Tom Cruise in 'Oblivion' (Photo: Universal Pictures)
Tom Cruise is still a movie star, and a big one. Sure, "Jack Reacher," "Rock of Ages," and "Knight and Day" may not have lived up to box office expectations, but he's still the guy the studios call when they want to add name value to a potential blockbuster, and a new look at one of Cruise's bigger future projects has appeared on line, confirming he's still capable of his traditional big screen heroics.
The grand scale sci-fi/action pic "Oblivion," with Tom Cruise in the leading role, will be hitting theaters in April, and while two trailers have previously appeared -- the first in December, with an "international" trailer following in February -- a third that's just been released on line adds more details to an increasingly lively story.
"Oblivion" takes place in a grim future after a war with an alien superpower has devastated the planet. Earth's few survivors have been evacuated, and Jack Harper (played by Cruise) is a maintenance man who looks after the drones that monitor activities on the silent planet.
In the first trailer, "Oblivion" positions Cruise's character as a regular guy who remembers the old days before everything blew up as he fixes drones and serves with the "mop up crew." That all changes when Harper literally stumbles upon a mysterious figure played by Morgan Freeman who suggests both the past and the present are not what he believes they are. Soon Harper is battling his superiors after he finds a beautiful woman who has survived the melee, and lots of explosions and roaring aircraft punctuate the final moments of the trailer.
The second look at "Oblivion" had its fair share of action, but leaned more to the film's philosophical side. It opens with black and white flashbacks in which Harper speaks about memories while recalling a meeting between himself and a beautiful woman in bustling New York City. Then Harper and one his crewmates reveal that part of their job is not to remember what came before, and we're introduced to Harper's job and the scorched remains of the planet he monitors. When an object crashed to Earth, Harper discovers it's a spacecraft with humans on board. Fellow soldiers begin firing on the survivors, Harper is ordered to stand down, and he sees one of the passengers on board is the woman he met in the initial flashbacks. Then Harper speaks with Freeman's character, who in this trailer even more closely recalls Morpheus from "The Matrix." Harper realizes everything he's learned about the past has been a lie, and the people he thought were his allies have now turned against him.
Which brings us to Trailer Number Three.
The latest "Oblivion" preview begins with Jack Harper enjoying what looks like a nice afternoon at the vacation cottage at the lake: shooting hoops, listening to old records, relaxing by the water, and taking a nap … until what looks like a space capsule falls from the sky. Harper quickly goes back into work mode, and zooms off in a space pod to check out the situation while we're brought up to speed on the sad state of the post-war planet. After a skirmish with some shadowy creature, Harper is once again lectured by Freeman's Malcolm Beech, though this time Beech's role in the story is clearer, and along with illuminating Harper, we learn he's leading a rebel force who are eager to overthrow the authorities spinning a wildly complicated lie to Harper and his colleagues. As members of Harper's team begin to attack Beech's fellow survivors, plenty of special effects action and fast cutting accompanies Harper and a beautiful but mysterious woman (played by Olga Kurylenko) who clearly plays some role in his past.
Much of the same footage appears in all three trailers, and the special effects depicting post-apocalyptic America and the cool, workmanlike spaceship Harper and his crew call home look beautifully rendered. But while the first trailer makes the film look like a sci-fi adventure that allows Cruise the chance to be the butt-kicking good guy, and the second seems like a more ambitious work, in which memories are manipulated and global powers are acting outside the best interest of their citizens, the third rests somewhere in the middle.
This preview reinforces Harper's "ordinary Joe" side but clarifies the nature of the conspiracy that has blinded him at the same time. We also have a far more coherent perspective on Morgan Freeman's character and the more proactive role he plays in the narrative. And the evil undercurrent Melissa Leo's character gained in the "international" trailer grows to an bigger and more powerful menace that appears to drive much of the action.
With Joseph Kosinski ("TRON: Legacy") in the director's chair, "Oblivion," certainly has the potential to be more than another big budget sci-fi spectacular, and these three trailers offer some fascinating clues as to what we can expect when the film opens on IMAX screen April 12 and in theaters nationwide one week later.
See Tom Cruise in the new theatrical trailer for 'Oblivion':