Dissecting Oblivion

Oblivion Dissection HeaderAfter seeing Oblivion, Tom Cruise’s newest foray into the futuristic sci-fi genre, there is definitely a lot to talk about.  Like Andrea Riseborough’s pupils!  Read on to see just what Lauren and Zac deem worthy of discussion.

Be sure to check out Lauren’s full review here. And ***SPOILERS*** from here on forward; duh.

Lauren:  What were your first impressions of the characters?  I know I had a lot of trouble trusting Sally (Melissa Leo) because of her speech patterns.  Her character could have been reading off of a script to make sure she didn’t let anything slip to Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) during their daily check-ins, but I was starting to lean towards the robot argument after a while.

Especially when I started to doubt Victoria as well.  I have never seen an actress’s eyes dilated throughout a whole film before (seriously, watch her pupils)!  So there was no way she was going to be human, let alone one of the good guys!  I watched her so closely, waiting for her to give herself up, and it wasn’t until the unarmored droid broke free that I realized it was time for me to ask for forgiveness for ever doubting her before she was blown to bits.

Zac: Who said Victoria was a bad guy? And I believe she was incinerated; she was literally ashes.  As for Sally, I didn’t really buy her from the start and thought to myself that she was exactly what I thought she was.  It doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy Leo very much, or that she has picked some terrible roles lately, but I view her as pure evil to a film most of the time.

I also wished they didn’t erase the mystery of Morgan Freeman and his gang so quickly, “Oh, they are good guys!”

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Lauren:  I never said Victoria was a bad guy, I just started to look at her suspiciously because the feeling that something was going on could not be shaken.  Which is why I loved her death scene.  It made her character all the more sympathetic because even though she seems to only be this vindictive girlfriend at first when she sees Jack and Julia together, all her anguish felt like it was really stemming from the idea that Jack was taking away her chance to go home.  That’s all she ever wanted.

As for Morgan Freeman, there is only so much time to fit everything in, which is why they probably did this.  Someone had to tell him to go into the restricted zones!  Though it would have been better had he actually just made the choice to cross the line on his own.

Zac: I thought her getting all, “I want to go to Saturn” because her heart was broken was a bit weak, and that is the only way we can really read it. Would have preferred her memories clicking when she saw them kiss and that have been her catalyst to leave; or better yet, help fight back!

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Lauren:  Where did the TET come from?  Julia lets us know that their original mission was to find the TET and figure out what it was when everything went wrong.  They assumed that it was a ship that was jumping from planet to planet draining them of their resources, but this is a big jump without any knowledge of a backstory past what Sally tells us.  There are no beings seen on the ship other than the clones, but someone had to have built it in the first place, right?  I don’t care how sentient it is.

Zac: I took the TET as being nothing more than something built by machines, (think the end of A.I.) and the whole logic behind them coming to take our resources doesn’t make much sense anyway you look at it.  If they are robots, why do they need all this water? Also, if they have the ability to travel across galaxies then they have obviously achieved the ability to harness massive amounts of energy rather efficiently, meaning they don’t need to go to other planets to steal their resources.  This is science logic nit picking, Neil Tyson would have my back, but these holes didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the film all things considered.

To answer your actual question though about where it came from, it doesn’t really matter, it is a catalyst to the story.

Lauren:  Psh catalysts have origins too…  Who built the machines that built the TET!?  I want to know!

Lauren:  Assuming that the TET did not start next to Earth considering it took the part of the ship with all the pods in it 60 years to get back home, how do you think the TET found Earth in the first place?  Wouldn’t the TET have passed the pods and pulled them in too?

Zac:  I figured the TET was on its way regardless and already knew where it was going.  As to the second part of your question, you are thinking too much again.

Lauren:  Your face is thinking too much…

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Lauren:  How do you think the Tet handled the clones’ time on Earth?  They created so many clones, so obviously they knew that they would need plenty of replacements.  But why not just build a bunch of drones to replace the damaged ones, instead of creating people that have to fix the damaged drones?  Guess that would be a boring story.

I did like that they were aware enough of human beings to understand that they would need to give the clones something to look forward to, in that there was an end date in which they would be taken to their new “home.”  But still, you would think drones would be the better option for replacement than clones that could take over for those killed by the human resistance and those that were brought “home.”  I am assuming they were actually just killed, of course.

Zac: I think they were a bit excessive with their cloning actually.  They really needed that many?  They only had so many resources to produce and repair drones.  It seemed as if they were harvesting water and had no presence besides the TET on earth.

See Moon for the answer to the second paragraph, Kosinski sure did.

