Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

Oblivion is a solid, cautious, and entertaining science fiction film that does not aspire to be greater than itself nor do anything remarkably original.  Oblivion_600x200

Enter this movie with the expectation of surface level science fiction with a healthy amount of Tom Cruise action and you’ll thoroughly enjoy this movie. Enter with the mindset for something more and you’ll be left feeling disappointed.

[*Spoiler Alert* – This review contains spoilers.]

The year is 2077 and Earth has been ravaged by a great war between humans and “the scavengers” beyond its capability to support the majority of human life.  The only resource left of value are Earth’s oceans which are used to hydroponically power the new human home world on Titan and the TET, a giant upside-down pyramid-shaped space station that orbits the Earth.

The film begins to slowly introduce you to its universe with a dream sequence and monologue from its main protagonist, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise). We then follow Jack and his fellow teammate Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) on a routine day of work.  They are the only two human beings left on Earth. Their purpose is to supervise and maintain the hydroponic power rigs and the automated security drones that protect them from “the scavengers.”

As we get to know Jack and learn more about the world he inhabits, we begin to see flaws in Jack’s perceived world. Given such a hazardous occupation such as Jack’s, why task only two people? In an age of such vast and awesome technology, why is the maintenance of security drones so vital?  Could not more be made? Given the apparent ability to travel the stars and colonize heavenly bodies, why are Earth’s oceans so vital? It’s at the point where these and other questions begin to spell doom for the film that it becomes apparent the world in which Jack resides (and thus the audience) isn’t what it seems. By the end of the film, these puzzle pieces are aligned to reveal a clear image of the truth and the audience is left with a satisfying ending.


While entertaining in its own right, Oblivion does not step out of the science fiction comfort zone in terms of originality. It is abundantly obvious that Oblivion‘s visual style pays homage to classic films adding a fun easter egg hunt element to the movie viewing experience. The most apparent nod is given to 2001: A Space Odyssey in its use of a giant red eyeball to personify the security drones and Sally at the conclusion of the film. Second to that is the quick fly-by of the Statue of Liberty’s torch buried within a canyon, a nod to the iconic scene from Planet of the Apes.  The vast army of clone growth tanks within the TET are reminiscent of The Matrix and the concept that a clone army is used to wage war is very Star Wars-ian.  SciFi and cinema affectionados will enjoy finding more similarities (Portal, I Am Legend, Wall-E, Moon, Independence Day, Blade, etc).

In watching recent films, I’ve become so accustomed to nitpicking details that it was refreshing to see a movie’s narrative arc come to a satisfying conclusion. While I’m a proponent of open endings like in Inception, I was relieved to watch a film that respected its own limits as opposed to one like Prometheus. I recommend Oblivion to anyone looking for a fun film to enjoy and to those who are not easily annoyed by Tom Cruise.

The writers of Critical Mass intend on revisiting some of these concepts of homages, mainstream comfort zones, and the balance of originality and repetition in a later article.


  • Solid, satisfying SciFi-action film
  • Excellent sound design


  • Jack’s last line of the film could have done better justice to Horatius

Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 124 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes:
Unofficial Website:


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