Oblivion – The Post-Apocalyptic Movie Roundup!
June 30, 2015
The Apocalypse Scenario:
“Are you an effective team?”
Earth has been devastated by extra-terrestrial war. An alien called “the Scavengers” attacked Earth for its resources, destroying the moon and invading the planet. The loss of the moon caused tsunamis, earthquakes, and other ecological disasters. Humanity defended against invasion with nukes, and the combination left Earth “uninhabitable.” The film takes place in New York City, which is completely buried except for a few iconic locations like the top of the Empire State Building.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) explains that the hope for humanity’s future is in sucking up the ocean and emigrating to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. A huge ship called “the Tet” orbits Earth and oversees the collection of resources and evacuation. The mission is regularly sabotaged by the “Scavs.”
2077. Earth was attacked 60 years ago. In the opening narration, Jack reveals that he’s been on this assignment for 5 years.
What They’ve Run Out Of:
The film opens with an narration about a mandatory memory-wipe 5 years ago. Jack and Victoria have dreams of their past life which they are instructed to dismiss. Most of the film involves Jack’s reluctance to leave Earth and exploring his mysterious pre-wipe memories. In the-house-that-Jack-built, we see books, record players, a basketball hoop, and other American nostalgia.
Oblivion works on mystery, so if you haven’t seen the film yet I suggest skipping the rest of this review.
Later, it is revealed that Jack and Victoria are actually clones. The Tet is not a human space station, but an alien ship that captured a team of astronauts (the original Jack and Victoria) and cloned them repeatedly for 60 years in order to invade Earth and steal its resources.
What this Film Adds to the Post-Apocalyptic Genre:
Oblivion is a beautiful movie. Boasting a sleek design and incredible special effects, its a wonder to behold. There’s some gorgeous, almost Avatar rivaling landscape shots of post-apocalyptic New York City. The Tet’s futuristic design features brilliant whites and steel grays. When most of this genre takes places in the Mad Max wasteland, Oblivion’s Apple-store look is refreshingly cool.
Aliens and Earth.
The concept is fascinating and original: an extra-terrestrial AI invades planets by cloning the best and brightest of the indigenous race for their invasion force. Once they’ve won the war, the clones are then wiped of their memory, given a compelling backstory, and put to work harvesting resources. The result is a hope that humans, even when indoctrinated by evil forces, can be redeemed.
Most post-apocalyptic movies are about nuclear war, greed, and human depravity decimating everything. Oblivion gives us a hopeful look at the connection between people and the Earth. Even though Jack is supposed to leave for Titan, he’s inexplicably drawn to nature. Despite the comforts of the Sky Tower and romance with Vika, he cannot shake the feeling that Earth is where people belong. Jack breaks many rules to grow plants, and even builds a secluded cabin refuge. There is not only something about humanity that needs Earth, but Earth herself flourishes under human care.
2.5 Zipped Lips
Oblivion is a mixed bag. To its credit, its a gorgeous, fast-paced, sci-fi mystery with lots of twists and turns. The design, soundtrack, and special effects (both practical and cgi) are all beautiful. Its weakness is that most of the dramatic moments feel borrowed from other films. The action scenes have cliches we’ve seen countless times before; what is supposed to be suspenseful and climactic feels humdrum by the 3rd act. Even Morgan Freeman’s character (who gets about 5 minutes of screen-time) is mailed in.
Your enjoyment of Oblivion will greatly depend on your ability to infer cause-and-effect from little exposition. When the credits rolled, I wasn’t sure what was a glaring plot hole, or is simply an unsupported twist that I’m supposed to figure out on my own. Its too bad that such an original idea was executed in a run-of-the-mill fashion.
Overall, I enjoy and recommend Oblivion for its unique setting and visually sleek, sci-fi contribution to the genre. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our movies in the Post-Apocalyptic Roundup!