Lauren:  Or just see Moon because it’s awesome, so we can’t really blame Kosinski for where he draws inspiration from.

Lauren:  For the sake of curiosity: What do you think Jack 52’s story was between when we first saw him and the end?  What happened to the other Victoria we met?  And what about the other Jacks and Victorias that are living in other “hazard zones”?  This is assuming that they covered the whole planet, and not just these two sections.

Zac:  52 finds the humans and enlists their help, pretty straight forward I imagine.  As for the others, I don’t know, maybe 52 killed them all so he is the one true Jack.

Lauren:  Well that’s a boring answer.  And I seriously doubt he was able to go to each and every Jack and kill them, especially because he would be on foot and that would make traversing oceans pretty difficult.  That’s logic speaking though, character wise I don’t believe he would feel right about killing himself over and over again.  It’s not like he has to fight for the right to be himself, as long as he doesn’t show them Julia they can just continue their lives with their Victorias, who hopefully become OK with being on earth for the rest of their lives and there aren’t mass suicides of the remaining females on the planet.

Zac: You ask me to get creative then shun me with logic!

Lauren:  It’s not creative to state the obvious thing that is shown to us!  I was hoping for “well he had this freak out, trudging through this desert world unable to decide which path to take.  Go back to Victoria, or take the riskier path and search out this girl he saw for one second because that brief glimpse changed everything?  Maybe some hallucinations with the two woman during some torturous bouts of heat stroke…”  Something!

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Lauren:  What was your response to the switch Jack did between his wife (Olga Kurylenko) and Beech (Morgan Freeman)?  Obviously it is the sweet thing to fight for the safety of the ones you love, but if I was her I would have been ticked off!  Let’s just say if I were to write a letter from Jack’s perspective to her that she would read when she woke up, it her mind it would go like this: “Dear Julia, I will always love you for the choice you made to spend our remaining hours together on the way to taking out the mother ship, but I’m Tom Cruise, and I’m too awesome for that.  So I am going to drop you off at the cabin by the lake that we were going to come back to.  Hopefully my memories will help fill the space between the walls, because if not you are going to be really lonely out there on your own for the rest of your life.  Have fun!”

Seriously, I would be so ticked during those 3 years she spent on her own, even with a little girl with me.  You try giving birth with no help!  So yes, Jack, you were sweet in theory, but it was actually a D move.

Zac: Studio’s don’t like sad endings? I think that about explains it.  Sure it was a nice call back for Freeman to go there, but I doubt the TET’s technology wasn’t advanced enough to assess that the wrong person was in there.  In fact, the TET seemed very aware the whole time Jack was up there, but come on to our core anyways.

Lauren:  Nah, the TET’s eyes to that situation were the droids, and all we’ve seen of them involved facial recognition, which wouldn’t really help at the angle they were at in relation to the window of the sleeping pod that was nestled tightly to the bottom of Jack’s ship.  So I don’t think she knew, but maybe she just didn’t view them as a threat because she was going to kill them anyway.

Or maybe she wanted a new clone to mess with other factions of resistance still out there, so that’s why she wanted Jack to bring Julia up still!

Lauren:  Where the heck did the second sleep pod even come from?

Zac:  The human survivors are shown bringing multiple pods into their base when they capture Jack at the crash site.

Lauren:  That just doesn’t make sense to me, especially because the director made sure to show the wreckage and how each pod seemed to be split in half from the droid attack.  Oh well, I will believe what you say instead of allowing this possible hole to mess with my enjoyment of the movie.

Zac: There is a distinct overhead shot as it goes through the front door showing multiple pods, positive.

Lauren:  Fine!  You win this round.

Lauren:  Considering the recorder was found in the sleep compartment, it shouldn’t have recorded the final moments between Jack and Victoria.  Error?  Or should we assume that hearing the recording became more than just listening and he was actually fully remembering the memory of that actual event?

Zac:  Again, too many questions dude, but let’s chalk it up to radio frequencies that travel excellently through space, because they do.

Lauren:  Ick, I like my second option more than your science.

Lauren:  Why did the TET let Jack 49 return to it since it already tried to kill him before?

Zac:  See a couple questions back. This is the films biggest plot hole.

Lauren:  I still say she just didn’t see him as a threat, and wanted to make sure he died this time since sending the droids to do it didn’t help.

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Lauren:  Why was this Jack 49 so special?  Do you think that there was a flaw that increased with each clone (since we were on 49), or were all clones flawed?  Maybe Beech was just too hasty to wait and see if all Jacks would have a trigger, like finding and keeping a book.  We do know that they all responded to seeing Julia with recognition.  Now she can go around the planet collecting husbands!  Yay brother husbands!

