Oblivion (2013)

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Movies

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Let me start by simply stating that Tom Cruise drives me crazy. And not the good crazy. He’s been in a jillion movies, and I think I’ve seen them all, but always choked when trying to drink the kool-aid in regards to him being anything close to the “huge” movie star he has become.
I just don’t get the hype. He’s not a great actor, and while he still carries his boyish good looks well into his fifties, seeing him in films is the equivalent to poking a mechanical pencil in my eye. I hated Cruise even before he went all bat-shit crazy on Oprah. My disdain is as old-school as it gets.

I was first introduced to Cruise’s legacy of awfulness with “Risky Business” – but let’s be honest: as a prepubescent teen, that film was about little more than naked chicks. His legacy grew with “Top Gun” (which was apparently made for women, as my wife still watches it every chance she gets), and continued with a pasty-faced vampire portrayal in “Interview With The Vampire” and forward into the “Mission: Impossible” series which made lots of money while making most of us do a lot of cringing.

Even “Jack Reacher” was a head scratcher. Wasn’t Jack Reacher a 6’10” black guy in the books from which the movie was based? …

Audiences continue to be mesmerized by Cruise, despite his crazy off-screen antics and his personal worship of an all-powerful alien being (that’s Scientology, right?).  Tom’s films have currently grossed over $7.3 billion so it’s no surprise that filmmakers fight for his services, and the movie-going public rush out to see everything and anything boy-wonder gets involved with.  It defies logic, but the numbers don’t lie.

Cruise’s latest paycheck came in the form of “Oblivion”, Joseph Kosinski’s (Tron: Legacy) post-apocalyptic tale of Jack Harper (Cruise), one of Earth’s last drone repairmen. Cruise spends the first five minutes or so of the movie setting up the story in simple narrative (read: boring), explaining something about the Earth being nearly destroyed by aliens sixty years earlier, and only nuclear weapons stopped them, which left the Earth in shambles…. blah, blah, blah.

Once the film actually starts behaving like a movie, we find Harper living in the clouds above in his personal “Skytower” along with an assistant/navigator named Victoria. The place is actually quite stunning – so clean, white and perfect that you would truly expect to see Apple Computer logos on it – and pays a decent homage to sci-fi visuals of films past. It is from the Skytower that Harper flies to the surface on repair and recon missions, only to return home after each mission – a la George Jetson – like it’s all in a days work.

Jack and Victoria have both had their memories erased at some point (I’m sure he mentioned why in the opening dialogue while I was making a sandwich), but small memories are sneaking back into his mind regarding a woman from his past. These memories come full circle as – while on a rescue mission on the surface – the girl from his mind ends up crash-landing right into his life.

Oblivion

It’s here that the story gets a little convoluted. For whatever reason, his reunion with this woman (spoiler alert: she was his wife) has Harper questioning his mission, his responsibilities, and – ultimately – his existence. The story plays out like most typical science fiction films with tons of questions, familiar story lines, and lots of high tech, futuristic eye candy. Also, like most science fiction films, it ends up eating itself in irony.

But that’s not to say the film is awful. I appreciated the fact that the future looked a lot like the present. While most post-apocalyptic sets are covered with twisted metal and industrial carnage, Oblivion’s vision of Earth  (played primarily by Iceland) looked a lot like Earth today. Also adding to the eyegasm were some sleek, modern vehicles that just simply looked “cool”.

Another added plus was the inclusion of Morgan Freeman as the leader of a tribe of humans still living on Earth. The role was severely underwritten and painfully drawn out during the film’s weaker scenes, but it was still Morgan Freeman – and anything other than Cruise on the screen was a welcome relief. I would have settled for Kermit the Frog…

Don’t be mistaken, though. This is definitely a Tom Cruise film. He is on screen the majority of the film, has an uncountable amount of close-ups, and does plenty of running here to there (chicks must really like him running). At one point – without ruining too much of the story – there are actually TWO Tom Cruises on screen at once! I can feel your excitement from here.

The plot twists were interesting, and while much of the film never really developed itself to its true potential, the overall experience was actually quite entertaining. Towards the end, it felt like they were throwing every sci-fi cliche at the screen just to see if anything would stick, but all in all, the movie had more highs than lows and proved that even when you can’t stand an actor, beautiful visuals and passible stories can be enough of a distraction.

Recommending a Tom Cruise film has me wondering what they slipped in my coffee this morning, but “Oblivion” was well worth the watch and a must for any fan of the science fiction genre. I’m still going to stand my ground on Cruise not being a great actor, but in this instance, he gets a free pass.

Sorry, Katie…

Rated PG-13. 125 minutes

Available on DVD/BluRay August 6th.

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