thundersnow, not so much 😦

      Yeah, if you’re not too keen about this one, just rent it or wait ’til it’s in the cheapie theater. You have those in Chicago right? I hope Nikolaj gets more prominent roles, it’s sad to see him with roles so beneath his talent.

  13. I’ll probably see this later this week. I like what Kosinski did with TRON: Legacy, even if it is style over substance as you said. Though I wish Cruise would do a smaller film, this looks interesting. Also, I was actually impressed with Kurylenko in Quantum of Solace, but she’s way better in To the Wonder. Nice review Ruth.

    1. Sounds good Josh, I do think it’s worth a watch on the big screen. I happen to enjoy this more than TRON and that’s thanks to Cruise. I doubt he’d do a smaller film anytime soon though, most of everything he does is blockbuster type.

      I’m very curious about To The Wonder and I’m warming on Olga after this one. She seems sweet in interviews, too.

  14. The saving grace for Tron Legacy was the soundtrack from Daft Punk. It’s pretty much the biggest reason as to why I can watch that film time and gain – that score is perfect. Here, M83 didn’t have that luck and sure occasionally the films does look great, but the story is nothing new when it comes to sci-fi films. Why do sci-fi films have to be so mediocre?! It’s one of my favourite film genres!

    1. You’re right, the soundtrack is ace! I think they had a cameo in the movie, too. It’s funny that you mentioned them as the latest Daft Punk song came on this morning on the radio, ahah.

      It’s true, sci-fi movies always have such cool concept and started out promising but then the filmmaker just can’t follow through on it. I do hope Elysium offers us something thought provoking beyond just the cool visuals.

  15. Interesting review. i thought the trailer looks good but I am going to trust your review … plus I am not that curious on Cruise movies 😉

    By the way…hope you’ll stop by tomorrow for my monthly Murphy 😉
    I feel sooooo excited for everything he is about to do.

  16. Hey Ruth! Thanks for sharing your review of Oblivion. I’ve continuously heard from others that it was good or entertaining, but it also had some flaws. With so many post-apocalyptic themed films, you just have to wonder how original, great, and entertaining this one and the others can be. I’m glad to hear that you didn’t feel bored throughout it though. After enjoying Mission:Impossible Ghost Protocol, I was sure that Tom Cruise still has the talent in him to be successful in action scenes. My favorite films of him though are those he did to rise to stardom.


    1. Hi Raul! You’re right there are soooo many post-apocalyptic films out there. This one I think the strength is in the visuals but the plot is recycled from a lot of other films. Cruise still has the chops to pull off the action, that’s for sure.

  17. Ted S.

    Finally saw it earlier tonight and yeah I pretty much agree with you. It reminded me of too many previous sci-fi films such as Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run and even ID4. I mean when he brought the bomb into the “alien” spaceship, that’s exactly like a scene from ID4. It sure does look great visually, especially on IMAX and it’s one of few films that I wish it was filmed and shown in 3D. There were so many sequences that would look awesome in 3D and this coming from a person who hates 3D!

    Kosinski needs to hire a capable screenwriter(s) to help him on his next film, we know he can shoot great looking films but the story needs compliment visual.

    1. Ahah yeah, I think Kosinski should be able to make a visual 3D spectacle, but I totally agree, he needs to focus a bit more on plot to complement the special effects.

  18. My body physically rejected this movie. That is to say, it wanted to shut down. I could barely stay awake. It was gorgeous looking but nothing underneath. Lots of style, but no substance. Glad you enjoyed it though. 🙂

    1. You couldn’t stay awake watching this? Hmmm, that’s interesting. I wasn’t bored watching it, though I hear ya about the ‘style no substance’ thing. I’m a sucker for beautiful things though so all the cool-looking planes, architecture etc. still kept me engaged.

    1. It’s tough to make a classic these days. One really has to go beyond style in order to achieve that, and I don’t think Kosinski is capable of that, yet.

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  20. I thought this would get better reviews than it has done. Still haven’t seen it but by the sounds of things I’ll probably like the escapist element of the story even if it doesn’t add anything to the genre.

      1. …a colleague at work really liked it and he’s a real classic sci-fi fan so I might check it out but there’s a few films on my radar ahead of it at the moment.

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