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Movie Review: Oblivion

by Bob Garver

April 22, 2013. I was prejudiced against “Oblivion” since about a week before it opened. A friend of mine got to see the movie in advance and left after the first half hour. At around the thirty-one minute mark, I was jealous of my friend. It’s not a terrible movie in that “clearly a bomb” sort of way, but it failed to hold my interest and it was depressing to know that it was nowhere close to ending.

The film stars Tom Cruise as Jack Harper, a drone repairman on an abandoned Earth in a bleak future. Humanity had to evacuate the planet after an alien invasion rendered it uninhabitable. Now most of humanity lives on a moon of Saturn, but Jack and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are on Earth doing some salvage work. There are resources to be collected, and there’s also the possibility that some aliens are still lurking around.

Victoria is happy to live her life inside the sterilized base, but Jack craves adventure. He’s very interested in what Earth was like before the invasion (he’s had his memory wiped by his employers, so a lot of history and culture are new to him). He also wonders why he’s having disturbing dreams about a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko). I think he’s being too hard on himself, lots of guys have dreams about Olga Kurylenko.

Jack eventually finds the woman in the wreckage of a spaceship. Her name is Julia and she’s been trapped in time for several decades. Jack and Victoria believe that she’s hiding something. Julia may be good at hiding secrets about her mission, but she’s not so good at hiding her discomfort with the romantic relationship between Jack and Victoria.

Around the same time, Jack meets a group of surviving humans led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman). Beech warns him that it’s his employer who’s hiding a deadly secret. It’s no surprise, really. Jack should have known that a company that mandates memory wipes for its employees probably isn’t on the up and up.

Beech’s assistant is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from “Game of Thrones”. His name in the credits got a big reaction from the audience at the screening I attended. I actually had a hard time recognizing him because I wasn’t automatically overcome with a desire to punch his teeth out like I am with Jamie Lannister.

The bad guys in the film have quite the contrived plan and I wonder why they put in certain details. Speaking of bad guys, I find it interesting that they picked a syrupy Melissa Leo to play the face of evil. Who says there’s no room for southern accents in science fiction? I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but this is the kind of movie where one question gets answered and six more pop up. I tried explaining the ending to my friend (the same one who tried watching the film before and wanted to know how it ended), and I absolutely butchered it.

The post-apocalyptic landscape is so dumb it took me right out of the movie. It seems like Jack is always near a major Earth landmark that is partially buried by rubble. But you can still see their tops poking out with about the same consistency no matter their height. And it’s only the major landmarks, never the lesser-known skyscrapers.

The most positive thing I can say about “Oblivion” is that I liked Andrea Riseborough as Jack’s passionate partner. It’s mostly a dull movie with an overly complicated plot and action scenes that never seem to get off the ground. At least it’s unmemorable enough that you can walk away from it without its flaws staying with you.

One and a Half Stars out of Five.

“Oblivion” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity. Its running time is 126 minutes.