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A return to fluffiness: From left to right, Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo and Javier Cámara in “I’m So Excited”

Suspended animation-characters who sleep through decades, centuries, of time travel — has been a stock feature of science fiction movies ever since Planet of the Apes. But film-makers who are otherwise sticklers for scientific accuracy still haven't quite come up with a way of explaining why space-travellers of this kind manage quite magically not to age. I suppose it might have something to do with pure commerce — you can't have your leading lady spending most of a movie as an 80-year-old crone. So, in Oblivion, the latest in a seemingly endless line of earth-after-Armageddon blockbusters, we have the romantic interest (Olga Kurylenko) emerging from 60 solid years of heavy dozing as gorgeous and pouting as the day she went under.

She's not the only one. Tom Cruise, the star of this good-looking but convoluted and frustrating action epic, has somehow managed to stay at around the age of 32, and with no visible means of support, surgical, Scientological or otherwise. As one of a group of stewards whose function it is to patrol the toxic, abandoned earth after a massive war with interplanetary invaders, he appears in virtually every scene, and frankly his Peter Pan agility and sag-free physique is something to behold. To quote another famous movie line, I'll have what he's having.

Nearly 51 now, Cruise is well over a decade older than Clark Gable was when he finally dumped Scarlett O'Hara, but his appeal remains firmly that of the footloose, optimistic young gun he has played so many times before. It's a persona which seems to irritate as many people as it attracts, and makes his continuing success — he's been a bona fide movie star for a quarter of a century — interesting to ponder. The excited crowds who have turned up to see him at the countless international premieres for this film might give us a clue. Here and in the US we might be somewhat jaded, but in the non-English-speaking world he is adored without irony, and that is increasingly where Hollywood makes its money.

Cruise certainly makes the best of carrying this film, which after an absorbing first third, gradually disappears up its own black hole. All is not, of course, what it seems, which you sense from the start and are happy to go along with. But the appearance of groups of Swampy-type guerrilla fighters makes the heart sink, and from that moment, as cliché follows cliché — there should be a moratorium on the use of remnants of New York landmarks — any grip the story has had on you loosens. By the time we get to the intergalactic explosions, you're looking round for the exits.

Oblivion is still ten times more entertaining than I'm So Excited, the latest effort from the hugely lionised Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. I complained last month of the overheated cult of the auteur, and lazy critics who are too ready to dissect a director's career rather than make an honest judgment. Certainly Almodóvar has been the recipient of huge critical praise over the years. And it's not hard to see why: he is gay, he glories in a camp sensibility, he provides big roles for women, and references to film classics infuse the atmosphere of his movies.

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