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“Oblivion” a Shade too Familiar

Oblivion
In “Oblivion,” Tom Cruise plays Jack, the last repair man on Earth. Literally. After some unknown enemy called Scavs attacks the planet, humans wind up destroying everything, including the moon, to win the war. There are still patches of Scavs left on the planet, which is patrolled by drones that Jack must keep in working order.

Jack and his lover/comrade Victoria are supposed to be the only two humans left on the wasteland known as Earth, at least for two more weeks before they get to leave the planet and join the rest of humanity. But are they really alone?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the plot for “Oblivion” sounds a lot like a mash-up of “Wall-E” and “I Am Legend,” because that’s exactly what it is. Director/co-writer Joseph Kosinski, whose only other feature was the sometimes dazzling, sometimes inert “Tron: Legacy,” packs “Oblivion” with so many references and nods to other science fiction films it’s hard to tell if there’s an original thought in the thing.

Not to say that “Oblivion” is a slog to get through. Far from it. The first half of the film is quite good, as the Scavs, who look like they came straight from a “Killzone” video game, attack Jack at various points as he tries to go about his work, going from one beautifully shot dystopian scene to another. In between, Jack dreams of a woman he’s never met (Olga Kurylenko) and longs to spend his remaining days at a cabin he built.

Everything gets dicey for Jack when he sees a ship containing human survivors crash, one of which is the woman of his dreams. Anyone familiar with the science fiction genre can easily figure out what’s next, as “Oblivion” recycles plot points from some prominent and not so prominent entries in the genre, from “Independence Day” to “Moon” and even “Terminator: Salvation.” Things get so murky it’s unclear what the main villain even is until the climax, which is so illogical and full of plot-holes it makes everything preceeding it seem like one big misconception from the get-go.

Kosinski, if nothing else, knows how to make a gorgeous film. Anytime there’s a view of the destroyed moon, the debris floating above the planet, it’s breathtaking. Like a lot of sci-fi, it’s easy to let the humanity get lost in the action and effects. “Oblivion” is no different. The film is framed so well it’s no wonder the actors, with the exception of Morgan Freeman, give wooden, one-note performances.

The biggest standout for “Oblivion” is the excellent score by M83. Daft Punk’s effort on Kosinski’s “Tron: Legacy” is legendary, but M83’s score is worth a listen on Spotify.

“Oblivion” hints at the possibility of being a deep, thought-provoking science fiction classic, but it’s so focused on action and special effects that whatever intrigue the story held is pushed so far to the background it barely registers.

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