Can Tom Cruise be taken seriously?
The trailer to this film promised both huge, expansive, and undeniably beautiful visuals, coupled with a deep, philosophical story, centred around its characters. Well, it delivers on a least on of those promises...
The film is a visual stunner, leaving no environment sterile, and making a great use of practicable effects. Although it does occasionally veer close to the Avatar school of special effects, most of the time the special effects do add something to the overwhelming prettiness of the world created. The Drones (a big part of the story) make a large, booming noise that really adds to their screen presence. Director Joseph Kosinski should be commended on realising what CGI is for (that is, making what is already there even better).
The soundtrack is generic (and sounds very similar to Hans Zimmer's Batman work), but not bad. It adds nicely to the pacing, which is good, because I was never bored. However, it doesn't make up for the paper-thin story.
The only thing that surprised me about the story was how obvious it was. There are some minor twists that are abandoned as quickly as they are puked up, but otherwise, the story goes exactly where I expected it to go. Evil aliens are downtrodden humans, imperialist humans are evil aliens, et cetera et cetera. Sally, the main villain, is suitably chilling, making good use of her southern drawl ("I am your god" sent shivers down my spine), but I was expecting a proper alien reveal. Instead we get a big computer. Hooray.
But now it's time to answer my first question; can Tom Cruise be taken seriously? No, is the answer. The acting is absolutely nothing special. Cruise appears to only be capable of resentment and breathlessness, and Olga Kurylenko really brings nothing to an already flat character. In fact, characterisation is uneven across the board, with most of them not being able to make up their mind whether their bitchy or just misunderstood.
Oblivion isn't bad. Not really. But for all it's pretentiousness, useless dream sequences and flashy visuals that don't serve much purpose, you could be forgiven for resenting it. Overall, Oblivion is nothing special and, ultimately, forgettable.