You may be forgiven for thinking that, of late, Tom Cruise seems to be on a one-man-mission to kick start possible franchises left, right and center. That, or either Hollywood producers and directors want him aboard to green light their films and hope that they'll get a franchise out of it!
So, along with his ongoing Mission: Impossible saga (the fifth instalment has been given the go ahead) and the not-so-certain to-be-continued Jack Reacher, Cruise has teamed up with a man who's no stranger to sci fi epics with possible sequel connections...
Despite the average reviews and fair box office receipts of his Tron: Legacy sequel, director/writer Joseph Kosinski is moving forward with the third instalment of the Tron universe, but not before he gets the chance to muck about with (and muck up) the real world instead of its cyber version. And this time, Cruise is along for the ride.
Oblivion's premise can be easily explained for those who need their plots basic and summarised - it's Tom Cruise as Pixar's Wall-E - a "Tom-E" if you will. The future Earth is all but uninhabitable. Stationed across it's desolate wastelands are teams of "clean up'ers" who ensure the maintenance of droid probes. Tom's "two weeks until his Earth shift finishes" character stands in for Wall-E - Jack, the mundane drone who has a heart. He even has a plant that he has nurtured from the wastelands. This he presents to his current love interest (Andrea Riseborough) who, like EVE, is clinical and work-obsessed. His life, and the way he sees it will forever change upon the arrival from the sky of Olga Kurylenko - the EVE of the movie that falls for and connects with Tom-E.
Now, this doesn't mean that Oblivion is a rehash of a Pixar great. It does have its own merits and is worthy of both time and money from audiences. Kosinski, who has a flare for visual story telling as shown in Tron: Legacy, shows that grand landscapes are his forte still, if not actual characterisation. His camera sweeps and soars along with the Harrier Jump Jet-esque craft that takes Jack across the desolate remains of New York or when following the super speedy drones on their seek-and-destroy missions. All looks impressive, even if the imagery of recognisable New York landmarks are constantly thrown in your face to hammer home the point that you're looking at Earth, and in particular, New York - The METS Stadium, The Empire State Building, The Statue Of Liberty, The NYC Library... these ALL make an appearance! To the point of near exasperation.
Which can nearly be said about the other cast. Apart from Cruise and Kurylenko, all the others are frankly wasted. This is never more evident than with Freeman who should be the equivalent of Fishburne's Morpheus from The Matrix (who even gets a "you have to see it to understand it" line of dialogue) but instead comes across more as a DeNiro from any of the Fockers sequels - just phoning it in for the pay cheque. Normally that wouldn't ruin a film too much but Freeman has the pivotal role as narrator for what has happened before. His one big speech that clues both Jack and the audience into the reason of what, why and where feels like an afterthought and is over in a rushed sentence. It's not his fault but that of the script which jogs along at a happy pace up until the reveal and then trips over it in its haste to move along to the next dazzling special effect-laden chase sequence.
A visual delight, Oblivion is a fun 2 hours that harks back to the big Summer Blockbusters of times gone by where A-list stars wowed the senses but not necessarily fed the brain during their antics upon the silver screen. Watch on as big a screen as you can find for the best experience.
UK release date: 10.04.13