There's something familiar about Oblivion. Throughout the two-plus hours of agonizing sleuthing by superstar Tom Cruise as his character puzzles through the whats and whys of an invasion of Earth, you're thinking you've seen all this before.
Oblivion rips off bits and pieces from plots, sets and themes of a dozen science-fiction flicks. I'd name them, but half the fun is naming them yourself.
This is not to say Oblivion is a bad movie or that all this familiarity is a negative. What passes for sci-fi these days is usually second rate, and while Oblivion's plot goes from superb to second rate to almost sedate by the end, it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon or an evening.
Cruise is Jack. He and Andrea Wiseborough's (W.E.) Victoria are wrapping up the evacuation of Earth after an invasion by a race called the Scavs. The invaders destroyed the Moon. It caused massive tsunamis and earthquakes on Earth, nearly killing off the human race. All but Jack and Victoria have been transported to Saturn's moon, Titan.
The Scavs lost the war, but a few remain. Dangerous, armed flying drones protect Jack and Victoria from the leftover invaders.
Jack and Victoria have two weeks remaining on their assignment when a spaceship containing humans crash lands. All are killed by the drones except for a woman. For years, Jack has dreamed about her, and he's shocked to learn she's real. The woman has answers to questions that have puzzled Jack for years.
Oblivion is done by Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski and co-starring with Cruise and Wiseborough are Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Melissa Leo. Kosinski co-wrote the movie based on a graphic novel he and Arvid Nelson wrote and produced but never distributed.
Kosinski is a master of effects, and his movie is beautifully done. Jack and Victoria live in a tower surrounded by incredible scenery. The destroyed Moon and the Earth mothership dominate the sky. Bits and pieces of what is left of human civilization dot the landscape below.
Until the mystery is solved, Oblivion is very good. Once you get the third act's answers, Oblivion starts to play like a graphic novel. You get the climax in nonflowing chunks, a frame at a time.
Oblivion will satisfy your sci-fi thirst for a short time until you start thinking about its many flaws. Then, like the cousins it copies, it will leave you empty as it too drifts off into sci-fi movie oblivion.
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Wiseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.