(out of five stars)Director: Joseph KosinskiCast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa LeoRated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language and some sensuality/nudityRunning time: 2 hours, 6 minutesMore photos: For more photographs from the film, check out the review on charlestonscene.com.
Science fiction is one film genre that seems to wear its ancestors, the films that inspired it or, less charitably, that it “borrowed” from, with pride.
Thus, “Oblivion” has “scavengers” who dress like Sand People from “Star Wars”; round, red-eyed killer drones from “2001” and “Robocop”; a finale from “Independence Day” and a director from “TRON Legacy.”
And Joseph Kosinski brought his syntheatic tubas score, used in the original “Tron” and in “Inception,” with him.
That doesn’t make “Oblivion” a bad movie, just a familiar one, generic.
Decades from now, we see a depopulated post-apocalyptic Earth, where the moon is but a debris field in the night sky. The humans have fought and won a war against the invading scavengers but lost the planet in the process.
The A-bombs, earthquakes and tsunamis rendered it almost unlivable. And surviving scavengers fight on, interfering with the efforts of those on the gigantic space station, Tet, to drain the seas for fusion energy for the human colony on Jupiter’s moon, Titan.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of “the mop-up crew” who keeps the drones that protect the ocean reactors running on this drying planet, drones the scavengers keep shooting down. He’s got a partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who monitors his work from the control tower they live in, and a smiling, drawling no-nonsense “Mission Control” boss (a disembodied Melissa Leo) up on Tet.
Jack has dreams of a woman he can’t quite place, is prone to insubordination and reveries when he stumbles across the ruins of the stadium where the last Super Bowl was played.
Tumbling into the buried remains of a great library, he picks up a book, Lord Macaulay’s heroic poems about Rome. Perhaps Jack is remembering his “Top Gun” past. He sneaks off to his cabin in a forested corner of the planet, listening to Led Zeppelin and fantasizing a life there. If only Victoria would go rogue and visit the surface with him.
And that’s when a space ship crashes and the woman he rescues (Olga Kurylenko) turns out to be the woman from his dreams. Whatever made sense about his world, his past and his mission goes right out the window.
Cruise is more effective than empathetic in the lead role, Kurylenko is still a pretty screen presence, and the humorless Kosinski is still a filmmaker who could use a vigorous edit in the script stage.