A little guy potters about on an abandoned Earth. It’s 'WALL-E' with Tom Cruise, left behind after the planet got beaten up by aliens. But did that really happen? As he starts asking questions, he’s led on a studio tour of sci-fi tributes.
There are robots, of course: creepy descendants of R2-D2 and 'Robocop'’s ED-209. Elsewhere, a canyon dogfight is lifted from 'Star Wars'. The stalkerish threat from 'The Terminator'. The eeriness from 'Alien'. 'Total Recall'. '2001'. 'Moon'. This film borrows heavily.
It’s also unashamedly cliché, with Cruise’s antics best described as one last amnesiac conspiracy two weeks from retirement. None of that stops 'Oblivion' from being really quite enjoyable. This cocktail is heady enough that I don’t mind if it tastes a little familiar.
It’s a considered blend of sci-fi that doesn’t feel the need for constant explosions. Collecting scraps of civilisation in the shadow of post-apocalyptic landmarks is nothing new, but it still raises a smile. Moments like these really help to build a sense of isolation, making all the more effective those times when it comes to making some noise. And 'Oblivion' really doesn’t hesitate.
The set pieces are fantastic. Stunts are stylish without being flashy, shot to maximise coherence and yet never looking less than cool. There's a nice variety of action, alternating between eerie on-foot missions and aerial acrobatics with an awesome jet.
It also helps that somebody bothered to think about pacing. Short blasts of mayhem punctuate just-right passages of stillness. Less is definitely more in this case, and 'Oblivion' can be genuinely thrilling. Yes, yes – there’s nothing here you’ve not seen before. But it’s refreshingly competent, and I’ll happily take a bit of ‘derivative’ over another smash-fest that subjects you to 20 straight minutes of car crashes and camera shake. This is a solid slice of premium sci-fi, and those are hard to come by.
DVD EXTRAS:- Ultraviolet copy
'Oblivion' is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. Purchase at amazon.co.uk.