The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Why I’m blissfully oblivious of the shortcomings of Oblivion

with 36 comments

Tom Cruise in OblivionWhen nothing else works to make the movie exciting: add drums.

If it’s still not exciting: make it louder.

In case of emergency: turn it up a bit more.

There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a score. Go big. Be safe.

I can imagine that something along those lines went on in the minds of the makers of Oblivion. This is not a good sign. When you start taking notice of the score, you know there’s something that isn’t working as it should with the movie.

If I was a normal blogger with what’s considered a “good taste”, I would have written something snarky.

I could have sneered at a ridiculous choice of costume. Feathers, really? Are we six-year-olds? This is supposed to be a big movie, not an oh-dear-we’re-we’re-low-on-funds-episode of Start Trek where they throw people into holodeck and hope for the best. According to IMDb it has cost 120 million dollars to make. Tom Cruise must have left something of it for the production?

I might have muttered something about shameless loans from other movies. I would probably have made a reference to the title. The temptation would be irresistible. Because it’s actually a forgettable movie.

A science fiction fan at heart
I admit all of that and I don’t begrudge anyone who raises objections against the qualities of Oblivion. You’re in good company with a lot of critics.


The thing is: I’m a science fiction fan at heart. I’ve been that ever since I first laid my eyes on Foundation in my pre-teens thanks to my parents who insisted on it (bless them!).

Most of the movies I watch and books I read nowadays are mainstream. But every time I consume idea based science fiction, it all comes back to me. I’m at home, where I belong.

I love aliens that are truly alien and a threat to mankind. I love conspiracies, the one man’s fight against society. I love to see Earth in ruins and far travelling space ships. I love twists, particularly so since I’m so hopelessly stupid that I almost never manage to see them coming.

Yes, Moon with its 5 million dollar budget is a far better movie. It’s the classic that Oblivion never will be. If you’ve got Tom Cruise in your cast, I don’t think you can afford to be edgy and take any risks. So you mix in scenes that seem like leftovers from Top Gun not to put off the non-geeky audience too much. And this dilutes the whole thing

But in the end, I can’t deny it: I enjoyed watching this movie quite a bit. That’s just how I’m wired.

Oh, and if you wonder why I’m not saying anything about the plot and what the movie’s all about, it’s all on purpose. The less you know the better. If you insist on knowing more before you get into it, you can find that information elsewhere.

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski, US 2013) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

April 16, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in Oblivion

36 Responses

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  1. This is the first (mostly) positive review that I’ve read of this one. Being a big sci-fi fan as well, I’ve gotta say that I think it looks pretty entertaining. Also looks like it would be best in theaters, am I right?


    April 16, 2013 at 4:58 am

    • Yep. I think it will lose quite a bit on a smaller screen. I was happy that they screened it at the largest premier theatre in my city.

      I can understand where the criticism is coming from. But as so many times it’s a case of : is the glass half way full or half way empty. I chose to see it in a bright light.


      April 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

  2. This is one of my more anticipated movies of the year mainly because, like you, I am a science-fiction fan. To be honest the trailers look pretty fantastic to me so I’m excited. It opens here Friday and I’ll be there. Your review has me a little bit more excited now.


    April 16, 2013 at 5:16 am

    • I have to admit that I look forward to the next installment in the Star Trek series more than I looked forward to this one. I went into this fairly neutral – or actually with lowered expectations due to the cool reception it has recieved here. Perhaps that’s a reason why it worked pretty well for me.


      April 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

      • Star Trek…sigh. I’m actually trying to lower my expectations for that film. The trailers look fantastic but honestly I wasn’t a big fan of the first movie. It was just too bombastic and at times incredibly silly. It was also so liberal with the source material and I wasn’t fond of its handling of the characters. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no “Trekkie”. But it never felt like Star Trek to me.


        April 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

        • I really liked it and while it was liberal in one way, I thought it kind of stayed true to the source material when it comes to the spirit of it. And I especially enjoyed the brief guest appearance by Nimroy. I don’t regard myself as a trekkie (not going to special ST conventions, dressing up in costume), but I’m certainly a Star Trek fan. Though my favourite captain isn’t called Kirk, but Picard. Noone compares to him.


          April 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

          • Yes, yes, yes. Same here. For me The Next Generation was what won me over to the whole world of Star Trek.


            April 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

  3. I enjoyed a lot of things about Oblivion. It felt like genuine old school scifi and I really like that, also loved the visuals.

    But it went on for too long, and all the women were useless. Also I think some scientologist spiel slipped in which wasn’t really helping. But glad I saw it 🙂


    April 16, 2013 at 10:31 am

    • Yes, I agree that it’s old school scifi and what’s so great about it, which I didn’t mention in the post, is that it takes itself pretty seriously. The writers haven’t felt compelled to insert a joke every second minute. And this was refreshening. I’m tired of how they often undermine their own stories, as if they’re afraid to be ridiculed for being “too much”.

