Movie Review: 'Oblivion' doesn't deliver

What It's AboutApril 19, 2013 

A bloated big-budget sci-fi adventure that takes itself far too seriously, "Oblivion" has a sleek futuristic look that borrows "The Jetsons" architectural template but doesn't deliver any human heart and soul, nor make much sense if you think too hard about its dense post-apocalyptic plot.

A glorified video game from the director of "Tron: Legacy," the movie is set in 2077, after an alien race destroyed our moon, which caused one catastrophe after another. We won the war with the Scavengers, but the Earth's a desolate place, and civilization has fled to Titan, a moon on Saturn.

Then it gets complicated. Cruise's Jack Harper is master of the desolate domain. He pilots a fancy flying machine, searching for "Drones" he needs to service, so they can patrol the landscape in search of the Scavs, who are hell-bent on thwarting our attempts to sustain life through harnessing ocean water.

Tormented by flashbacks in dreams, Harper starts putting the puzzle of his life together, annoying the powers-at-be. They're represented by Melissa Leo, laying on a thick, sugary Southern drawl as she says extremely lame dialogue through a computer screen.

Performances

The intense, dedicated Tom Cruise is in full boyish hero mode. But as a blank slate/dutiful government employee, he acts so much like a cyborg-automaton-replicant that you suspect that his outer toned shell of spiffy jumpsuit and cool shades hides a machine interior.

Human Barbie Doll Andrea Riseborough ("W.E.") plays half of their "effective team," following orders. As Victoria, she is nothing more than a Stepford clone, a perfectly groomed fembot catering to Jack's needs. Mystery woman Julia (Olga Kurylenko) needed more development.

Morgan Freeman's role amounts to a cameo -- as the leather-clad rebel leader, he dispenses pithy wisdom and looks bad-ass smoking a stogie.

What Works

The film looks good, thanks to Oscar winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda ("Life of Pi").

What Doesn't Work

It's dreadfully dull. The labyrinth plot implies that there's more to this story, yet it fails to follow-through. Even worse, you don't care because the four screenwriters, adapting Arvid Nelson's graphic novel, don't effectively connect with us. Alas, the director spends more time spotlighting the shiny hardware and hi-tech gizmos than revealing the story in an engaging manner.

The director's pacing is cumbersome. He wastes time on pointless scenes, such as showing Cruise showering -- twice -- after a long grimy day on Earth.

There are many references to other, better science fiction films -- therefore it feels derivative, without offering the originality to set it apart.

1 1/2 stars out of 4

Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster Waldau

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity

Length: 2:06

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