In order to enjoy Oblivion, it is best to not think too much about its story, what is actually happening on screen and what could be the backstory of people and things. When I watch movies, sometimes I watch for fun and other times I watch critically. I have seen Oblivion twice for fun, this time around I watched it critically. I was in full nitpick mode and the results are not pretty.
Don’t get me wrong though, Oblivion watched for fun is a decent movie with some good special effects and some fantastic design. The film is a treat for the eyes. The film has perfect circles, hard straight lines, exact angles, spiffy logos, glass-bottomed pools and living quarters with 360 vista windows.
Jack is Tech 49, he works with his partner Victoria (Vicka) who is his communications officer. Jack’s job is to repair drones and keep security for hydro-rigs – large machines that float over Earth’s oceans, sucks the seawater to convert into fusion energy. Humanity has fought and won a war, but Earth has been left irradiated. Most of humanity has moved onto the moon Titan. Jack and Vicka are finishing their tour and in two weeks are off to Titan to redevous with the rest of humanity. Floating in orbit around Earth is the Tet which is a human station that manages the final operations on Earth.
Tom Cruise is fine in the film, he is very… Tom Cruise in the film, which is not a bad thing since he is a very reliable actor. Andrea Risenborough is good as Vicka, though her eyes are always fully dilated, which is kind of creepy. Her character doesn’t offer much for her to do though, she has only a few things to do: Act scared that they won’t be able to go to Titan, be very worried for Jack’s health or become very jealous to the point of being unreasonable. Morgan Freeman is in the film. Yup. The worse thing about the film and a part that was completely miscast is that of Julia, which is played by Olga Kurylenko. Kurylenko does not have the acting chops for this part and she really does only three things onscreen: Look really sad, look really confused or just use a 1000 mile stare.
I do like Oblivion and own it on 4K UltraHD Blu-ray. It is a film worth watching at least once. If you do watch it multiple times though, the film does fall apart. And here’s where I will enter into nitpick mode. Spoilers ahead…
These will go in order from the film since I was taking notes as I was watching.
The Scavs were able to figure out the codes to bring down the space capsule with Jack’s wife Julia down from orbit. Not only did they figure out the codes, but they were able to find the ship in orbit some 60 years after it was put into orbit. Even after that, they used “GPS coordinates” to bring the ship down to a specific location, after 60 years of disrepair, the GPS satellites in orbit would have either been non-functional or slipped out of their orbits. None of this makes any sense.
Speaking of the Scavs, how many of them are there? They never showed any more than the ones that were interacting with Jack. They explained the strange alien looking costume that they wore (stealth helmets, huh?) to keep the killer drones from detecting them. But, there was never any explanation about why they ran around on all fours like dogs. When they come under attack at their base, they run around like normal bipedal humans, but outside their base, they use hands and feet to run around, strange – My guess? Plot device to make they look alien to the audience, no other reason.
The Tet seems to be a large piece of intergalactic travelling technology. That brings up the question of why the Tet (aka “Sally”) needs to clone two humans only. It is obvious the Tet has technology to wipe memories, why not kidnap more humans and just wipe their memories? Instead of having the army of Jacks come to Earth and wipe out humanity, the Tet could have kidnapped and mind-wiped more humans.
As for that, why even have humans in the mix? The drones seem to do a good job at hunting and killing humans. If the Tet has the tech to create the drones, doesn’t it also have the tech to create robots to fix the killer drones? I mean this thing has traveled the universe and stopped at Earth to harvest water. Given that, who maintains the Tet? When we finally enter the Tet at the end of the film, we see that it is largely empty on the inside. There are no living structures, the clones are all asleep in pods with none walking around. Sally makes a comment that she will give Jack atmosphere when he enters, meaning that there is probably no atmosphere otherwise.
About that water harvesting. It seems very inefficient to come to Earth and harvest the water on this planet. For one, the Tet needed to fight a war and then spend resources to clone humans to do what it wants and keep these humans alive to do the work. If the Tet were smart, it could easily have harvested more water out of the rings of Saturn or even gone out to the Oort cloud and harvested water out of asteroids there. The Tet does not seem very smart.
If the Tet can’t even fix their own drones, who built the towers for the Jacks and Vicks?
Oh, and about those humans. When the spacecraft is brought down there are humans in stasis. Why did the Tet have the drones kill the human survivors in the pods? Obviously, in the end Tet was looking to get Julia into the Tet, for cloning I assume. Why would the Tet kill the people in the pods when they could be cloned also and used to do work? Again, the Tet does not seem very smart.
So, I have an issue with the Scavs and how their manners and their way of trying to convince people to work with them. They had multiple chances to nicely ask Jack to help them, but they screwed all of them up.
When Jack comes to the library to investigate the downed drone, the Scavs put up a whole charade of setting up a bear trap, hiding in the shadows and being menacing. If Scavs wanted to get convince Jack to cooperate, the could have just come out as humans and asked him nicely without busting up Jack’s leg and scarying Jack shitless with the creepy four-legged running and the red eyes.