      It’s true that it wasn’t great from a gender perspective. Often I have those glasses on when I review movies. This time I left them at home. I didn’t think about scientology when I watched it, but then I have to admit that I’m not all that initiated in their teachings. Just another sad cult, extra appalling since there’s so much money involved in the charlatanry.


      April 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

  4. Think you’ve said some very fair things about Oblivion, of which I agree on some level. On some level I too enjoyed watching the film. But on the flip side it left me wanting more. It felt like it could have made a great mini series, rather than a film. There’s so much more to it than was shown to us in the film.


    April 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    • It’s based on a graphic novel and maybe there wasn’t much more to it. But sure, why not? I imagine there could have been some parts that could have been developped further, thinking about it. It would present some challenges as in spoiler protection. It’s sensitive in that way and having people to shut up for an entire series might be more than they can handle, sadly.


      April 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

  5. I was a little indifferent in wanting to watch this but I’ve heard some pretty favourable reviews now and I’m actually quite looking forward to it. Nice review.

    • Thank you! It’s actually not a bad thing to go to it indifferent or with low expectations. That’s what I did and I got a nice surprise rather than the disappointment I would have felt if I had been super hyped about it.


      April 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm

  6. For a minute I thought you were trashing this movie Jessica and felt slightly deflated. I’m looking forward to this one and glad to see you rate it highly.

    Mark Walker

    April 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    • There are certainly things you can pick on – others have to a great extent as far as I’ve seen. But as a sci-fi fan I was satisfied. Set the expectations right and you’ll be happy.


      April 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

  7. Thank you! Someone else liked it, too – I’m overjoyed! I liked it a lot, it was gorgeous and left me gasping. Though the big screen always makes it better, too.


    April 16, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    • That makes too of us! I’m glad to hear someone apart from me liking it. The bigger screen the better, I’d say.


      April 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

  8. This reminds me – I must watch Moon!
    Great post, I really enjoyed reading this 🙂


    April 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    • Thank you for your kind words! And yes, you’ve really got to watch Moon. Just promise me one thing: don’t read up ANYTHING about it before you do it. The lesser you know, the better.


      April 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

  9. Great review, Jessica. I feel similarly about some sci-fi films as well, particularly those of the end-of-days/apocalypse/dystopia kind. They can be really bad sometimes, but I’ll always be fascinated by them. Watching Oblivion this weekend.


    April 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    • Thanks Fernando! The last time I was disappointed in a dystoian sci-fi movie was the remake of Total Recall. But on the whole I tend to like them a lot. Maybe I’m lucky enough to avoid the bad ones.

      I hope you’ll like this one!


      April 18, 2013 at 8:58 am

  10. Still have not seen it, but looking forward to checking it out. That score you gave it really makes me want to see it even more. There are way too little science fiction movies coming out, so I always hope if any are released they are decent.


    April 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    • It’s not a new classic, but it’s definitely “good enough” if you’re a starved science fiction fan.


      April 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  11. Oblivion = the Prometheus of 2013. For better or worse.


    May 17, 2013 at 9:20 am

  12. Another one I watched last week. I’m a big scifi fan myself but this movie was “meh”. The story just didn’t click with me.

    And they “honored” other sf films a bit too much. Flying into the ship to kill it in the finale? Hi, Independence Day or Star Wars. Using clones of people to do maintenance? Mmm, Moon. And the whole base invaders scene reminded me of the Matrix movies. Playing with memories? Total Recall. Keeping a small utopia away from hell? Mmm, can’t remember but I’ve seen it *somewhere*… and executed in a better way.


    September 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    • I actually liked this a great deal better than for instance Elysium. Sure, there are a lot of “thefts”, but at this point I think there’s a lot of recycling going on in all sorts of fantasy and sci-fi. It’s inevitable. This looked pretty and had some fun twists that I didn’t predict (but then I’m easy to fool.)


      September 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      • Well, those predictable plot twists were annoying too. The big switch at the end for example. According to my ratings, I preferred Elysium a bit. Then again, I forgot what Elysium was about…


        September 10, 2013 at 2:20 am

        • At least I think we can agre on that it’s nice that they make so many science fiction movies these days!


          September 10, 2013 at 11:16 pm

          • Hah yes, got to love SF movies. And who knows, there might be another Moon or Gattaca in there one of these days.


            September 10, 2013 at 11:20 pm

            • Right now I’m curious about Gravity. I’ve seen a mixted response to it from the festivals, but I’m hopeful.


              September 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm

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  15. […] Oblivion Many claimed Oblivion was bad in different ways. I didn’t notice. I was too busy having fun watching it. […]

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