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Oblivion: A Sci-Fi Chopsuey Brought To You By Tom Cruise

From <em>Wall-E</em> to <em>2001: A Space Odyssey</em>, Tom Cruise's <em>Oblivion </em>is culled from a mishmash of sci-fi classics
by Anton D. Umali | Apr 11, 2013
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Tom Cruise is no stranger to carrying most of a movie’s weight. He’s the leading man who’ll be chased till the movie’s climax (Minority Report), maneuver fighter jets (Top Gun), fire some guns (Collateral), avoid the death-sentence of multiple explosions (all Mission Impossible films), serve up the tears (Jerry Maguire), and still save and bed the wailing damsel in distress–all while never losing that trademark handsomeness that’s his bread and butter.

Mr. Cruise does the same in the science fiction drama Oblivion, and it is this familiar steadfast reliability that renders his performances effective. He plays Jack, a mop-up crew for a post-invasion planet Earth now ridden with alien life forms called Scavs. Together with his partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), they manage the droids tasked to eliminate the extraterrestrial insurgents. But then Jack starts having flashbacks and fever dreams involving a mysteriously beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). Are these simply constructs of his mind or buried memories?

This is all we can divulge in terms of plot without spoiling the movie’s reveals.

Oblivion's strong suit lies in its leading man’s ability to give the movie a semblance of substance in an empty world of tricked-out visual aesthetics. Designed more for box-office draw rather than ruminating future possibilities through storytelling, the film falls short on the former and is weak on the latter, yet provides enough punch to keep you glued to the lead character’s impending fate. Also, the premise is packed with too many ideas, leaving too much room for loopholes. Though it's still entertaining, Oblivion isn’t the kind of mind-blowing sci-fi thriller that pushes the boundaries of speculative fiction.

If anything, the devices employed by the script seem like they’re amalgamating its sci-fi film predecessors. If this is mere mirroring of influence or borrowing from here and there, can only be guessed. We left with a sense of having seen this all somewhere before...and below we list some of the factors we’ve concluded were borrowed from other science fiction flicks. You guys be the judge.


Cloning in the name of servitude

The movie: Moon (2009)

Character actor Sam Rockwell plays a lonely moon miner who discovers he’s just a product of cloning in the paranoia-driven Moon, which was directed by David Bowie’s son. Unlike Oblivion, this movie takes a more psychological angle in dealing with the realities of being a labor product. It’s a good thing that when Mr. Cruise sees his identical self he’s able to bust out some kung-fu moves.

Android janitors

The movie: Wall-E (2008)

It is safe to say that Pixar called dibs on the robot janitors. In the heart-melting space love story, clean up droid Wall-E picks up the pieces of a planet turned into a dump.  In Oblivion, the droids are ridding Earth of the scumbag aliens. Wall-E just cleans plain old scum.

Memories of wife used as distraction

The movie: Solaris (1972 and 2002)

Based on a Polish novel of the same name by Satanislaw Lem and adapted originally for the silver screen by Russian film auteur Andrei Tarkovsy in the ’70s and again by American director Steven Sodebergh in 2002. It uses the idea of playing with the minds of people in space by invoking the image and memory of a loved one. Although the hallucinations in this movie are brought about by the mysterious oceanic planet Solaris, just as in Oblvion, the wife is the obvious choice for a dramatic catalyst. 

NEXT: A Space Odyssey, Event Horizon, Matrix, Independence Day

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