Oblivion (2013)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 4/19/13
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo

War has devastated the planet, and what's left of the human race has relocated to Titan. Only Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are left behind to provide security and maintenance for the machines that are processing vital resources for the Titan colonists. And the machines break down quite frequently, as there are still pockets of alien invaders scattered about. It's just another day in paradise until Jack runs into a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko) who has been haunting his dreams, and his whole world turns upside down. What does it all mean, and what exactly happened on Earth fifty years ago?

While not as bloated and pretentious as "John Carter" (2012), "Prometheus" (2012), or "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012), its tone and execution are similar to all three. Thematically, it also sparks memories of "Independence Day" (1996) and "Battlefield Earth" (2000). While the core story is interesting, the characters aren't, and the film spends way too much time in awe of itself. The lovely Olga Kurylenko is the only likable one of the bunch, as Tom Cruise alternates between annoying and confused, and Morgan Freeman fumbles to do his best Morpheus impersonation from "The Matrix" (1999). While she doesn't have much to do, it's nice to see Ms. Kurylenko in a serious role as something more than just eye candy. Andrea Riseborough does a fine job as Jack's handler, but she's downright creepy and her pupils are alarmingly dilated throughout the entire picture. It's also unclear why she constantly wears high heels.

Where the film really excels is in its visual presentation. The scenes of destruction and desolation are awe inspiring, and the cold and stark vistas of Iceland are bone chilling. Given the locations and sci-fi tech, it most closely resembles "Prometheus" from a look and feel perspective. The music score is also quite good, utilizing the now ubiquitous "Inception" (2010) drone mixed with some techno/industrial sensibilities. Unfortunately, the film drags on way too long, and slows to a crawl between action scenes. The dialog is a constant irritant, and the cringe-worthy epilogue is reminiscent of the equally awful ending in "The Dark Knight Rises", which invalidates the value of sacrifice and leaves a bad taste. It's not a bad science fiction spectacle, but I was left disappointed and wanting.