New “Oblivion” trailer: more thinking, just as many explosions.

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

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 the first preview for the film appeared in December, a new "international trailer" has been posted that casts the material in a notably different light.

"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.

Our second look at "Oblivion" has its fair share of action, but leans 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.

Much of the same footage appears in both 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 with a twist that allows Cruise the chance to be the butt-kicking good guy, the second makes it seem like a more ambitious work, in which memories are manipulated and global powers are acting outside the best interest of their citizens. It remains to be seen just who or what Morgan Freeman's Malcolm will turn out to be, but the character's seeming similarity to Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus in "The Matrix" seems to better suit the second preview's more thoughtful tone. And while Melissa Leo's brief appearances in the first trailer make her seem cheerful but bland, she gains an evil undercurrent the second time out that suggest a bigger and meatier part in the story.

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 the "International Trailer" offers some fascinating clues to what me can expect when the film opens on IMAX screen April 12 and in theaters nationwide one week later.

Watch the international trailer for "Oblivion":