Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski, the same guy who pooped out that shiny, stupid Tron: Legacy piece of shit with those Xena disco boomerang things, has now pooped out a Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick. It’s a movie which only vaguely nods in the direction of character development as it labors to forcibly congeal an involved sci-fi premise. Indeed, the film’s central project seems to be self-explanation. I guess we should’ve seen this coming when the two-minute trailer couldn’t adequately delineate even the plot’s broadest strokes. It’s a question of deficiencies in the script more than anything, or deficiencies in the source material (Oblivion is “adapted” from an “unpublished graphic novel” by Kosinski himself).
Here’s the gist: Tom Cruise is Jack Harper. He’s a “technician” in a post-nuclear world. He and his partner Vica -- an eternally confusing nickname for Victoria, by the way; it’s like, ‘What the hell are they calling her? Are they calling her Becca? -- have to surveil and maintain “drones” that patrol the planet for “Scavs,” the alleged aliens with whom humans battled during “The War.” Meanwhile, massive airborne machines suck up the earth’s resources for eventual transport to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, where the existing humans will all happily live now that the earth has been rendered mostly uninhabitable by the nukes. Except it’s not that simple! Harper -- Matrix-style -- soon learns that he is but a pawn in a much larger techno-galactic superstructure and revolts against his superiors.
Kablam! Not a bad concept on paper, and it certainly can’t be accused of being predictable. And to its credit, Oblivion’s physical landscape -- a geologically subsumed New York City -- is one of the more compelling visual representations of post-calamity earth I’ve ever seen and a treat to experience in IMAX. The otherwise generic production design leads one to believe that in the future, Apple will have monopolized not only technology, but transportation, apparel and home decor. Scenes of legitimate action are few and far between, and the romantic situation is about as interesting and emotionally charged as subprime lending.