Character and Plot Assassination — Oblivion

When I heard a film was being made called Oblivion, then nerd in me thought it was going to be an Elder Scrolls film. I was a bit disappointed and a bit relieved. I recently watched this film and was again blown away by Tom Cruise.

As I’ve mentioned in my Jack Reacher review, I am not a big fan of the man Tom Cruise but am a huge fan of the actor. Very few films have I not liked with him as an actor. This film is no exception.

What I like about this film is several things. First is that there are many hints of there being deception in all of this right from the beginning. But it is not being drilled into you as, “It’s so obvious there is something happening you idiot”, but a subconscious thought of “something seems off, but I don’t know what”. I think this called into question of some of the panning in America that often times, as with a lot of sci-fi, it required viewers to think. Many people disliked the Matrix films for the same reasons.

First hint is that their memories were wiped to do their job. Now I figured that this was done to detach them from sentiment or to hide the horrors of what they witnessed. There was also the message from their supervisor, that there was static in the message. All their advanced technology and they can’t get a good transceiver? Also the fact that we were not the aggressors in the war and yet we somehow won the war and took their technology? Must have been a hell of a war.

I like how vastly different the locations are. Up in the “ivory tower” things are perfect and sterile. Vika is accustom to that lifestyle and protects it at all costs. But our hero Jack (not Jack Reacher, this one is Jack Harper) is a bit outside what is going on, and he screams that in his nostalgia of the world around him. Looking at a book and wanting to understand it to having a small cabin in the middle of nowhere that the drones can’t find him. He definitely is not ready to leave it, yet he continues to do his job.

Jack does try to mix the two lifestyles, but Vika will have none of that. So Jack’s life is spent living in luxury with his wife Vika, repairing drones to oversee the extraction of Earth’s oceans and hiding in his secret clubhouse. Except of course his dreams. While his memory is wiped, he has a dream of some woman that he doesn’t know, some woman he thinks in a previous life he had a strong connection to. But who is she?

So yeah, it’s a bit cliché that we find out. There are some cliché elements in the film, but we’ll get to that. So something crashes in his sector that he patrols and he goes to investigate only to witness that there are human survivors in sleep pods (cryogenic). More surprising, the drones he repairs are killing them. He manages to stop them from killing one (which nearly kills him), and it turns out to be the woman from the dream. She immediately calls him by name which only interests our hero more.

Now she states that her ship was on a mission, but she refuses to tell what that mission was. She clearly recognizes our hero and it might be seen as building unnecessary suspense, but I think this makes perfect sense. Her bullshit meter is going off the chart, and she knows something is up, even she doesn’t know it yet. Part of her wants to understand what is going on and another part of her knows that she should keep as close to the chest (or vest, but she’s not wearing a vest) as she can.

She keeps saying that they must find the blackbox immediately, and Vika wants her to be dumped off somewhere (jealous much!?). In finding the blackbox, they are captured by Scavs. To their surprise, the Scavs are humans wearing the skins of dead aliens. They do this to hide their identity.

The Scavs leader, played by Morgan Freeman (who I like more than Tom Cruise and no matter how good or bad the film is, I would see it with Morgan Freeman in it) starts to fill in some of the details of what is going on. Again, not hitting a brick over our head and telling us everything, but only enough for our characters to begin to understand. Think about how Neo was with the Architect when everything was explained and Neo’s first reaction was “Bullshit”.

Now we learn the alien invasion was a lie and they want to send a trojan horse in the form of a probe to act as a nuclear weapon once it reaches its target. Its target is the Tet, a spacestation where humans reside before going to Titan, moon of Saturn. It got the nuclear power core of the crash ship, which they were the ones that brought it down (the movie does explain how they accomplish that). Our hero refuses and so the Scavs leader releases them, but tells him that there are answers in the radiation zone.

The radiation zone is an area of Earth that if you enter, you will be cooked in radiation before you can reach 5 steps. Sounds like the forbidden zone from Planet of the Apes. But before that, our heroes need to find a way back home and do so in the ruins of the Empire State building, and surprise surprise, it is where Jack’s dreams take place. Here we learn that Julia (the girl from the ship) is his wife and his dream is about how he proposed to her. Dun dun dunnnn!

(on a side note, I could never propose that way, with my butterfingers, I would end up dropping the ring)

Well, they reach Vika and she sends a ship and a probe and watch as they embrace each other. On their trip home, Vika refuses to let Jack in. I mean, guy, you just cheated on your woman. No matter the circumstances, even if you didn’t do it physically, you did it in your heart and Vika knew that. She told Sally, the eye in the sky (or the voice in outerspace), and Sally decided everyone should die, starting with Vika.

