oblivion graphic

Directed by Joseph Kosinski; starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko; screenplay by Karl Gadjusek and Michael Arndt, based on a story by Joseph Kosinksi

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Battlefield Earth has met its match. The aptly titled Oblivion equals if not surpasses it in every category that defines a shitty sci-fi movie:

1) Contempt for the audience–the assumption that the audience is not only brain dead, but utterly scientifically illiterate;
2) Blatant scientific absurdities, central to the plot, to match that assumption;
3) An interminable, agony of boredom-inducing introductory voice-over scene;
4) Kaw-Liga-level wooden acting;
5) Cliched dialogue;
6) A World War II-style dogfight;
7) Lack of common low-tech weapons, so as to allow prolonged battle scenes;
8) Malevolent aliens;
9) An absurd, cliched motive for the aliens;
10) No explanation of why the aliens are so spectacularly bad at being malevolent;
11) Mad Max-style clothing of survivors (not to mention haute couture clothing of Riseborough, including stiletto heels);
12) Plot holes you could drive a Dalek mothership through.

Taking these in no particular order, the central-to-the-plot scientific absurdities include total misrepresentation of fusion power; the jaw-dropping absurdity of fusion power plants using up all the water on Earth; and the equally jaw-dropping absurdity of the moon’s destruction triggering civilization-obliterating earthquakes and tsunamis thousands of feet high (with the shattered moon still in its orbit).

As an example of dialogue, Morgan Freeman, who deserves better, delivers perhaps the most cliched line in cinema–this is a paraphrase; I won’t sit through Oblivion again to get the exact quote: “Take that, you son of a bitch!” Jesus.

The prolonged shoot-em-up scenes depend on aliens who have mastered interstellar travel and blown up the moon having nothing more at their disposal than projectile weapons. Ditto for Earth’s survivors, “the scavs.” An RPG or two could have considerably shortened several of the battle scenes, but that’s exactly why such relatively low-tech weaponry is absent.

And while we’re on the subject, exactly why can’t world-busting, star-hopping aliens eliminate the rag-tag human resistance hiding in caves and buried buildings?

The supposed motivation of the aliens, taking the Earth’s water, was absurd on its face when it appeared in the TV mini-series “V” in the early 1980s. Water abounds in the universe. The energy expenditures required to cross interstellar distances are immense. Etc., etc. Again, Jesus.

Other absurdities abound. At one point, Cruise is fighting a clone version of Cruise,  while Kurylenko races down a slope thirty meters away. The camera focuses on the handgun one of the Cruises is holding. It discharges a single shot. At that point, the alert viewer will mutter, “Oh fuck! They’re not actually going to do this!?” And, sure enough, the shot strikes Kurylenko.

It gets better. She’s gut shot, but appears to be in no pain whatsoever from it. When one of the Cruise clones returns to rescue her–far after she’d likely have bled out–her makeup and hair are still perfect, and she’s still in no apparent pain. Then, Cruise waves a magic wand over what should be an agony-inducing wound and says (again, this is a paraphrase), “Hold on, this will hurt.”

Just like watching this dog of a movie.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Free Radicals front cover


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  1. Laura O says:

    Yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly it! Excellent post about a dreadfull film.


    • Thanks for the comment. All of the sci-fi movies I’ve seen this year have ranged in quality from dumb to dreadful. Can you recommend any that aren’t dreadful?


      • Laura O says:

        I don’t think there’s any good sci-fi that sticks in my mind from 2013. I’ve gone old school and watched The Thing, The Fly and Firefly instead. Hopefully 2014 will be a better year…


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