Reviews for the Easily Distracted: Oblivion

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Title: Oblivion

Is It a "Beautiful Oblivion?" You know, it kind of is, and...wait, are you quoting Eve 6? You disgust me.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three mutant Moes from "The Homega Man" out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Introspective drone repair guy prepares to turn the lights off on planet Earth after a devastating war against alien invaders has sent the rest of humanity packing.

Tagline: "Earth is a memory worth fighting for."

Better Tagline: "The dream is always the same."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of two remaining people on Earth in 2077, 60 years after a war against the alien Scavengers that destroyed our moon and led to widespread nuclear bombardment of the planet's surface. He and his communications officer/English muffin Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are in charge of maintaining the drone fleet that protects the giant reactors removing the last of Earth's water before the rest of humanity relocates to Saturn's largest moon. Thing is, Jack keeps having flashbacks related to a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko), which take on urgent relevance when she subsequently crash-lands in a 60-year-old spaceship.

"Critical" Analysis: It ain't easy being a science fiction fan these days, because let's face it: The outlook for the fate of mankind isn't exactly rosy and hasn't been for some time. Warnings about climate change are more dire than ever, the global economy is teetering once again on the edge of disaster and at any given time, half the people on the planet want to kill the other half.

Granted, that last one is usually soccer-related.

And for the last 30 years or so, movies have reflected this mind-set. I think the Star Trek franchise is the only major sci-fi outlet that envisions a non-doomed future for the human race. In recent years, we've exchanged films about post-nuclear holocaust (Damnation Alley, Mad Max, uh, Steel Dawn) for movies about the aftereffects of an environmental cataclysm or -- for the more whimsical among us -- alien invasion. The point being, life in the not too distant future figures to involve a lot of doomsday prepping.

Oblivion, not content using one avenue to depress us, incorporates nukes *and* bug-eyed aliens. It's actually a fitting strategy, considering how many other movies of its genre Oblivion draws upon: WALL-E, Moon, The Omega Man...I stopped keeping track at around ten. But while it's admittedly derivative (and almost necessarily so, for reasons previously noted), it stands on its own for a few reasons.

The first is the fantastic production design and cinematography, which not only gives the devastated Earth a haunting beauty, but keeps the "You blew it up!" shit to a minimum. Sure, there are a handful of shots that remind us, "Oh right, global annihilation," such as seeing the U.S. Capitol in a coastal basin, or the Empire State Building almost buried in silt, but it serves mostly as background.

And as much as I hate to say it, Cruise is pretty good. Obviously he has to action it up some, but the emphasis is more on his fragmented memories and his seemingly misplaced nostalgia for a past he's never known.

Also, the soundtrack by M83 is really quite fantastic.

But you'll figure out where things are going within 15 minutes, if not sooner (and even if you haven't seen the spoileriffic trailer), and most of the action scenes are even more imitative than I'm prepared to forgive. Cruise and Riseborough are solid, as is Kurylenko. Supporting actors Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj "Jaime Lannister" Coster-Waldau, on the other hand, aren't really fleshed out.

Don't go in to Oblivion expecting a great story, but do enjoy the visuals and the overall experience. It's a movie with ideas that are not its own about a guy with memories that may not be his own. Whoa.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: I'm hesitant to recommend the gouge experience that is an IMAX ticket, but in this case it might be worth it.

Oblivion is in theaters today. See it with that person you saw that one time. What was his name?

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