Oblivion is a 2013 Science Fiction film directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) starring Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman. Anthony Gonzalez of M83 and Joseph Trapanese (The Raid, TRON: Uprising) are the composers.Cruise plays Jack Harper, a repairman who maintains a series of drones on the surface of the Earth in the aftermath of an apparent alien invasion and war which the humans won at the cost of half of Earth being destroyed. When he finds a crashed spaceship, he starts a series of events that forces him to question everything he knows.It's something of an "old-fashioned" style of Sci-Fi, i.e., an unraveling mystery/elements of conspiracy with visual effects concentrating mostly on a post-apocalyptic wasteland, as opposed to a series of confrontations in flashy scenery.Watch the trailer here. Or don't. Remember, Trailers Always Spoil, and going in blind is critical to the movie's plot.
This film has the following tropes:
After the End: The primary setting is an Earth after devastated by an interstellar war.
A God Am I: Tet/Sally: I created you, Jack. I am your God.
Alien Invasion: By a race referred to as "Scavengers," or "Scavs" for short. The setting is in the aftermath, about 60 years afterwards. Or so Jack believes. Turns out, the Alien Invasion was actually by the Tet, a gigantic autonomous AI, and the Scavengers are the human resistance.
Arc Words: The poem that Jack reads in the library is quoted several times and is directly relevant to the plot:
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?
Artistic License - Medicine: The victim is shot in the abdomen - it's hard not to hit part of the digestive system there and that's usually fatal even with modern medicine, plus it's a long time (in emergency-medicine time) between the victim getting shot and the helper bringing medical attention. Of course, in the end, it turns out all the person has to do is get the bullet out. However the medical technology of the time is evidently so amazing that the victim later is more than willing to have sex and get pregnant that night.
The Moon is still in several large pieces and hasn't orbited each other nor fallen back together after 60 years. Just 60 years is not enough to displace that much dirt to bury Manhattan that deep. The buildings cannot take that much weight of dirt on top of, around and on their sides without being broken or distorted. However this all makes for some stunning, beautiful visuals.
The Tet appears to be in an orbit around Earth that is just a couple of hundred kilometers high, yet it is offline (meaning there is no line of sight between the Tet and Tower 49) for hours. Such a low orbit means that the Tet would orbit Earth within a much shorter time, meaning it might be offline for less than an hour before rising above the horizon again (the International Space Station orbits Earth in about 90 minutes and is 400 kilometers high). The orbital period shown in the movie (being behind the horizon for several hours) would correspond to a much higher orbit of several tens of thousands of kilometers. However, the Tet is explicitly shown to be in the close vicinity of Earth.
The Bubblecopter used by Jack (see: Future Copter below) has twin engines on either side, and a tail rotor. A tail rotor is only needed to give an opposing force when you have one set of blades. Given that these are "jets" mounted on either side of the plane, having a tail rotor working would be dangerous for the vehicle.
Possibly the tail rotor spins both ways and makes the vehicle more maneuverable or stabilizes it from certain jet configurations.
Put a Cool Bike on its twin stands, pull a winch cable out of the front, rappel down into a building. How does that work?
The drone coming to Jack's rescue during the Scavs' ambush on the remains of the New York Public Library, and the drones sent to intimidate the Scavengers when they capture Jack and Julia. Although considering The Reveal that follows, they could be considered more of a Villainous Rescue in action.
When the drone on Tower 49 is reactivated, killing Victoria and getting ready to shoot Jack, Julia saves him by blowing away the drone with the Bubble Ship's guns. The fact that the later Aerial Canyon Chase has the drones getting shot repeatedly with the same guns with little damage making it also an example of Worf Had The Flu, is justified by Harper mentioning earlier that the drone isn't worth much without its armor.
During the final shootout between the drones and the Scavengers on the bunker, one of the drones is about to shoot Julia and some human civilians. Julia picks up a gun and shoots the drone ineffectively... but is enough of a diversion for Sykes to be able to shoot it In the Back with no problem. Beech also mans a turret and shoots it out with one of the drones, destroying it although he ends up injured because of it.
Bittersweet Ending: The Earth is finally saved from the Tet after 60 years of a war that humanity pretty much lost, and that which remains of humanity finally will have a chance to rebuild. All that it cost were the lives of the Drone Tech 49 clone of Jack Harper and Malcolm Beech. Julia has a daughter and the 52nd Drone Tech clone of Harper has finally found her after looking for her for three years.
The missing drone mentioned at the beginning. It was captured by La Résistance, but it's intended use to carry a nuke to the Tet ends up sadly subverted.
The Bubble Ship and the drones using voice recognition to identify Jack. The latter comes in use when Jack first rescues Julia from the crashed Odyssey (since they're programmed to not shoot him). As for the former... as Jack discovers, all that it's necessary to use another clone's ship is to change the Tech operator number you say for ID, which comes in handy because he needs to use it to save Julia's life after she's accidentally shot.
The Odyssey's flight recorder. And its nuclear reactor core.
The Scav communications equipment that Jack deactivates on the ruins of the Empire State Building. And the building itself.
