Oblivion is a visually stunning “hard” science fiction film with a pretty good story that almost, but not quite, lives up to the visuals.

You’ve already heard from the professional critics that its biggest fault is that it borrows too heavily from many other science fiction tropes, and while that may be true it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it‚Ķ mainly because I was just happy to see some real science fiction on the movie screen for a change, and not just another action thriller dressed up in sci fi trappings, like most recent “science fiction” movies.

To be sure, there are some visual touchstones lifted wholesale from other films, most notably 2001 and the original Planet of the Apes. During an aerial battle, ships fly past the torch of the Statue of Liberty from Apes, and elsewhere clones are seen growing inside pods posed like the Star Child from 2001. There are a few more from 2001 — most notably a red eye and a space sequence. These touchstones are so overt I saw them as homages, and appreciated them as such.

The music, some from M83, was very good throughout, and the acting generally top notch. Whatever your opinion of Tom Cruise may be, the one thing you always get from him is total commitment. His work is as dependable as McDonald’s fries — they may not be good for you, but you know exactly what you’re getting every time. And who doesn’t enjoy seeing Morgan Freeman pop up? (And as an added bonus for Game of Thrones fans, “Jaime Lannister” drops by. But here, fortunately, he has both hands.)

The cinematography, sets, production design and special effects were excellent — so good that they make up for any shortcomings. There’s also, despite what I heard from some quarters, an emotional core to the story that resonated strongly with me and elevated the film.

Those watching director Joseph Kosinski should take note that Oblivion is much, much better than his last, Tron: Legacy, and has a better story, better special effects and stays with you a lot longer than the well-fashioned but unmemorable Tron sequel. If Kosinski continues in this vein his next film should be a knockout, and I can only hope it’s another “hard” sci fi, because damn, I’ve been missing those.