Cruise stands tall (figuratively) with Oblivion
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
April 21, 2013
Former Hollywood overlord Tom Cruise has become a box office enigma in recent years. The undeniable kingpin of 1990s cinema, Cruise’s tabloid-chronicled personal life has forced some of his prior fans to re-evaluate their support of his cinematic offerings. Cruise’s name above the title no longer guarantees that a feature will dominate. Given that other Hollywood icons have gone down in flames thus far in 2013, there was quite a bit of suspense involving Cruise’s latest big budget release, Oblivion. Any lingering concerns have been alleviated, though. With $38.2 million grossed domestically this weekend, Oblivion easily became the number one film in North America, earning almost as much as the rest of the top five combined.
Why was Oblivion’s box office fate in doubt? In recent years, movies starring Cruise have performed unevenly with some solid performers such as Collateral and The Last Samurai, some legitimate bombs such as Lions for Lambs and Rock of Ages, and a pair of bona fide blockbusters in War of the Worlds Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Cruise’s 2012 releases were Rock of Ages and Jack Reacher, a pair of titles that cost $130 million to produce (not counting marketing expenses). Those two titles brought a return of $267.5 million worldwide, a lackluster result for any two major studio releases. For ones with such tremendous name recognition as the adaptations of a famous Broadway play and a 17-novel franchise character. Cruise’s appeal is clearly not enough to carry any concept these days. Fortunately, Oblivion has selling points beyond the presence of its superstar.
Creator Joseph Kosinski is the primary selling point even though few people know him by name. Kosinski first received attention for his dazzling work on a Tron-based short film. Executives at Disney used the project, TR2N, as a teaser to promote the news that a Tron sequel was in the works. Kosinski was honored with the title of director of Tron Legacy. The holiday 2010 release became a global blockbuster, at least technically. It earned $400.1 million worldwide against a production budget of $170 million. The consensus opinion regarding the Tron sequel is that it is among the most visually stimulating movies of the modern era; the storyline is less dazzling, though. “Beautiful but dumb” works for a lot of models plus Ryan Lochte. Movie audiences frequently relish the combination as well. After only two films, it is fair to say that this cinematic style has become the calling card of Kosinski.
To wit, opinions are similar to Tron Legacy for Oblivion. 59% of critics at Rotten Tomatoes, including 54% of Top Critics, like the movie enough to recommend it. Audiences were more lukewarm about the convoluted plot as Oblivion earned an alarming B- Cinemascore. Suffice to say that Oblivion will not demonstrate a lot of holdover appeal in coming weeks due to the mediocre word-of-mouth. Universal Pictures is already beyond caring about this aspect of Oblivion’s reputation, though. The science fiction action flick is already a global hit, earning $112 million overseas. With a global take of $150 million already, the $120 million production is already comfortably in the black after only a few days in global release. In a year of continued box office disappointment, Oblivion is one of the few original non-horror properties to enter the win column. And Tom Cruise can claim yet another blockbuster on his recently erratic resume.