Film Review: ‘Oblivion’

Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise navigate the twists of "Oblivion." Credit: Universal Pictures
Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise navigate the twists of “Oblivion.” Credit: Universal Pictures

‘Oblivion’
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) globes

It’s not clear when sci-fi and comics culture — once solely the realm of nerds — became the dominant pop culture product. Real fans can take solace that most of these products emphasize two things about which they could (hopefully) care less: mindless spectacle and emotion. The mega-budgeted “Oblivion,” starring plucky comeback kid Tom Cruise, holds our hands as it guides us through a twisty, almost hard sci-fi premise concerning a post-apocalyptic Earth. And like “Inception,” it ultimately wants to appeal to touchy feelings, not sterling brain power. It’s also sometimes rather dumb.

“Oblivion” is the kind of sci-fi that opens with an amusingly protracted opening narration. Cruise is a mysterious worker mysteriously working on a mysterious project reaping what resources remain from the now-barren Earth. (Cue shots of a collapsed Pentagon and the Washington Monument leaning over a miserable moat. The latter also took a beating in another recent blockbuster featuring Melissa Leo, “Olympus Has Fallen.”) Cruise admits that he’s had his mind wiped, but he has stray memories of hanging atop the Empire State Building with a woman played by Olga Kurylenko, which are, alas, not outtakes from “To the Wonder.”

There are revelations en route, none of them worth spoiling, involving the true nature of Cruise’s superiors (embodied by Oscar winner Leo, seen entirely on an unaccountably discombobulating scene that makes her look like Max Headroom). There’s also the issue of a group of leftover humans skulking about in caves, led by a cigar-chomping Morgan Freeman (in a glorified cameo). And are we sure we know much about this Cruise fella? Even playing a cipher in a far-flung future, Cruise plays the classic Cruise rebel: a cocky smart aleck who takes risks but remains consummately serious when need be, much to the consternation of his rational killjoy co-worker/hottie ladyfriend (Andrea Riseborough).

What follows is not exactly original, and it calls to mind films one wouldn’t want to recall. The armed-to-the-teeth, probably not-so-good drones (insert topical joke here) resemble the boxy floating robots from “The Black Hole.” Meanwhile one plot point is that the moon has been destroyed —wasn’t that the Deceptacons’ plot in the second “Transformers”? Director Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) is a clean and patient director, a perfect fit for a film in non-3-D IMAX and for a screenplay that takes its time in laying out its game plan, wisely recognizing that the journey is superior to the far-too-pat destination.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

Philadelphia principal has President Obama's ear

The West Philadelphia head is gathering ideas to present to the White House.

Local

Neighbors testify at Overbrook roommate slaying trial

Neighbors and roommates were called to testify Wednesday in the trial of Renaldo Robichaw, 56, charged with murder for the death of roommate Albert Smith, 48.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

Movies

Latin culture highlighted at Filadelphia film fest

Get ready to have a “Bad Hair” day at the upcoming Filadelphia Latin American Film Festival. We mean that in the best possible way. The…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Eagles will spend Thanksgiving in Dallas, play four…

The Eagles have an impressive, challenging and exciting schedule in 2014.

NFL

NFL releases Eagles 2014 schedule

The Eagles have four primetime games, face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and host the Seahawks in a dynamic, challenging and impressive schedule.

NHL

All signs suggest Steve Mason will start in…

Flyers head coach Craig Berube elected to put Steve Mason in net for the final minutes of Game 3.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."