There is a lot to like and have fun with in "Oblivion". First, and foremost, it's not in 3-D! Not that I don't like or appreciate the process, but when almost everything coming out these days is in 3-D, it's really enjoyable when a film isn't.
"Oblivion" is, however, shot in digital 4K resolution with four times as many pixels as 2K, which produces an ultra high definition picture. This translates into a visually stunning experience for the moviegoer, and "Oblivion" is quite remarkable visually.
Starring Tom Cruise as Jack Harper, a drone repairman still stuck on Earth after virtually everyone else has been transported to another planet. Years of war have ravaged Planet Earth. His partner, and lover, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) is very anxious to leave, which their superior, Sally (Melissa Leo) has promised will happen in two weeks.
Jack is plagued by past memories, which aren't supposed to be there, as everyone has had their minds swept clean. He dreams of a woman (Olga Kurylenko) and the top of the EmpireStateBuilding. During one of his many daily repair jobs, he encounters a downed spacecraft with survivors --- and she is one of them.
I'm not exactly a science fiction freak, nor do I play video games. But I still rather enjoyed this incredible ride. And that's exactly what it should be some day at the Universal Studios theme park in Florida. It plays like a giant video game on screen, with Jack and Julia trying to fight off attack drones while zipping around treacherous terrain.
The cinematography by Claudio Miranda is breathtaking. Director Joseph Kosinski shot this film across the United States and Iceland, and Miranda makes the most of his outrageous backdrops. The movie is also boosted by exciting original music from Anthony Gonzalez, M.8.3 and Joseph Trapanese. And having Morgan Freeman in the cast as Beech, the leader of the Scavs, always helps.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
"Oblivion" is the latest Tom Cruise action film that is not only a showcase for his considerable stuntman-like abilities, but a technical marvel, as well. The landscape of Earth in the year 2077, destroyed by aliens in a decades-long war, is stylized barrenness as presented by "Life of Pi" cinematographer Claudio Miranda. But the movie is also lacking on an emotional level, as I found it difficult to relate to the characters as anything more than a handful of human survivors in a rather unrealistic vision of a futuristic world.
Cruise plays Jack Harper, a drone repairman some 60 years after the last Super Bowl in 2017. We know this because of the crumbling stadium wall that still has the inscription of "2017 World Champions", and a later reference to the "great game". Writer/director Joseph Kosinski based "Oblivion" on his own graphic novel.
So Harper's job is to maintain drones, flying machines with the capability of destroying anything in their path. The function of the drones is to ensure that the enemy, called Scavs (short for scavengers) can no longer ravage the earth of whatever remaining natural resources exist. But they also present a danger to humans like Harper because they can't seem to distinguish between Scavs and friendly earthlings like himself.
Nevertheless, Harper regularly exits his space station in the sky, called the Skytower, aided by his navigator named Vika Olsen (British actress Andrea Riseborough), who works at an elaborate screen designed to keep Jack on course. The acrophobe in me kept wondering why there were no guard rails at this 3000 foot high home-in-the-clouds, but at least it had a swimming pool.
Meanwhile, during Jack's excursions, a woman seen only on a monitor, known as Sally (Melissa Leo), is a kind of omniscient presence who alternates between honey-coated phrases ("How are you this fine morning?") and the recurring curious question "Are you still an effective team?" (For all this high-tech wizardry in the year 2077, it seemed strange that Sally's visual appearance was such a sketchy, static-laden presentation).
Harper's craft, called a Bubbleship, is more like a giant wasp that projects three spindly legs to provide support on landings. Cruise does look like he's having a ball simulating flight in this odd contraption that resembles a Tilt-a-Whirl ride.
For an IMAX movie with all the technical advances at its disposal, this movie was annoyingly dull. Kosinski is totally enamored with extreme close-ups of Jack and Vika, and eventually Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko), who crash lands on Earth. She has a connection to Jack that is hinted at early on with shots of them atop the EmpireStateBuilding prior to the Earth's annihilation. Later Jack runs into a band of heavily armed survivors led by cigar-smoking Beech (Morgan Freeman), who ultimately depend on Jack to ensure their continued safety.
Kosinski directed the 2010 Disney sequel "TRON: Legacy" which I also found deathly boring. From that film he retained some of the same crew who worked on "Oblivion", including (in addition to cinematographer Miranda), his production designer, Darren Gilford, and Joseph Trapanese, who helped compose the original score.
It's not easy to pan an ambitious film like "Oblivion" which has a lot of good qualities. But set design and spectacular scenery are not usually sufficient for a satisfying movie-going experience. And attempts at levity are lame, with Jack constantly referring to his dashboard bobble head Elvis as Bob.
I suspect that video gamers and Comic-Con devotees will flock to this film, as will Cruise fans in general. But don't expect an exhilarating ride like we experienced in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol".
Opinion: Wait For DVD