Tom Cruise adds little to ‘Oblivion’, even though it desperately needs him

Cristina Lule

If Tom Cruise’s new role in “Oblivion” feels familiar it’s because it is.

He played an officer from the future in “Minority Report,” a man fighting to survive while Earth was under invasion in “War of the Worlds” and the action hero in – well, just about all of his films.

Our identification of Cruise as a modern movie star makes it difficult to situate ourselves in the film’s futuristic premise which ultimately fails on its own for being too long and unorganized.

In the year 2077, Earth’s moon has been destroyed by Scavengers, which trigger a series of natural disasters that lead to the planet’s almost uninhabitable state. Jack (Cruise) is one of the last humans on Earth whose memory was mandatorily wiped. His mission is to extract Earth’s remaining water supply.

Jack and his communications officer, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), plan to leave Earth and join the rest of the survivors on an adjacent planet, but the plan is complicated when Jack rescues a woman named Julia (Olga Kurylenko) and his memory slowly comes back.

The film is co-written and directed by Joseph Kosinski and is based on his unpublished graphic novel of the same name. Kosinski is unsuccessful at narrating a well-thought-out film which changes objectives so often it becomes incoherent.

Throughout the film, Jack struggles to figure out who the real enemy is and often runs away from – then allies with – the same people and vice versa. Jack’s mission and, consequently, his narrative arc changes with each new development to the story line and makes it more confusing than exciting to watch.

The film also fails to deliver on Cruise’s expected action scenes.

In the beginning, there is a promising sequence where Jack discovers an underground colony of droids.

His escape is stylized and suspenseful as we watch Jack trying to climb back up his rope while he’s being attacked. After this point though, the film never manages to retain our interest.

Cruise, the all-American actor, has such a pronounced presence on screen it permeates through the story in a distracting way.

In one scene, Jack abandons his innovative ship for a traditional-looking motorcycle; while he’s talking to Victoria, via earpiece, she uses a sleek touch-screen device to communicate. In another scene, Jack instinctively puts on his Yankee’s hat, noticeably clashing with his gray garb, before fixing a busted droid.

Jack’s continuous departure from his own time in search of modernity would make the character more appealing if we weren’t already so aware of Cruise and what he adds from his past films and personal life.

One has to wonder if Kosinski didn’t write the script to cater to Cruise’s hero complex, which usually promotes nothing except his own ego.

Rating: 1 ½ stars