Although not ground breaking, trail blazing, or genre building, Oblivion is still an original work. They say Hollywood is out of ideas, but Joseph Kosinski clearly begs to differ. Modern times, especially in the sci-fi genre, force feeds us sequal after prequel after adaptation after reboot. It is nice to see that there are those that want to tell new stories. Sure, there are some great examples over the last few years of new ideas such as District 9 or Avatar, but Oblivion is not an independent film or a follow-up film from a dormant champion of the box office -- Kosinski is relatively new, only previously helming Tron Legacy (a sequel).
There are plenty of reasons people will tell you why they will not see this film. The primary reason is that there are a number of purists who don't consider Tom Cruise as an actor that can carry a film. I find that Cruise is his own worst enemy from a personal stand point. Take away the tabloids, and you take away any distraction of having the main character of Jack Harper be played by Tom Cruise. I think he takes what he is given and does well with it. I would like to expand more on Tom Cruise's character, but I would be in spoilers teritory. The rest of the cast is disposable and interchangeable. All the depth was given to the main character. Morgan Freeman shows up, but his screen time is minimal.
One of the charming characteristics of the movie is that you want to complain about certain things, but then the plot deals with those complaints as the film progresses. I was going to complain about the slow build up. I was going to complain about aspects that I thought were weak plot points, only to realize that these things served a purpose. This is a movie that intends to be exactly what it is.
There are many genres and styles of science fiction; Oblivion borrows from all of them (with some exceptions such as time travel). I can list a thousand films that this movie pays homage to in both subtle and obvious ways, but I won't bore you with name drops. However, there are certain blaring examples of tribute. The most noteworthy is the film's score. The music is the first thing to draw you into the story. Even though it is a slow start, the music is always there to keep your heart going. The style is a blend of electronic synths and live strings. The synths themselves often turn into 80s-style droning or dreamy sequences, but with the mixture of the strings it seems updated yet nostalgic. The other thing that it has is that low budget 70s sci-fi feel of isolation. Even the robotic antagonists' blips and beeps have a 70s tonal quality.
Visually, the movie creates its own world. So many post-apocalyptic stories leave endless ruins. This story sees most of our modern sky scrapers as buried tombs. The landscape is very vast and endless. This movie is in a whole new league as far as the authentic and organic look it creates. There is not any obvious green screen trickery.
Will people like this movie? I think there will be a group of people that love it. Yet I get a sense that the budget and leading star will turn off the sci-fi snobs, and the state-of-mind challenging concepts will turn off the popcorn audience. Yet you never know: there was no budget abuse, the balance of style and substance is even, and it doesn't challenge your thought process in a way where you will walk away a changed person.