In the sci-fi world depth is as common as bread and butter when it comes to memorable storytelling. Within the realm of futuristic surrealism lies limitless possibilities of twists and turns for a great writer to spin a yarn. Unfortunately the way in over its head "Oblivion" takes the above sentiments too literally and turns out one of the busiest, yet dull, convoluted and all out copycat flicks I’ve seen since the days of Roger Corman.
Jack Harper is a tech who is one of the last few humans on earth. After an unsuccessful alien invasion over sixty years ago that destroyed the moon and nearly the earth, the planet lies in a state of ruin. It falls to Jack and his partner Victoria to keep the peace and facilitate the final extraction of the planet’s natural resources. But not everything is as it seems.
I’m frankly not going to delve any deeper into this story as it grows out of control like a fungus from the lip. In a shameful rip-off of every sci-fi flick we’ve seen to date ("The Matrix," "Moon", "Total Recall" and even a little "Star Wars" action thrown in for good measure!), "Oblivion" is like a fat overstuffed burrito that goes down hard and lingers in the gut. (Too many cooks in the kitchen is my guess!) The sad thing is even when it starts off simple and interesting it only serves to show how Tom Cruise is the wrong man for this job. Previously able to convey a myriad of emotions with ease (see "Born on the Fourth of July" folks!), Cruise here turns in a one-note performance that truly takes you out of the miniscule amount of depth that lies within "Oblivion." It’s acting 101 moviegoers and here Cruise is clearly the D student.
As a visual stylist, former "Tron: Legacy" helmer Joseph Kosinski knows the drill and has no problem in the stark screen eye candy department. Meaning there are some very savory scenes of above the earth action and signature sexy silhouettes to boot. But working from a script that’s clearly trying to be "Moon" for the popcorn crowd, Duncan Jones Mr. Kosinski is not. (Plus I’d match up the work of Sam Rockwell against the stoic Cruise any day of the week!) Via "Moon" Jones skillfully provided character, depth and delightful discovery, whereas Kosinski seems content with throwing in everything but the kitchen sink just to keep things interesting. (Busy doesn’t always mean better!)
I’m holding out hope that one day Kosinski will be handed a story befitting of his keen visual prowess, but for those who need to know "Oblivion" ain’t it. A grandiose mess if ever there was one, "Oblivion" clearly bites off more than it can chew and with a mouth already full of so many other films there’s simply no way to swallow it all.
"OBLIVION" OPENS IN THEATERS APRIL 19 FROM UNIVERSAL FILMS.
Stars: 1 1/2
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Gajdusek
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Release Company: Universal Films