This film suffers from, at least, three major problems: the trailer spoils the entire first half of it, giving away critical elements, the screenplay is full of holes and so cheesy there were audible gasps of exasperation and laughs of derision in the cinema, I felt like applauding the couple of people who left at one particularly bad moment, though it is at least matched by lacklustre acting overall, and thirdly it lifts a lot from multiple other sci-fi sources, combining to produce a pallid shell, from which any talent and creativity long since departed.
If I were to add a fourth thing, it would have to be Tom Cruise’s hair, which seems to have a life of its own, appearing down one moment, and then ridiculously erect the next – usually when he mounts his wee desert bike as if this suddenly activates ‘Mad Max Desert Bike Cruise’. Speaking of which, there’s no reason for the bike to even exist other than to have the hero ride off on one; the hero who decides finding something lost in the desert will be easier on bike rather than from the air, hmmm…
The Red Dragon actually rates Cruise generally, but there is only so much he can do when everything else around him is crumbling. Fans of the hugely popular Bethesda Game Studios roleplay game ‘Oblivion’ should be aware there is no connection to this film, instead here Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, hot on the heels of him playing ‘Jack Reacher’, who together with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the last two humans assigned to the dying planet of Earth, who must protect, with the help of armed drones, huge automated machines which are to transport the planet’s water supply to humanity’s new home on Saturn’s moon, Titan. This has all come to pass after war with an alien race, a war which we won, but our own planet, and indeed our moon, was the price that had to be paid. Despite victory, remnants of the alien task force remain and attempt to interfere with the human plans…
In the course of telling their story, here is a not entirely inclusive list of the other films that are defiled in the process; ‘Wall-E’, ‘Star Trek: Generations’, ‘Terminator’, ‘Independence Day’, ‘The Matrix’, all to greater or lesser degrees, but their biggest art theft is also a massive spoiler, and so appears after the end of this review. Some of these similarities it could get away with easily, such as the drones with red ‘Terminator’ esque eyes and their screens that have ‘terminate’ on them, commonplace in sci-fi now really, but as they mount up it becomes more difficult. Cruise collects and cares for a small plant, the only thing alive he’s found in the dead lands he patrols – ‘Wall-E’. He has a hidden away, idealised cabin in a somehow fertile woods – ‘Generations’. I’ll stop there before I give too much away.
The film is written and directed by Joseph Kosinski (‘Tron Legacy’ 2010) who based this on his, unpublished (early warning sign right there), graphic novel, and he has claimed it pays homage to films from the 70’s, which may be true, but for the rest of it that fine line between homage and stealing is not tread carefully. Just as with his ‘Tron Legacy’, the visuals are the film’s only saving grace (many of the location shoots took place in Iceland), which paint a grand vista of cinematic grandeur, but are ultimately just the icing on a poorly baked cake.
Ok, this is basically the American version of Duncan Jones’s (son of David Bowie) ‘Moon’ (09), and, unfortunately, it’s cheesy and rubbish, whereas ‘Moon’ became a well deserved indie hit. Even though Kosinski’s graphic novel was begun in 2005, the similarities here are too great to ignore, and the screenplay underwent several rewrites over the years via several different people, had the graphic novel been published one could say for sure which came first. Strangely Jones is planning to write a graphic novel as a sequel to ‘Moon’ which he may then turn into a film – perhaps he nicked Kosinski’s idea? In any case ‘Moon’ was released first, and is ten times better, so it would have been wise to significantly alter the script to make sure no one could accuse it of plagiarism. Not the first time Cruise has been involved in an American remake – see his ‘Vanilla Sky’ as opposed to Alejandro Amenábar’s ‘Open Your Eyes’. If you are a big fan of sci-fi then please watch ‘Moon’ before you see this, as one will probably ruin the other for you and ‘Oblivion’ is bad in enough other ways to not really care about spoiling.