Under the Radar

'Oblivion' & the Enduring Appeal of Maverick

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As long as Maverick is still a movie star, there's a whole generation of guys who can convince themselves that they're not old yet.

So there's some good news: Oblivion was a worldwide hit at the box office and, not only is Tom Cruise is still a movie star, he's now made two really good movies in a row when count Jack Reacher.

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Director Joseph Kosinski based this post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie on some classic films from the '60s, '70s and '80s: there are elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Logan's Run, The Omega Man, Blade Runner and Planet of the Apes all mixed together in a complicated Philip K. Dick-style story. Readers who enjoy movies with subtitles might even notice a real debt to Solaris, the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky classic that seems to have inspired a lot of the elegiac tone here.

The movie is based on a graphic novel that Kosiniski wrote before he was hired to direct the TRON: Legacy movie a couple of years back. This is a much better movie but there are a few holes and contradictions in the plot that might drive you crazy if you're looking for all the puzzle pieces to fit together.

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It's almost impossible to discuss the plot without immediately getting into spoilers, but here's the setup: Cruise's character tells he's been left behind on Earth to do drone maintenance after the surviving inhabitants of Earth have evacuated to a moon of Saturn. Then things get weird.

There are a few things of special note about Oblivion. The set design is fantastic, a perfect early '70s imagined take on 21st century design. The Bubble Ship and motorcycle are vehicles that the crew actually built for the movie and there's an obvious attempt to maximize the practical effects and limit the CGI as much as possible. The M83 score manages to sound both contemporary and completely appropriate for a movie obsessed with the '70s.

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Oblivion's visuals and audio effects deserve to be up for awards next year and the Blu-ray transfer is amazing. The disk comes with almost an hour's worth of making-of documentaries, a commentary track from Cruise and Kosinski and an option to watch the entire movie with the M83 music track isolated.

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