Later in the film when Jack is captured, why more theatrics with the darkened room and interrogation light? Why the beating around the bush about who Jack is and what his real role in the world is? That’s the Scavs problem, they don’t know how to convince someone to help them. When they let Jack and Julia go, Beech again beats around the bush about the radiation zone and what is in the zone. Why be coy about it and tell him to go look there? Dammit, just tell him what’s there: Dude, you’ll find a clone of yourself over there. Come back after you guys have a beer. Oh, and there’s no radiation so don’t worry about flying yourself over that radiation border.
Speaking of the radiation from the nuclear weapons being used, apparently it is some special type of radiation that adheres to hard straight lined borders. Sigh.
I have a problem with the food in the film.
There is no explanation of where Jack and Vicka get their food from. Obviously, these two do not go out and farm the land – Vicka is completely afraid of plants from the planet, as shown when she throws away the plant Jack brings her – and she has never been planetside because Jack keeps telling her that she should go visit. We see briefly Vicka preparing dinner and the food looks like it comes pre-packaged in plastic bags. The origins of that pre-packaged food is left up in the air. Do they get deliveries of food from the Tet? How does the Tet get the materials to create food for them? Is there a magical food factory in the Tet cooking up delicious freeze-dried meals?
The Scavs, how do they get their food? There can’t be any farming done because the drones and the Tet can see the farms from space. Given that, there is probably no livestock or farm animals either. So, where do the Scavs get their food from? There seemed to be quite a few living in the bunker where they took Jack and Julia. And feeding those people would take a lot of food.
How does the Tet get the materials to make the clones of Jack and Vicka? The only tech we see on Earth are the killer drones and the hydro-rigs. There does not seem to be any technology shown that would harvest the Earth for organic materials to create clones. And when we see at the end of the film, there are hundreds of thousands of Jack and Vicka clones, that is a lot of organic material that had to come from some where. Not to mention the thousands of Jack clones that were made for the war against humanity as described by Beech.
The exploding hydro-rig caused a huge explosion that reached into the upper atmosphere, was very bright and extremely loud. The resulting fire and smoke was enormous and I would doubt that it would be put out anytime soon. Given that Tech 49 and Tech 52 were in such close vicinity of each other that they could run into each other in the later part of the film, I would think that Tech 52 and Vicka 52 woud have been able to see the explosion as well. Why did they not investigate the explosion? Was it that fake radiation zone warning that kept them? Would they not wonder what exploded and why?
Kurylenko has no onscreen chemistry with Cruise. I could not imagine them being married. When she is rescued by Jack from the pod and meets Vicca and Jack in the house, she says nothing to them about the past. She also doesn’t show any recognition of either of them, which is quite strange. Why does she not question outright about why they are still alive after 60 years? Julia also does not want to tell them anything until they get the flight recorder for no good reason. A lot of the jealousy and questions would have clearly been answered for all three of them if she had just spoken up. She and her crew mates spent 60 years in hibernation but have no signs of atrophy or radiation sickness.
Lucky for Jack that there is a constant lightning storm near the tower.
Oh c’mon Tech 49, your way of restraining Tech 52 is to tie him up with his handkerchief? Vicka 52 did not notice the change in Tech 52’s outfit (there’s a large number plainly embossed on the chest of his jacket)? Why did Vicka 52 not ask Tech 49 about Drone 166 which was still down (Tech 49 removed the power just a few minutes ago before flying to Tower 52). I would assume that Vicka 52 was the one that tasked Tech 52 with fixing Drone 166.
Tech 52 has disappeared from Tower 52. He has lost his plane to Tech 49. Why is Vicka 52 not freaked out and calling the Tet to send drones looking for Tech 52’s DNA trail and tracking him down? With all this technology (DNA scanning from the air for crying out loud!), the aircraft are not Lo-Jacked? Tech 49 stole Tech 52’s aircraft and is flying it all around, why can’t the Tet track it?
Why did not the Tet send more drones to finish off the Scav hideout? It was obvious the Scavs were still there. Why wait until later to send the drones to finish off the Scav colony? Must be the Tet not being smart again.
When Jack enters the Tet he sees what looks like hundreds of thousands of clones. Why did the Tet even bother to entertain Tech 49? Just kill him off since Vicka 49 is already dead. Send down another pair of clones. What was the Tet’s plan for Tech 49 after he delivered Julia? Probably kill him anyways.
When the sleep pods are opened, the occupants seem to wake nearly immediately – as shown when Julia’s pod opens at the cabin. How was Jack able to swap the power cells out of Julia’s sleep pod (we are shown that they are packed on the inside of the sleep pod when she enters the pod at the Scav base) without waking her up? The power cells are shown to be in the sleep pod that Morgan Freeman is riding in later when he wakes up to blow up the Tet. Julia also pulls out the painting when she wakes at the cabin, meaning that Jack did open up the pod to change the power cells for the painting. How was it that Julia didn’t know about the swap?
Jack ends the Tet with: “Fuck you Sally.”
I’d like to change the line to: “Fuck you Sally, you’re so stupid.”