Our definitive verdict on Tom Cruise's latest blockbuster.
As one of the opening acts of the Summer Of Film 2013 season, and arriving hot in the wake of the rather impressive Iron Man 3 (4.5*), Oblivion is a blockbuster which has a lot of expectations to live up to. Ultimately, it's neither a disaster nor a masterpiece, turning out to be an ambitious CGI-powered science-fiction drama that can't help but lose its way in a number of regions.
One wholly positive aspect is Tom Cruise's turn as protagonist Jack Harper, a man whose existence on the remnants of the planet Earth is itself laden with dark secrets. Discovering the truth behind Harper's pre-Oblivion fate is a mystery that's amongst the most compelling parts of the film, with The Dark Knight's Morgan Freeman and Game Of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) lending interesting turns as the ambiguous players that Harper meets on his quest to find answers.
Sadly, though, the core narrative often struggles to feel like more than a rehash of sci-fi greats gone by. The twists that inevitable come at the storyline's halfway point are neither unexpected nor innovative, instead simply setting the flick's arc on a slightly different and arguably more compelling tangent. Worse still, at times it feels as if the narrative plays second fiddle to the sumptuous special effects, yet in a world where impressive CGI is now often taken as a given for budding blockbusters, this is a pitfall which most Summer Of Film entries would do best to avoid- even Iron Man 3 fell into this trap in rare instances.
On the whole, then, Oblivion is something of a mixed bag. Outside of Cruise's, Freeman's and Coster-Waldu's compelling turns as layered sci-fi constructs, the rest of the supporting cast give largely forgettable portrayals, begging the question as to how much passion there really was for this project at the time of its production. Nevertheless, despite its obvious narrative shortcomings and its over-dependency on its decent special effects vistas, Oblivion is at the very least still worth the time of those who desire nothing more than a shallow-but-compelling blockbuster at the box office this cinema, even if those desiring anything more should steer their shuttles well clear.