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John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise star in a scene from the movie "Oblivion."
Large-scale landscapes and shiny gadgets make for arresting visuals in the science fiction epic "Oblivion" (Universal). But director Joseph Kosinski's emotionally shallow adaptation of his own graphic novel is further undermined by logical lapses and some dubious philosophizing.

While mature moviegoers may shrug off the amateur metaphysics of Karl Gajdusek's script easily enough, taken together with its ethical complexities -- difficult to probe for fear of spoilers -- they make this convoluted dystopian drama wholly unsuitable for young or impressionable viewers.

Protagonist Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) does his best to fill us in: It's 2077; 60 years ago invading aliens known as Scavengers shattered the moon and almost conquered Earth. Though they failed, the consequences of lunar fragmentation and worldwide combat made global warming seem like meteorological chump change. Fortunately, humanity managed to find itself a new home on Saturn's moon Titan.

So what's Jack, a trained technician, doing back on the home planet? Along with a navigator named Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), Jack has been dispatched to tend machinery that allows the folks on Titan to continue harvesting Earth's natural resources, especially water. A romantic as well as professional pair, Jack and Victoria lead a cozy, placid life under the watchful guidance of mission control.

All of that begins to change with the unexpected arrival of Julia (Olga Kurylenko), an astronaut from the days before the intergalactic war. Her crash landing draws an unexpected and troubling response from Jack's superiors.

Jack's peace of mind is further disturbed by his encounter with a group of guerilla freedom fighters. Beech (Morgan Freeman), their chief, challenges the inquisitive repairman to test the version of history mission control has long been feeding him.

The far end of Jack's journey of discovery offers audiences some self-sacrificing heroics and a resolution that sees pride-based blasphemy receive its comeuppance. Yet potentially troubling questions about the relationship of physical and spiritual identity also are thrown into the mix. And the revelation of Julia's true role makes Jack's initial domestic situation retrospectively problematic.

Well-grounded audience members may succeed in winnowing through all these elements. But they may also wind up asking themselves whether the material at hand justifies so much prudential effort.

The film contains an objectively immoral living arrangement, a scene of sensuality with shadowy rear and partial nudity, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough term and a smattering of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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