Tom Cruise is banking on "Oblivion" to return him to the top of the box office heap, but critics are lukewarm on the science-fiction film.
The "Top Gun" actor's film hits theaters following a series of flops like last summer's "Rock of Ages" and negative publicity surrounding the collapse of his marriage to Katie Holmes.
"Oblivion" finds Cruise as one of the last remaining humans on Earth following an alien invasion. His mission is to extract the planet's remaining natural resources, before joining the rest of the survivors on Titan. Yet, Cruise's space ranger finds out that there are other human beings living on earth beyond his team of adventurers, forcing him to question the official explanation about what happened to his home.
Some critics hailed the film as a visually stimulating adventure, while others griped that it pilfers too liberally from other science fiction films, but offers nothing fresh to say. "Oblivion" recevied a mediocre 59 percent "rotten" rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It opens on Friday and co-stars Morgan Freeman.
TheWrap's Alonso Duralde lauded the film's sleek visual style, but decried the warmed over nature of a plot that borrows elements from "Wall-E," "The Matrix" and "Tron."
"The stink of studio notes and focus groups pervades throughout," Duralde writes.
"If the dialogue and the concepts of “Oblivion” had been as fresh and powerful as its art direction, we’d really have something here. Instead, it’s something borrowed packaged inside something new," he adds.
David Edelstein of New York magazine found "Oblivion" to be a muddled, overly loud and fatuous affair. Instead of reminding him of seminal science-fiction films like "Planet of the Apes," "Oblivion" played like a parody of bad futuristic fantasies.
"Squirming through the Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle 'Oblivion,' I flashed back to 'Notting Hill,' in which Julia Roberts plays a superstar visiting London to promote some deadly outer-space epic with white-on-white sets and a sleep-inducing hum," Edelstein writes. "'Oblivion' is like that movie-within-a-movie: Everything in it feels 100 percent inauthentic."
"Midway through 'Oblivion' I wondered when I had last believed there was something true in his laugh, something that felt either genuinely expansive or intimate, as in 'Jerry Maguire,' or chilled with a hint of madness, as in 'Magnolia,'" Dargis writes. "Mind you, he doesn’t have many occasions to laugh in 'Oblivion,' a gray post-apocalyptic tale with rainbow accents, yet when he does, it feels uncomfortably forced."
For Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal, "Oblivion"s' narrative coherence is as stripped over and shattered as the post-apocalyptic world it dramatizes.
"The mystery posed by 'Oblivion' as a whole is why its mysteries are posed so clumsily, and worked out so murkily," Morgenstern.
In contrast, Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan found the film galvanizing and thought-provoking, likening it to a big-budget episode of "The Twilight Zone."
"More adventurous than your typical Hollywood tent pole, 'Oblivion' makes you remember why science fiction movies pulled you in way back when and didn't let you go," Turan writes.
If Dargis saw "Oblivion" as evidence of Cruise's fading star, the Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan said the film will help banish all the tabloid headlines that have affixed themselves to the controversial star. Instead of Scientology and Suri, O'Sullivan says "Oblivion" will remind audiences that Cruise remains at 50 years old, an engaging action hero.
"If you’re able to forgive and forget, 'Oblivion' isn’t a bad place to start loving Tom Cruise all over again," O'Sullivan writes.