(talk about high turnover rate. A little infidelity and everyone must die.)

This leads into an aerial battle that takes us into the radiation zone where they begin to mutate. OK, that doesn’t happen…but it would had been interesting. They end up meeting Jack Harper. Every time I hear the name Jack Harper I think “Two and a Half Men“. So now there are two of them (now we just need a half of a man to complete the picture) and they fight each other. Our Jack wins, but during their battle a gun is discharged and hits our new love interest (cliché).

So he travels back to the station that the new Jack resides and sure enough, there is a new Vika who really wants Jack’s attention. He does the right thing and drags himself away to fix up his new girl.

Now time to go back to the sexy voice of Morgan Freeman, as I like to call him, God. So more of the story is revealed to us, that the Tet is an alien AI who want Earth’s resources and created clones of Jack and Vika to help with the extraction. Now Jack agrees to help by reprogramming a drone. But it can’t be that easy and drones come to attack and destroy their chance at winning the day (cliché). So now Jack and Julia must sacrifice themselves on a one-way trip to destroy the Tet. Morgan Freeman only wishing he could Sally’s face before she died, but Jack says no as Julia is the one Sally wants.

Now here is the part I really like. The scene that cleans up all the lose ends. Often times movies like to leave more questions than answers and after the Matrix, it has become annoying. The film clears this up by listening to the blackbox, listening to the last few moments before whatever that happened happened. Turns out that Jack and Vika were astronauts with NASA and that Jack’s wife and several others were in cryogenic sleep (and Sally was the video voice from NASA mission control back on Earth).

During the mission to Titan, they discover the Tet, investigate it, and are sucked in, but release the rest of the crew in sleep to go back to Earth as Jack and Vika’s fate is uncertain. With that exposition out of the way, we come to the end of Act III meeting “Sally”, which is just a tetrahedron with the voice of Sally. We see the many clones of Jack Harper and Vika (which the only explanation for that is for the AI to play the live action “The Sims“, the most popular game in the universe).

Inside the ship, the scope and pacing reminds me of the first Star Trek movie. You really feel small and scared of what is to come. There is a parallel to Independence Day, and this sequence of events could have many citing this is a rip off the bad film (which I actually enjoyed ID4 a lot), but I think calling Oblivion a rip off of ID4 is like saying Lion King is a rip off of Hamlet. They have similarities, but are distinctive enough.

So inside the Tet, we see that Sally is not stupid. She knows something is up. Joss Whedon once said that you shouldn’t have stupid enemies, just more clever heroes. So Sally administers a lie detector with guns pointed at Jack. He convinces her to let him pass (still flying in his ship).

Once they meet, Sally tries to convince Jack that everything will be alright, but in all the reading Jack has done, he quote “Lays of Ancient Rome” of Horatius. His quote in the book, “And how can a man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods”. Jack paraphrases this as, “How can a man die better…” “…everyone dies, the thing is, to die well.” He then tries again and gets the full quote in.

Then the big reveal. Morgan Freeman is in the sleep pod that Julia was suppose to be in, and Julia wakes up in Jacks hidden home on Earth. Perhaps cliché, but I didn’t see that coming. I think the film did a great job in hiding that plot twist. Then as Sally quotes Bill Cosby, Jack says, “Fuck you Sally” and hits the button for the bomb to go off.

In the Dénoument, we see that Julia had a child (oh yeah, her and Jack had sex), and the other human survivors find her when the daughter is about 5 years old. More than that, the other Jack we met, the New Jack, find his way here and the little girl meets her “father.” I like this ending, as it is the one that makes the most sense.

Overall, I think this is a great film. Great action, great story, great homage to other great works, fantastic CGI. The bad…I guess it is all the clichés. Honestly, it had a chance to be better than what we expect from Hollywood. Still, it worked. More than that, even with the clichés, the movie didn’t talk down to us like we were stupid, which may have hurt it as it does require people to think. I don’t mind to think. Even then, not as epic as it tried to be. Replace the cliché with good storytelling and it could have been a fan favorite, though I predict will have a cult following.

I say the film is in my top 20’s, and I will give it an A-.

How it should have ended does have a nice ending for the film that does make sense. Even though I like the film, the ending from HISHE was good.

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