I just saw the Tom Cruise film Oblivion which looks great but, in my opinion, doesn’t really work on the story level. What are the lessons to be learned from it (I don’t think any of these points involve serious spoilers):
- A good hero deserves a good villain. Here most
of the time his opposition is deadly metallic beach ball drones. Not a lot of
- A good hero deserves a good cause. The ultimate
beneficiaries of this hero’s efforts never go beyond stereotypes.
- You’re in trouble when a secondary character (in this instance, played by Morgan Freeman) makes you wish the story had been about him instead. I was also disappointed that the character of the hero’s handler, who we see only on a TV screen but whose sweet Southern accent is enticingly menacing, doesn’t get the reveal she deserved at the end.
- You’re also in trouble if the audience doesn’t feel an emotional connection with the protagonist. In this case, probably the three points above account at least in part for that lack. It could also be that I don’t find Tom Cruise an emotionally vulnerable enough actor for there to be much of a connection.
- If in doubt, cut. Despite the explosions and
battles, this movie drags in places, and it almost feels like two movies glued
together in the middle.
- Twists are good, and this has a couple of nice ones, but it isn’t enough just to surprise people. The best twists are the ones that make us feel that we could have seen them coming (e.g., Sixth Sense).
Having said all that, I don’t think Oblivion is a bad film, just that it falls far short of what it could have been if the people concerned had spent as much time and effort on the story as they did on the special effects and the rich look of the film.