Zac: 49 might have just been in the right environment to spur his imagination and what not, being in the big city and all.

Lauren:  I suppose, but it’s not like it actually looked like the city anymore.  And he didn’t see the building from his proposal memory until after the movie started, so he didn’t have that to spur anything.  But who knows, we only really followed one, so there’s no reason not to assume that if we followed Jack 17 he wouldn’t have a very similar story to tell.  He just didn’t have his home away from home to go to.  And there were no books for him to find at the exact moment Freeman was watching him.

Lauren:  Again, for the sake of curiosity: where do you think the story goes from here?

Zac:  Happily ever after.

Lauren:  Duh…  No imagination.  All I know is they better stock that lake with more fish.  And Jack better keep Nikolaj Coster-Waldau away from his woman because he’s all kinds of dreamy!

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Zac: What scenes that aren’t in the movie do you think should have been?

Lauren:  I wish there had been more flashbacks to the actually cloning process, just to get a better understanding of the inside of the TET.  In this same vein, I would love to see what happened to the original Victoria and Jack.  I am assuming they simply didn’t survive the cloning process.  With that said, this is more something I would just like to see, and not necessarily something that is needed in the movie presented.

I also wish that when he saw his wife he would have had memories back to the last moment he saw her, in the ship.  The placement where it eventually comes in the film works, but I spent so much time wondering where this part of the ship came from because I couldn’t understand how Jack and Victoria had been separated.  So instead, just have flashes throughout.  They don’t even have to be full scenes of any length, just flashes to hint at what was to come considering you would think a traumatic, emotional moment like this would be something hard to forget.

I think these flashes would have also made it more acceptable that they were astronauts.  It just seemed so weird and convenient to me.  Their engagement in the past just made them seem so normal, and suddenly they’re these highly trusted astronauts sent on one of the most important space missions in Earth’s history?

Zac: I think the biggest thing the film is missing is the actual destruction of Earth.  They could have shown it to us from Morgan Freeman’s perspective at some point during the film as to preserve the whole twist that the humans won.  The geography of the world makes no sense, and while this didn’t really hinder my enjoyment I think they missed out on an excellent apocalyptic Earth destruction scene that would have helped explain how New York looks the way it does.  Why is Met Life Stadium fully above the ground yet the island of Manhattan is a hundred stories under silt? Show us the moon getting destroyed and all the damage it does.

Lauren:  Maybe they ran out of money.  There was already so much shininess going on.

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Zac: How do you feel about the film being so derivative of so many other sci-fi films?

Lauren:  I didn’t really see it as such because it kept me guessing, and even if I figured out portions of the story or developed a vague understanding of where it was going to go because of all the films that have come before, the details made this story it’s own.  Other than when my impatience took advantage of the situation, I loved watching Oblivion develop with each turn.

So did we miss anything that was a huge plot hole to you or is there something you want further explained?  We’d love to hear it!

13 thoughts on “Dissecting Oblivion

  1. I could only get half way through this and it started to read like bickering. The film is excellent, as is.

    1. Well, Lauren gave the film an A-, so she was in your camp. I fall more in the C+ range, though I would happily watch it again. It is good fun, and I hate nitpicking, but I think my criticism of the film falls outside just simple nits and picks.

  2. Yeah, JMS just doesn’t like how we speak to each other Zac. Maybe we should argue about the number of pods for a while longer :)

  3. Oblivion is an accomplished slice of science fiction paranoia that plays both sides of the fence when it comes to our ideas around drone warfare. It’s also a captivating Tom Cruise vehicle that drags some of the actor’s off-screen earnestness into an on-screen whirlwind of conspiracy.

    The year is 2077, the earth is uninhabitable and the moon is like a shattered bauble in the sky. Humans have relocated to Saturn’s moon Titan after a victorious but devastating nuclear battle against marauding aliens, leaving behind giant fusion reactors and a fleet of weaponised drones to keep the tattered remnants of the defeated army at bay.

    Cruise plays Jack Harper, the last man left. He’s a drone maintenance guy flying around in a tiny, spherical space ship that’s as far from the phallic fighter jet of Top Gun as you could imagine. His wingman is a woman, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who directs operations from a control desk in their glass and metal home, and welcomes him with dinner and love when he gets back. If this was a western, Jack would be a frontier rancher and the aliens the Indians—outgunned but always ready to sabotage the farm.

