The 2013 Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle, Oblivion did rather well for itself with a $280 million worldwide take. By most accounts, it was a visually stunning film with solid cast performances and even carried somewhat of an interesting series of plot twists. However, don’t expect any kind of adulation from writer, William Monahan, who penned an early draft of the film’s original script. According to Monahan, whatever he had originally written was cut up and altered to the point that there was "nothing left of me."
In an interview with Den of Geek, Monahan expresses a serious case of lament regarding the fate of his original script, which would eventually fall into the narrative hands of screenwriter, Karl Gajdusek and then later, Michael Arndt. (Who would himself fall victim to the script-slicing game with the Star Wars: The Force Awakens script.) Monahan rants rather passionately of the final product that Oblivion, directed by Joseph Kosinski would become.
"It differed enormously. I’d written something I think was very good, perhaps a science fiction classic, which I imagine got the film greenlit, and then it was turned by subsequent writers into cannon fodder, despite Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, all of whom I love."
Despite Monahan’s passionate rebuke of his script’s sliced, diced and stitched Frankenstein treatment, he doesn’t go too far in depth about any notable changes that especially got his goat. However, he vaguely goes over some concepts from his script that actually did remain in the final version.
"There’s nothing left of me except drone behaviour, some story, the seawater collectors, and Horatius at the Gate. I never tried for credit. The director and the studio made their bed and they can have it. Not taking credit probably cost me a significant amount in royalties, but I don’t care."
To not even want to collect a paycheck which at least acknowledges your part in the film’s original conception must indicate that Monahan does not see the version of Oblivion that hit theaters as even remotely being anything with which he was involved. Nay, his view of the final product must be so offensive and repugnant, that he could not stand to even have his name attached.
Was it THAT bad of a film? I should say not. It does seem to drag in parts and the vast atmospheric dryness tends to be draining, especially when dealing with a primary cast of three. However, it creates a bleakly beautiful rendition of a post-apocalyptic world and even evokes an "on the run" kind feeling that hearkens back to the aesthetic of sci-fi classics like Logan’s Run. Yet, from Monahan’s perspective, when your artistic dreams are compromised, and from a practical standpoint, you can afford to avoid a few royalty checks, then more power to him.