Here’s something you don’t see every day – a big-budget sci-fi film that’s not a sequel, remake or adaptation. “Oblivion” is none of these, and while it has familiar elements of post-apocalyptic stories like “I Am Legend” or “Wall-E,” it still has enough surprises to keep things interesting.
Tom Cruise stars as Jack Harper, a drone repairman on Earth 60 years after a human-alien war left the planet uninhabitable. Along with his Communications Officer Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), Jack maintains the robotic drones that guard the few natural resources the earth has left. In two weeks they leave Earth for Saturn’s moon, Titan, to join the rest of humanity.
But while Victoria can’t wait, Jack longs for the earth he recalls from his mysterious dreams. When a downed spacecraft brings a woman familiar to Jack, he realizes things aren’t what they appear on this seemingly deserted Earth.
Cruise gives a memorable performance here, with his Jack Harper more than just a gung-ho action star like the roles he’s played recently. This is a character in awe of the relics he finds on the abandoned Earth, reading Roman poetry and gleefully reciting the outcome of the world’s last Super Bowl. He’s a well-rounded character, but the other remaining humans are not. Victoria is emotionally distant, and the mystery woman who shows up doesn’t impress either.
The real star of the movie is the visuals, expected from the man who directed “Tron: Legacy.” Post-invasion Earth is beautiful to look at, and the futuristic aircraft and drones are uniquely designed to flesh out this future world. The film is great eye candy, but the performances from all but Cruise make everything seem uninvolving.
Thankfully, a second act twist saves the film, giving the story some much-needed depth and some food for thought. Thanks to its smart story and amazing visuals, “Oblivion” is an entertaining original sci-fi spectacle. Just don’t be surprised if all you remember is the look of the film rather than its characters.