Craig's Movie Breakdown: "Oblivion"

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Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack’s mission is nearly complete. Also starring in this sci-fi thriller that's based on director Joseph Kosinski's Radical Comics graphic novel of the same name: Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo & Zoë Bell.
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Three things to know before the movie:

1. “Oblivion” is based on a graphic novel from Radical Comic Books but it is a little different from other comic book publishers. The difference is that each title under the “Radical” brand will be built with the assumption that the comic book will one day be developed for the big screen. This is used to attract film directors to a project during the developmental process and most times the writer of the comic is employed to write the first draft of the screenplay that will be pitched to studios. This is not the only film being created this way. Brett Ratner’s “Hercules” film starring Dwayne “The Rock Johnson”, a crime thriller starring Avatar’s Sam Worthington, and a ghost story that Bryan Singer is attached to direct are also under the “Radical” banner.

2. This is the next film from director Joseph Kosinski, who made the flashy “Tron Legacy” for Disney in 2010. This is actually based on his graphic novel and at one point Disney did want to work with him on this one as well before realizing that Disney’s family-friendly sensibilities would not work well with the material. Kosinski and William Monahan wrote the original script which was re-written by Karl Gajdusek before being re-written a final time by Michael Arndt. Arndt is best known for helping to write both “Toy Story 3” and “Little Miss Sunshine”, the later of which won him an Oscar.

3. Tom Cruise stars in the film. This will be his first sci-fi film without the help of Steven Speilberg. For Morgan Freeman, this will be his first sci-fi film since 1998’s “Deep Impact.” And this will be the second time Freeman and Oscar Winner Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) will be in a film together this year, the first of which was “Olympus Has Fallen.”

Plot:

Jack Harper (Cruise) is one of the only humans still existing on Earth in the year 2077. The moon has been blown up and a war broke out between humans and an alien race (called Scavs) that has depleted the Earth of resources and ensured that humans must move to a distant planet called Titan. Jack, a drone repairman who has had his memory wiped to do the job for some reason, is about to join them but before he can a spaceship crash lands to Earth carrying his wife (Olga Kurylenko) of long ago. Morgan Freeman also shows up later to tell Jack things are not what they seem.

Review:

Tom Cruise has had a career any young boy could only dream about. In the past year and a half alone he’s gotten to play a rock star, a secret agent, and now what you could call a space man. But that’s really all it feels like: play. I know it’s all meant to be fun and cool and all but it’s also too bland. It’s like Cruise just puts on the suit and then expects that that’s all the character needs. This is not just his fault. Kosinski has given him meager development, which we are given a reason for later, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s a problem.

The reason? Well Cruise is most of the movie. For much of the first hour Cruise just wanders around Kosinski’s backgrounds, an unbearably dull way for the director to show off how good he is at creating his own worlds. Cruise gets his own spaceships and motorcycles and plays with rifle-sized and pocket-sized laser weapons, while exploring desolate landscapes and caves, flying to his own little patch of green (along with a pond, and a cabin filled with classic rock records), before heading home to his sleek, floating bachelor pad where his mission control partner (Andrea Riseborough) enjoys to swim naked in his translucent-bottomed swimming pool.

It looks nice but Cruise is a bore and there’s no story, until there is one, at which point you can use the term loosely. This is a movie with nary an idea of its own or any particular interest in exploring the ideas that it lifts. After a while it’s more fun to play a game with the movie than actually follow it: try to figure out what particular movie did this particular element a hundred times better? I came up with “Star Wars”, “The Matrix”, “Wall*E”, “Solaris”, “Moon”, and Kosinski’s own “Tron Legacy”. This cobbled-together Frankenstein monster pays lip service to just about everything while failing at any attempt at coherence. And by the time Tom Cruise fights a clone of himself, you’ll be long past the point of caring why?

Freeman is the catalyst for the real story to begin. He doesn’t show up until an hour in and then makes only brief appearances afterwards. Melisa Leo, playing a commanding officer, is only shown from the neck up and gives an awful southern accent. And Cruise has next to zero chemistry with Kurylenko while it’s hard to even discern what the relationship is even supposed to be with Riseborough. The human characters basically suck here, is what I’m saying, but if you have to see this movie, watch for the floating white orb drones with machine guns attached at the sides. They provide the only real fantastic action sequences the film has, and if the rest of the movie gave us any reason to invest any interest in it, they could have been rousing entertainment.