Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure
Run Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo
Co-Written and Directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy)
There will always be a place for films like Oblivion (opening today), because science-fiction fans represent the most rabid of film followers. But this laborious blockbuster, filled with paragraphs of nerdy techno-babble, has to be one of the corniest and most ill-conceived sci-fi films of the decade.
Yes, let the hate mail begin.
Tom Cruise loans his star power to this misadventure, playing Jack. In the post-apocalyptic future (is there any other these days?), humanity has won a massive war with an alien invader, but in the process, the vast majority of Earth is rendered useless once the moon is destroyed (one of the cool images of the movie is the exploded moon frozen up in space). The big V-shaped space station known as the Tet, has put in place a series of large machinations that extract what remains of Earth's resources. Remaining on Earth to maintain and protect these machines is Jack and his partner (lover?) Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who spend their every waking day making sure that nothing happens to these machines.
The Tet also uses a series of "drones," which are bad-ass floating orbs that act as the last line of defense. Jack is a trained drone repairman who tracks down drones in need of repair and gets them back up to operational status.
When a ship crashes to Earth with some human survivors, it triggers some remnants of memories in Jack's head and sets him on an exploratory mission to uncover the truth about his mission.
Oblivion is a sort of throw-back to science-fiction from the 70s, where everything in the future looks oddly polished and isolated. Surely the Tet is inspired by Hal of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But this new film is also a mystery. We know that something is not right and we wait for the proverbial ball to drop.
And we wait. And we wait. Then after about the first hour, we could care less.
This first half of the film - and nearly the entire film - barely has a handful of characters present. Jack and Victoria spend most of their time talking tech, equivalent to maybe something you would overhear between two Star Trek red shirts in the Enterprise engine room. There is little to care about and much to learn about in this strange, banal world.
By the time things are explained - with long lines of exposition late in the film - it was too late.
Somewhere in the middle, Jack runs into a band of renegades let by Morgan Freeman. Apparently Freeman has reached a point in his career where we apparently know he is important and must therefore care for his character simply because he is Morgan Freeman. His character is accompanied by a bunch of other useless characters that serve no real purpose. His right-hand man, Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, or Jamie Lanister from Game of Thrones), seems to be a character that had most of his scenes cut, therefore making his "rocky relationship" with Jack nearly laughable.
Repeating a line used often when critiquing science-fiction movies, the story has got to make sense. Otherwise, it ruins the believability. So why does this ship crash now? Wouldn't the Tet have seen it coming? And why would the Tet want to discuss anything with Jack in the final scenes? At least when the Death Star let C-3PO and R2-D2 escape, they did a scan for life forms. Why not just shoot the bastard renegade out of the sky?
Sigh. It's tiring trying to make sense of nonsensical garbage. There is some good imagery and effects in Oblivion, some of the eventual plot developments were cool, but there is very little substance underneath it all. This is Tom Cruise's worst film in quite a while, featuring a Morgan Freeman who is nearly visible cashing his paycheck on-screen.
This of course, won't deter hard-core fans of the genre, or director Joseph Kosinski, or of those fans of the graphic novel in which it is based. But never have I rooted more for the end of humanity on film.
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