Nonstop Movies: ‘Oblivion’

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Forget the trailer you’ve seen for this movie. It’s a total bait and switch. The trailer promises epic sci-fi action adventure, but the actual tone of the film is much different from the adrenaline rush in the two-minute clip. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I usually do a fair amount of homework before going into a film, so it’s rare that a film will surprise me. I thought “Oblivion” would just be Tom Cruise doing his usual hero act, but this time in the future. While that still holds true, the way the story was told was a total curveball to me.

The film takes place in 2077, 60 years after a great war with an alien race that the humans won, but at the cost of the planet. Earth is no longer habitable, so all humanity has moved to a space station with just Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) left behind as a mop-up crew. Their job is to ensure the functionality of the machines that convert the Earth’s seawater into potable water and to maintain the robotic drones that keep watch against the “scavs,” short for scavengers. They’re scheduled to join the others in two weeks, but Jack is reluctant to leave as he’s developed a connection to the Earth below his home in the clouds. He’s also haunted by a recurring dream of a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko).

Most of the scenes shown in the trailer occur in the first half of the movie. Screenwriter and director Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) takes his time to depict the dreary daily routine of these two characters. There are a few quick but exciting action scenes splashed here and there, but the most appealing parts of the first half of the film are the exquisite visual effects, especially when seen in IMAX. Kosinski does an excellent job creating a great looking futuristic Earth, although not quite to the level of last year’s “Prometheus.”

But then at the halfway mark, there’s a revelation, and that’s when the film shows its true colors. I’ll admit I was a bit bored up to that point, but when the big reveal happened, I sat up in my chair and once again became invested in the film. That interest was maintained till the film’s conclusion, but like many science fiction stories, there were several questions left unanswered and while leaving the theater satisfied, I had a nagging feeling that it could have been so much more.

“Oblivion” borrows extensively from sci-fi films of the past such as “I am Legend,” “2001” and even “Wall-E.” But its greatest influence is another, lesser-known sci-fi film that I won’t mention because it will give a key plot point away. But the similarities there are very obvious if you’ve seen the previous film.

Despite the derivative story, however, I still enjoyed “Oblivion.” I’ve always been a big fan of Cruise, and he delivers like he always does. Combine that with some cool visual effects and a decent enough story with a few twists, and “Oblivion” is an enjoyable time at the movies.

“Oblivion,” 126 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters Friday.