Oblivion epitomizes everything about science fiction that makes the genre frustratingly mediocre at best. The biggest problem is the complete lack of originality, beginning with the predictable post-apocalyptic setting first seen in Planet of the Apes – the poor old Statue of Liberty buried yet again;a hodge-podge of futuristic themes, combining The Matrix (machines taking over), Total Recall (memory problems) and Moon (clones running the show); the inevitable twist (clones/machines who care) derivative of everything from Terminator to Short Circuit; and the sickeningly silly ending of the vanquished evil mother-ship, reminiscent of Star Wars and everything since. While there might be a few decent plot reveals, they always turn to disappointment and the endless parade of effects. In the end, it isn’t anything more than a vehicle for Mr. Cruise. Which leads me to the real question: What’s next? Might he be interested in piloting The Ark?
I have always been a sucker – like a Christmas Tree – for Science Fiction films. I was insanely hyped for Prometheus (2012), Sunshine (2007) and Event Horizon (1997) and, 15 minutes after the opening credits, let down by a predictably dull and stupid story. And I expect Oblivion (2013) will be the same. However every once in a while, there are films that follow through past the set-up, that actually have a thought-out story with characters who are interesting and a plot that intrigues to the end. Here are my Top Five:
5. Planet of the Apes (1968) The costumes and sets might be dated, but the concept and characters work very well. The relationship between Taylor and Zira challenges us to this day. 4 Alien (1979) This film has everything in it, from the typical military conspiracy to grumbling union guys and, of course, the alien’s retractable punching bag jaw. Signourney Weaver’s Ripley is one of the great female leads in science fiction. 3. The Road Warrior (1981) Mad Max is a great ant-hero, and the villains have ever since been used as prototypes for the post-apocalyptic films that followed. Max’s dog provides the tragedy.2. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) The human – and alien – aspect is developed beautifully with some unsettling moments of alien sexuality. It is a contemplative film that makes great demands of the audience.1. Blade Runner (1982) This is at the top of many lists not only because it is a well-constructed film with a strong setting, story and cast of characters, but also because of its fidelity to the tenets of the Film Noir genre.