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‘Oblivion’ review: You’ve seen this one before

By | April 19, 2013 | Arts & Entertainment, Blog
Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman star in the Joseph Kosinski film "Oblivion." Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman star in the Joseph Kosinski film “Oblivion.” Courtesy of Universal Pictures

It is as if somebody took the plot of every science fiction movie they had ever seen, chopped them up, dropped them in a hat and then just started pulling out plot points. Yes, it is that bad.

There are elements of “Wall-E,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Matrix,” “Inception” and “Planet of the Apes,” just to name a couple. This movie is somehow original, yet a total rehashing of things we have seen before.

“Oblivion” is Tom Cruise’s newest film, and in Cruise fashion this film has an epic scope, though that does not mean it is good. Cruise plays Jack Harper, essentially a human version of Wall-E. He is a repairman, who along with his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), was sent to Earth to repair the drones that are there to extract its last remaining resources after it was decimated after a long war.

However, when Jack goes out on these trips to repair things he finds little trinkets of civilization — like books, glasses and records — and holds on to them to study. He had his memory wiped before he was sent to Earth, but he thinks he may be remembering things about his past.

One of these things comes back to him when a rogue ship crash-lands on Earth. What Jack finds leads him to question everything and may put the human race in grave danger.

Truth be told, this movie is simply a giant let down. It is beautiful — the cinematographer was Claudio Miranda, who just won an Oscar for “Life of Pi” — so that is not the issue, but what is the issue is the plot. There is nothing truly new here. It tries to fool you into thinking there is, but really, there is not.

It is also frontloaded with way too much exposition. This is how not to start a sci-fi film. The first 30 to 40 minutes here are spent trying to explain to the audience what happened during Earth’s war with the aliens — called Scavs — who tried to take over the planet, but it is too clumsily done, which makes it complicated to follow.

The whole movie follows that same trajectory. The pacing is shaky for the first hour and a half, before the climax hits and the movie becomes somewhat interesting, but not what it needed to be.

“Oblivion” takes itself far too seriously. If it is going to try to pull off so many of the sci-fi clichés it goes for, it needs to be more tongue-in-cheek about it, not to an “Airplane!” level of parody, just to the point where it realizes its absurdity like “Scream.”

Perhaps all of this should not come as a surprise when the director is Joseph Kosinski, whose only other film is “Tron: Legacy,” which had similar issues, though it was better than this is. He is quickly building a reputation for pretty films with snooze worthy stories.

The acting here is fine, nothing too special. Cruise is his usual action movie self, which all he could really do with the role. Morgan Freeman appears here in a role that really did not need to be played by him. He does the part well, but it is so small, it underutilizes his talent. He does not show up until an hour in to the film and then disappears after five minutes, not to be seen until the last half an hour or so.

Ultimately, the problem with “Oblivion” is simple — it is boring. The film clocks in at 125 minutes, and you will feel every one of them as you watch Cruise try to save this well-shot, but poorly executed film.

“Oblivion,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality. Running time: 125 minutes. D+

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