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April 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Even most critics who slam the script for Oblivion, the sci-fi blockbuster starring Tom Cruise, concede that the movie looks spectacular. Consider the judgment of Peter Howell in the Toronto Star: “Certainly there are no qualms about the visuals. Writer/director Joseph Kosinski confirms his flair for the fantastic that he brought to TRON: Legacy, another film that pleased the eye better than the mind.” Claudia Puig in USA Today puts it this way: “It’s a dazzler, but the story lacks the impact of the futuristic look.” Kyle Smith in the New York Post comments that the film has all the markings of a contrivance by a “successful hack screenwriter” — someone who believes that “originality requires too much work.” Yet Smith goes on to write: “Not that Oblivion isn’t kind of fun; there are lots of zippy flying scenes and an adequate quantity of shootouts. Simply counting up the various ripoffs is a fun drinking game, and the effects look cool, or at least costly.” Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal concludes that what this sci-fi flick demonstrates more than anything else is “a future in which the theatrical movie medium is dominated by productions that are ever richer in high-tech visual arts and ever more impoverished in the art of telling a story.” And even critics who find many things to like about the film indicate that those things appear to be borrowed from other sci-fi films, including Planet of the Apes, Moon, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wall-E, and Kosinki’s own TRON: Legacy. Yet Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times writes that it “makes no apologies” for doing so and that it nevertheless “has the ability to haunt you visually and, with an unanticipated love story, even emotionally.” Michael O’Sullivan in the Washington Post calls it “an engrossing, if complicated and twisty, story, with plentiful sci-fi action and a provocative subtext about the nature of the human soul.” He adds that it “requires some mental effort. This is not a movie during which you should fall asleep. Fortunately, there’s not much chance of that. Oblivion is fast-paced and exciting.” For the most part, the performance of Tom Cruise as a repairman on a desolated Earth in 2077 receives high marks. Joe Neumaier in the New York Post writes that he “dials down the intensity, making [his character] a low-blood-pressure kind of hero. … Cruise has a knack for knowing how to make things work.” But Manohla Dargis in the New York Times oddly spends a good 60 percent of her review commenting on the “fading” stardom of Cruise and concluding sternly, “You not only have to ignore the din of the tabloids and swat away the buzzing generated by his multiple headline-ready dramas, you also have to come to grips with the harsh truth that it no longer actually matters why and how Tom Terrific became less so. No one else much cares.”