The fact that the drones can track Jack's DNA comes back to bite the ass of La Résistance during the final act.
When Jack first reports about finding Julia to Mission Control, Sally says that she would be interested in meeting her. During the Trojan Prisoner gambit, Jack mentions this back to Sally to be allowed into the ship.
When Jack first starts checking the wreckage of the crashed Odyssey, he opens a Human Popsicle capsule which is empty, and when the Scavs La Résistance arrive, you can see them taking that capsule. It becomes pretty important later on as the capsule Julia goes in thinking she and Jack will do the Trojan Prisoner gambit and Jack then transports to his cabin, where she will be safe. The capsule is labeled "J. Harper"—it belonged to her (real) husband.
A minor one: when Jack first disables the communications equipment in the Empire State, he takes a gorilla plushie that was on the room and puts it among his collection of scavenged stuff. Julia's child is seen playing with it in the movie's epilogue.
When Jack first checks up on the downed Drone 166, he affixes the loose power capsule to the frame with chewing gum because he doesn't have the proper tools with him to do a better job. When Drone 166 comes back online after his fight with Jack 52, he reaches into the open hatch and is able to yank the power capsule out quickly and easily because it wasn't set securely.
The deactivated drone that is being repaired on Tower 49.
Sally. Not only do we discover that she's nothing but the "human face" of the Tet, but that the real one (on whom the face is based) was NASAMission Control for the Odyssey mission.
Jack Harper. Clone Number 52. Shaken from his oblivion after encountering Jack 49 and Julia, he seeks her out after encountering the survivors.
Drone 166, which Jack goes out to fix in a routine job during the expository opening scenes. It comes back to "save" him from the Scav ambush at the buried NY City Library, it arrives at the Odyssey crash site to dispose of survivors, and then it becomes the lead drone and most persistent foe chasing after Jack when he escapes with Julia.
Clone Army: The Tet cloned an army of astronaut Jack Harper to conquer earth, then switched to drones and had the Jacks maintain them.
The Collector of the Strange: Jack collects a variety of pre-war memorabilia artifacts he managed to scavenge, keeping them in a secret cottage he built in a somewhat-untouched grotto.
Commanding Coolness: Jack Harper is this. The real one, in any case. He was commander of the Odyssey mission. Beech takes some particular delight in saying "Welcome Back, Commander" when he decides to help them.
Companion Cube: Harper's Bubble Ship has a bobble-head figurine glued to the instrument panel that Jack calls "Bob" and occasionally talks to. He makes a point of gluing it to his fellow clone's replacement Bubble Ship's dashboard after his first one gets wrecked.
Cool Mask: The masks that La Résistance wear. Made of Stealth Bomber material (as well as the rest of their armor), with voice distortion, and very intimidating. It's no wonder they look like rampaging aliens during the first act.
Covers Always Lie: The page image poster shows a waterfall cascading down by the Empire State Building, but in the film it is buried up to the observation deck all around. Another poster shows the George Washington Bridge free and at an angle, while in the movie it is half-buried and standing straight.
Death of the Hypotenuse: Victoria is killed less than a day after Julia comes back into the picture. Bonus points comes from it being her own fault, as she inadvertently sics the Drone on herself as well as Jack.
Detonation Moon: A torn-apart moon is a constant sight during night sequences. MalcolmBeech reminisces when it was blown apart to cripple the human race pre-invasion.
Earth That Was: Earth was nearly destroyed during a war against a race of alien invaders known as Scavengers. They were only defeated by the use of nuclear weapons, which left most of the planet irradiated and uninhabitable.
Everybody's Dead, Dave: The fate of the entire Odyssey crew except for Julia. Bonus whammy points for this information being given to her by a clone of her own husband.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Inability to understand the human psyche is where the Tet's plan falls apart. It thought it could just stick a male and female together and have them be content. It thought just killing one that was being inconvenient (Viki 49) would be brushed off. It thought all humans would have an aversion to death. It thought that invoking godhood would deter defiance.
Evil Sounds Deep: Once "Sally" is revealed to be the villainous Tet, her transmissions are occasionally distorted into a deeper tone. When Jack meets her face-to-face, so to speak, the distortion is constant to make her sound that much more imposing.
Exact Words: During his trip to Tet's core, Jack is stopped by a pair of drones, Sally having deduced that he has misled her about the nature of his return. Jack then replies quite honestly that he's returned because it's the only way humanity would survive. He just doesn't give her the specifics.
Fan of the Past: Jack. He keeps old objects in his secret retreat, such as old vinyls, sunglasses, old books and his NY Yankees cap (which Tom Cruise seems to love in real life, he wore the same in War of the Worlds). He also likes to remember and re-enact the very last Super Bowl that happened more than 60 years ago.
The Film of the Book: Of a Graphic Novel, actually. It was written by the film's director, as it happens. As of the time of this writing (April 2013), it still has not been printed, but there's plans for it.
