Oblivion screened after WW press deadlines. Critic Curtis Woloschuk would have happily remained oblivious of the film.
Critic's Grade: C-
In terms of blockbuster source material, “based on an unpublished graphic novel” may not send pulses racing, but it at least offers the allure of the unknown. After all, how many directors other than Christopher Nolan have recently convinced a studio to pony up nine figures on a sci-fi epic that wasn't already a proven commodity?
Joseph Kosinski—whose TRON: Legacy failed to make much of a commercial or critical impression—somehow convinced Universal execs to loosen their purse strings and make his unpublished comic a rendered-in-IMAX reality. And while his sophomore feature capably demonstrates his knack for envisioning and realizing alternate realms, it also confirms that he remains incapable of cobbling together a compelling story.
Oblivion kicks off in much the same fashion as Legacy: with onerous exposition. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) dutifully informs us that it's 2077, some 60 years after Earth was decimated during an alien invasion. Proving particularly merciless, our attackers first destroyed the moon, triggering a chain of natural disasters. The surviving humans then played their trump card: “We used the nukes.”
Jack now resides with his “assigned” wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) in a gleaming penthouse towering over an expansive wasteland. Much like the blue-collar protagonists of Silent Running and WALL-E before him, Jack's initial objective is simply doing his job: harvesting Earth's remaining water for an off-planet colony. However, a throwaway line concerning the “mandatory memory wipes” to which he and Victoria consented is destined to boomerang back and complicate matters.
Alas, we practically have to wait until the 22nd century for the other shoe to drop and Julia (Olga Kurylenko) to crash from the heavens, claiming to be Jack's wife. In the interim, we're left to marvel at the immaculate post-apocalyptic vistas devised by Kosinski and captured by cinematographer Claudio Miranda, and to lament Cruise's continued devolution into an action movie automaton.
Where Cruise once went to great lengths (i.e. Magnolia's running time) to demonstrate his emotive capabilities, he's now reluctant to betray even the slightest hint of weakness. Given Kosinski's predilection for stocking his films with ciphers, clones and holograms, it's incumbent on the leading man to supply the lion's share of the humanity. Unfortunately, Cruise has little interest in complying. Radiating dangerous levels of intensity, he comically growls “Dream of us” to an intimate, as if he were issuing a direct order.
Forsaking its languid pace in its second hour, Oblivion piles on dodgy plot developments and largely unsurprising “revelations.” While nothing here may be as it seems, it's also relatively easy to figure out. Deprived of notable adversaries, Jack skirmishes with ornery drones that bear an unfortunate resemblance to The Black Hole's B.O.B. Never once is anything as dramatic as M83's pulsing, synth-heavy score would have us believe. Nor is anything as dizzying as TRON: Legacy's nightclub brawl, the one scene in which Kosinski has fulfilled his ambitions of melding the infinite possibilities of comic books with the vibrant immediacy of cinema.
Oblivion is too somber to cater in escapist thrills and too vacuous to offer emotional or intellectual engagement. While an impressive showcase of post-apocalyptic aesthetics, it proves utterly lifeless.