    An uneasy peace, a planet whose climate balance has been thrown completely out of whack—the parallels between this movie and our world are striking. Co-written and directed by Tron Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski, it’s a film exploring the distances between the past and the present, between here and there, between action and emotion.

    The drone, as a symbol of remote-control aggression, is key. You just have to look at the growing dissent in America over Obama’s plans to introduce them into civilian airspace to understand their power as lightening rods of techno-anxiety. There’s something cold and terrible in the idea of them, especially as killing machines without pilots; perhaps it’s the notion there is no possibility of mercy.

    Their sinister aura is integral to Oblivion. There’s something not right with this world, and something not right with Jack. His life, like his furniture and his spaceship, is meant to be streamlined and efficient, but fragments of a dream that survived the mandatory memory wipe at the beginning of his tour of duty haunt him. He sees the face of a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko) in a crowded New York street. Who is she?

    Inevitably she turns up, asleep in a kind of cryogenic capsule, and it’s a plot trigger that crushes the distances in the film. The past links up with the present, the good guys and the bad guys come face to face. Morgan Freeman appears—at first like God, as a voice in the darkness. He isn’t playing that role again, but he wields a power in the film and helps Jack discover a new mission, which has a lot to do with blowing stuff up. Kosinski delivers some satisfying thrills.

    But Jack’s mission is also to understand himself. The final distance the film must bridge is between who Jack thinks he is and who he really is. The climax is like a hall of mirrors where different visions of reality, beyond the official one of the remote drone lens, come crashing against each other.

    Is the War on Terror over? I’m not sure what the official line is on that. Oblivion seems to suggest that if you look hard enough in any post-war period you will find the seeds of the next conflict. It’s a fascinating metaphor for our anxieties in this very difficult, uncertain peace. Rated M.

  4. Best line of this article:
    “Now she can go around the planet collecting husbands! Yay brother husbands!”

  5. For the story to remain logical in its apocryphal version we must assume a few things happened off script. ,
    2. All other Tower/Tech teams were eliminated by the TET. (Near the end of the movie the TET says; “There has been a PATTERN of insubordination” It’s unlikely that it was referring only to Tech 49.

  6. Tech 52 was spared because he never went back after seeing what he could only conclude was a clone and that the woman of his dreams was real.

  7. Tech 52 then sees the TET explode. So he says to himself he is either crazy or things are not as they seem. He will have to take a chance and contact the only stable constant in his world; The Scavs.

  8. 52 is not on foot. He finds 49’s Bike tucked away and auto-charged by 49 after he got it back. It’s in the wreck of Bubble Ship 49 that is not far away from where he fought himself. Mr Fix-it probably accessed the records from Bubble Ship 49 and was really like WTF.

  9. Victoria is in Love! Having said that she knows deep down that Jack’s heart belongs to another. But logic says that can’t be. As far as she know she is the only girl left in the world and Jack is the only boy. She is also still that professional that helped pilot the Oddessey. There is that part of her that sees Julia and knows she is a colleague. Some how some way, they are sisters. When she barked out ” GET THE MED KIT” to an astonished Jack (hearing this woman he thought was just a dream call him by name), Vika’s subconscious was like ‘Damn I know you here to take your man back from me and I should let your ass die but something in me says I got to do the right thing….Muck Me!’
    Put simply Vicka is in denial. Do you blame her. The only man left on the planet and she has him to her self. Who would want to Muck around with that fantasy. One of the last things she says to Jack is “I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!”

  10. I want to address:

    “Lauren: Why did the TET let Jack 49 return to it since it already tried to kill him before?

    Zac: See a couple questions back. This is the films biggest plot hole.”

    I half agree but I think there is a semi-reasonable explanation for this. My take on why the Tet allowed Jack to enter and land his craft “Proceed to landing, atmosphere provided” was because the Tet thought he had brought Julia and wanted to clone her! The Tet probably realized that Jack and Vika were not the optimal team due to Jack’s latent love memories of Julia, but that clones of Jack and Julia truly would be a flawless team. Even Jack says to Sally as he’s arriving at the Tet “We are a more effective team” and the Tet can’t resist this opportunity. Cloning humans has always been the Tet’s main strategy so it makes sense it would want to optimize this strategy. However there is one major problem with this theory. If I were the Tet, I would never not have a gun pointed at Jack. The fact that Jack reveals Beech and the bomb to the Tet and the two drones have to rush into the chamber to try and stop them is a little silly. Why weren’t the drones there the whole time pointing guns at Jack just in case?

    But I digress. Still one of my all-time favorite movies :)

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