Alien invasion causes Earth’s devastating downfall, and Morgan Freeman survives. Clearly, our species is saved.
Freeman is a mystery, a cloaked enigma named Beech who resides in deep underground shadows, away from peering eyes. Earth’s surface is ruled, unknowingly, by Jack (Tom Cruise), repairman of defense drones buzzing around sea water capture devices. Humanity – most of it anyway – was whisked away to Saturn’s moon Titan, and relentless aliens continue to assault water towers dispensing minerals to go between “Tet” stations hovering Earth’s scorched remains.
Oblivion douses itself in allure, immediately undergoing rounds of audience questioning, I.e., why, if Earth’s surface sea water is central to mankind’s Titan survival, is a miniscule skeleton crew left to guard these mammoth delivery mechanisms? Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) provides near robotic companionship to Jack, both as a lover and endearingly cheerful, optimistic compatriot in their defense mission. Oblivion’s beauty, spaciously white with bulbous futurism in its designs, is unnervingly uncomfortable for more than mankind’s peril.
Nestled into sci-fi’s modern visionary frame, Oblivion skirts masterwork for compromising ideals. Answers feel lifted wholesale from 2009’s Moon, equally empty and unsettling in its space premise. Glossing screens with enormous production value and Tom Cruise profiles lends credence to Oblivion’s mainstream draw, propelling rear-loaded narrative structure.
This is a film not about invasion, or rather, not directly. Jack is a figurehead unknowingly wrapped in his own turmoil, a central device doing disservice to Earth’s distant survival. Beech, carrying demeanor of an enlightened, hands-off tutor, chooses to direct Jack toward unbelievable verisimilitude. Defiance, in combination with driven curiosity, push Oblivion into action spectacle for its lively third act closure. Shoot-outs and drone battles squeeze into their frame as trailer bait without upending cautiously built character.
Oblivion is excitable, eager to expand its own vision of Earth’s crushing defeat at humanity’s own hand, and broadens scope with vividly lit exteriors. A turn into darkness is refreshingly astute as downtrodden, post-apocalytic cinema so often reaches for a captivating glimmer of sun. Oblivion is instead baked by an intact sunrise, shining onto sand covered landmarks and exposing a moon perpetually stuck in gravitationally held pieces.
High-end sci-fi is defined by perusal of parable, vividly remembered by allowing audiences to internally muse their existence. Oblivion directs its cinematic charade as high concept, sights of alien invasion rejecting pitifully nuanced insectoids or claustrophobia for something with spacious breathing room. Despite its deadened landscapes where people led lives, married, and worked, Oblivion is agitatedly beautiful. Maybe Earth is better off without us, so long as it has Morgan Freeman.
With only trifling remnants of all-digital production left in visual scope, Oblivion is free to reproduce blissful images of recovering Earth and its dire color saturation. For many, Joseph Kosinki’s effort will lack dazzle, scoring in terms of heavy definition, souring itself with desaturation. There is an appeal to seepy grays and flattened browns, tonally enthralling and in contrast with cleaned purity within Jack’s floating abode. Overhead sun glistens with thick contrast to pump brightness into the frame, settling dire conditions into something stimulating.
Medium shots are the source of bother, an over refined, processed look that squanders opportunity for striking sharpness in exchange for material that appears stingy with artifacts. This is certainly not Universal’s hands at work given this splendid encode, spilling bitrates into the 30s without falling out of shape. Happenings within source cameras botch a handful of shots, and succeed gloriously on a superior majority of others. Successes can be tremendous, and coupled with awe produced by exemplary environments – especially a reclusive forested area – make Oblivion a bastion of continual splendor.
Pronounced black levels keep a handful of nighttime or underground interiors running smoothly with (maybe) two exceptions. Much is in line with overall definition, a few slip ups which cannot counter act pleasantries visible elsewhere. Oblivion’s ashen appearance is easy to take lightly. Do so and you’ll miss the thick blending of Hollywood’s fabrics, on display with costumes. You would miss density of resounding texture, and never appreciate compactness of computer generated landscapes.
Most importantly, as to not perturb a look destined for glossy cleanliness, neither source camera create moments of noise. Window-esque frames run on a two hour, insignificantly flawed spinning Blu-ray with plentiful dazzle.
Oblivion’s DTS-HD 7.1 spectacle is 2013’s pinnacle to date. To be clear, even as summer movies roll into stores during holiday months, Oblivion will remain special for its wildly futuristic design choices with regards to sounds we should recognize. Drones, fitted with robotic personality, produce motorized grinding and purposeful beeps, existing outside of our current sound wall.
Guns, a mixture of piercing lasers and, by film standards, vintage physical ammunition, work two sides of the spectrum. Both craft outstanding explosions which work into the LFE via fierce directional aggression. Scattering debris is a worthy inclusion too.
Engines on ships grumble into a deeply configured existence, passing overhead or taking off with fantastic effect. Oblivion is ample within ambiance, shuffling remnants of wildlife where appropriate or crafting the pinnacle of storm centers Blu-ray can offer. Lightning strikes and rain work around craft interiors during a stupendous late chase sequence, begging to be a go-to demo for enthusiasts. It deserves such a spot.
Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski take up the commentary cause, lead in to a slim set of bonuses. Four deleted scenes are skippable, and an isolated score (oddly in TrueHD) is there for hardened fans. Promise of a New World is a five part documentary, giving a hard promotional sell between spurts of interesting information, in particular the home’s exterior build, sans green screen.