By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 19, 2013 at 1:43PM
After a captivating beginning brimming with mystery and evident ambition, the air gradually seeps out of the balloon that keeps this thinly populated tale aloft, leaving the ultimate impression of a nice try that falls somewhat short of the mark.
Only recently, Tom Cruise looked as if he was attempting to grow twelve inches to play tall tough guy Jack Reacher; now his role-model appears to be Wall-E, the diminutive cartoon automaton left behind on a wrecked planet Earth to clean up. Sadly there's none of Wall-E's spark in this bafflingly solemn, lugubrious and fantastically derivative sci-fi which serves up great big undigested lumps of "Total Recall," "AI," "Planet of the Apes" – with little snippets of "Top Gun."
Although Universal’s publicity department has asked that journalists refrain from spilling the secrets of “Oblivion,” the major revelations, once they arrive, will hardly surprise anyone familiar with “Total Recall,” “The Matrix” and the countless other sci-fi touchstones hovering over this striking, visually resplendent adventure. Pitting the latest action-hero incarnation of Tom Cruise against an army of alien marauders, director Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up to “Tron: Legacy” is a moderately clever dystopian mindbender with a gratifying human pulse, despite some questionable narrative developments along the way.
There are a few gaping plot holes that grate as time goes on (it's the kind of film where people don't tell the whole truth for the sole reason that it'll drive the plot along). It is overlong, and familiar, and never quite hits top gear -- it's never especially bad, but neither is it especially excellent, beyond the visual wow factor.