Oblivion ★★★½

Look, I'm not the biggest fan of Tom Cruise. I think that his toxic personality tends to dominate and overwhelm the films he's attached to. To the point that, in the case of Oblivion, it's no longer just "a science fiction film". Now he's front and centre and suddenly it's "a Tom Cruise science fiction film", with everything that entails. It's almost like Tom Cruise bingo at this stage. Running? Check. Being dramatically thrown around by an explosion? Check. "I did all my own stunts"? Check. Noble hero sacrificing everything? Full house.

In my review from the last time I saw this film, I said it was like if Derek Zoolander made a science fiction film. On this watch, I was really struck by a scene early on where he's introducing us to his cool futuristic motorbike, and everything about this -- from the lighting, to his dopey shit-eating expression, to his goddamn hair -- just screamed Zoolander. And, to be honest, that kiiiiinda made the film a little bit better. It just took the edge off the Cruise-ness of the film.

But at the same time, to give credit where credit is due, we have to acknowledge that there is no way this film would have been made without Tom Cruise attached to it. It's a gorgeous, expensive amalgam of fairly niche sci-fi concepts. There's not much here with mass appeal. Are audiences really going to go out of their way to watch a film whose concept is basically entirely built around Simon Stalenhag paintings, especially if it doesn't have Tom Cruise's name on the poster?

The first time I saw this film, I think I dinged it because it was dumb, but also because it seemed to be aping a lot of better, more interesting films (crucially, not starring Tom Cruise). And yeah, maybe it's dumb. And maybe it's not giving us anything we haven't really seen before. But it's an absolutely gorgeous film, one that seems to be laser-focused into my favourite kind of sci-fi aesthetic. And it's got an attention to detail that I can't help but admire. So maybe it's a little better than I previously gave it credit for?