PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 19, 2013

Oblivion an early start to the Summer Movie Season?

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— The summer movie season used to begin on Memorial Day weekend, although in recent years, the official start date has advanced to the first weekend in May. That’s still the case this year, but you could argue that the 2013 summer movie season kicks off this weekend with the release of “Oblivion,” a gorgeous-looking but shallow science fiction adventure starring none other than Tom Cruise.

The film kicks off with a disturbing narrative. It turns out that Earth was attacked by extraterrestrials, and while humanity survived, the moon did not and Earth is now nearly uninhabitable. Fast forward sixty years and we meet Jack Harper (Cruise) who is one of the last few people here on the planet. While the rest of humanity has evacuated to Titan, Jack stays behind with Viki (Andrea Riseborough) as a two-person mop up crew. Their job is to repair the flying drone robots that police a massive hydroelectric project necessary for human survival.

Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that things are not quite as they appear. Jack is strangely obsessed with the past and keeps dreaming about a strange woman (Olga Kurylenko). Things get further complicated when a space pod crash-lands in Jack’s sector. When he goes to investigate, Jack finds that the pod contains the woman from his dreams.

Don’t forget about Morgan Freeman, who plays the leader of a band of human survivors down on the surface. Freeman wears sunglasses and a cape, and will probably remind you of Morpheus from “The Matrix” because he’s the mysterious teacher who will push Jack into finding out just what is going on.

Unfortunately, it’s not all that difficult to guess what’s going on, but that doesn’t stop Cruise from charging around as he seeks the answers. This is a Tom Cruise movie, after all, and it would be foolish to expect him to stray too far from the character design that made him into the biggest movie star in the world.

That’s a shame, because the first half of “Oblivion” is far more interesting to watch. Thing unspool at a leisurely pace, giving us time to marvel at the incredible scenery and cool gadgets on display. The production design and cinematography on “Oblivion” are simply breathtaking, and worth the ticket price alone.

Those artistic flourishes aren’t enough to compensate for a story that isn’t all that deep and loses momentum in the second half. The film is beautiful to watch, but the cool gadgets and gizmos on display are far more interesting than any of the human characters that should be driving the film. That means that “Oblivion” is fun to watch, but ultimately it’s just a second-tier science fiction adventure.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.