Cruising into Oblivion

— Courtesy of Universal Pictures

— Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise’s latest ode to extra-terrestrials thick on aesthetics but thin on plot

As the lights dimmed at the press screening of Oblivion, Tom Cruise’s latest multi-million dollar science fiction vehicle, the lady to my left scrambled frantically through the settings on a touch screen.

We had just been told, for the 15th time, to make sure that our cell phones were turned off, with a little more force than might be deemed pleasant. She was too slow to avoid the night-vision scope (no, really) of a suit-wearing security guard who boomed authoritatively across the theatre for her to “Power down the device!”

They really didn’t want anyone to bootleg this movie. I’m not sure they should have bothered.

Don’t get me wrong — Oblivion is a gorgeous, visually-arresting movie, but that’s about it. It’s pure audio-visual spectacle, and really not worth seeing outside of a theatre environment.

The striking aesthetics and impressively executed visual effects hold up a film with a  disappointingly convoluted, predictable plot and lazy, cornball dialogue. To the chagrin of Scientology disbelievers everywhere, Tom Cruise turns in another solid performance.

Much like 2007’s post-apocalyptic romp I Am Legend, the most engaging part of Oblivion is the first third of the movie, as our hero Jack Harper explores the bleakly beautiful landscape of an earth devastated by tidal waves and earthquakes in the wake of the moon’s destruction by an interstellar menace.

Bits and pieces of American landmarks are scattered about the hills and canyons that make up Harper’s planet, from a crater that is at least 20 per cent Pentagon to a makeshift radio transmitter made from the ruins of the Empire State Building.

Tom Cruise navigates the ruins of 21st century Earth with the aid of some slick computer-generated gadgets that take their cues from Apple’s signature white plastic and brushed-aluminium aesthetic. The shiny surfaces highlighted by glowing blue and orange lights contrast nicely with the gritty, weathered look of what’s left of Earth.

While director Joseph Kosinski does a fantastic job of introducing viewers to his world, Oblivion begins to fumble as the story picks up. The major events of the film are pushed into motion through a series of would-be twists that are cliché and overdone, and it’s hard to suspend disbelief when supposed revelations are so clumsily telegraphed.

Oblivion is also chock-full of groan-inducing lines emphasized by the heavily reverberated drums and synths of M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez’ over-the-top score.

You could hear the audience’s eyes roll when, sealing Julia (Olga Kurylenko) into a cryogenic stasis chamber, Jack Harper whispers, “Dream of me.”

While the face-palm worthy dialogue and tenuous plot drags down an otherwise intriguing premise, Oblivion is as worthy of your hard-earned dollar as anything else in the multiplex.

The adventurous first act is an exhilarating look into a fascinating, dystopian future, and the fast paced action scenes move the rest of the film along quickly enough that its flaws are forgivable.

OVERALL GRADE: C

 

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