First Contact: The Odyssey mission was originally meant to be a manned mission to Titan, but was repurposed into this instead when they discovered an alien craft entering the solar system. To say that it Went Horribly Wrong is a massive understatement.
Beech expresses the desire to see the look on the Tet's face when they detonate the bomb. He got his wish.
Jack's conversation with Victoria at the beginning about the last Super Bowl before the Alien Invasion (especially, that the last play on it was a "Hail Mary" pass) becomes pretty important later on in context (the plan regarding the Trojan Prisoner is a "Hail Mary" play).
Future Copter: The VTOL craft that Jack flies around, the Bubble Ship. With guns (which can fire in any direction, even straight backwards), autopilot (and remote piloting), ejecting cockpit, voice-recognition lock, remotely-accessible surveillance cameras, storage space for a Cool Bike, and the capacity to fly up to space.
Fridge Horror : So, at the end of the movie, there are at least 50 Jack/Victoria clones left that just saw, what they believe, was humanity's last hope at survival, the tet and the water processing plants, explode, forever ruining the Titan colony and humanity's chances.
Genetic Memory: All clones of Jack Harper seem to have this about loving Julia (at the least). The 49th Tech clone of Harper goes as far as to blow himself (and the Tet) up to keep her safe, while the 52nd clone (who gets distracted by Julia during his fight with the 49th) goes looking for her some time after meeting her, finally finding her on the last scene of the film.
Hero Stole My Bike: Harper got both ends of the trope. La Résistance steals his motorcycle after an attempted ambush on the beginning of the movie, and he steals the Bubble Ship of one of his fellow clones when his own gets wrecked near the end.
Homeworld Evacuation: The film has humanity attempting to escape a ruined Earth that has been wrecked during an Alien Invasion war, settling a new colony on Titan. Of course, this is a big damn lie, but saying any further details is a massive spoiler.
Hope Sprouts Eternal: At least one small valley within the area of the state of New York remained forested. Harper found it, and it's where he keeps his collection ofscavengedmemorabilia and a small cottage he built. Him trying to give Victoria a small plant (presumably from this place) and her casually throwing it away, justifying it as the plant possibly being contaminated with radiation, is another sign of Victoria's Stepford Smiler behavior.
Incendiary Exponent: The drone on Tower 49 right after it gets reactivated by the Tet and vaporizes Victoria 49 is briefly on fire for no reason other than looking pretty scary (and floating into the room through recently-shot curtains).
Ironic Echo: Between Mission Control and Victoria, Jack's partner.
Mission Control: Are you an effective team?
Victoria: We are an effective team. ( When Victoria betrays Jack) Mission Control: Are you still an effective team? Victoria: We are not an effective team.
I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Dramatic example. During the fight between Jack-49 and Jack-52, they are struggling for a gun. The gun goes off, hitting Julia on the stomach. This prompts Jack to knock out his opponent who is understandably shocked to have shot the woman he's seen in his dreams and steal his ship to get to the Tower and retrieve medical equipment to save her.
"I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Basically what Beech tries on Jack after he sees him display curiosity (studying a book) and protectiveness/disobedience (protecting Julia's pod against the drone). We can assume from Sergeant Sykes' skepticism that this tactic has been tried before and failed — presumably without Julia's presence to awaken their memories and feelings other captured 'Jack' soldiers refused to accept the evidence, like Victoria when confronted with Jack's wife.
Of special note pointing out Beech's tactic. When he reveals the captured drone to Jack for the first time, Jack refuses to help. He has Jack shot(his spacesuit protects him from damage), to put him under stress and then has Julia brought out on her knee's execution style with a gun put to her head. this incites a reaction from Jack. While at first this ruthlessness seems out of character, it's just Beech bluffing to intentionally stoke Jacks feelings and memories and set him on a path that will "bring him back"
Keystone Army: After the Tet gets blown up, the drones immediately deactivate.
Kick the Dog: Jack brings Victoria a flower from the surface as a gift. She takes one look at it then dumps it over the side without so much as a thank you, then chews him out for risking the mission over a flower. This is actually foreshadowed shortly before it happens; when Jack is reading the book he found, he hides it when Victoria comes in, evidently knowing she'll make an issue of it.
Kill All Humans: One of Sally's goals is eradicating the last surviving pockets of humanity.
La Résistance: The remaining scavs after the war, as Jack 49 describes in the beginning of the film. Turns out that it was actually remnants of humanity just trying to survive, while he and Victoria work for the actual invader, an AI stealing Earth's resources.
Laughing Mad: Julia gives a high-edged laugh when Jack lays out the 'official' version of the war.
Light Is Not Good: The white-suited humans in their clean, sterile towers. Sure, they're more-or-less good people, but they're unwittingly maintaining the Tet's ongoing obliteration of humanity. Similarly, the shiny, white, disturbingly Trigger HappyAttack Drones.
Logo Joke: The Universal logo has a ruined, bombed-out Earth with the "Tet" space station floating over it. The Odyssey is there too, but easier to miss. This becomes a plot point. Why doesn't the Tet already have Julia, if it wants her so badly? The Odyssey is in its blind spot!
Love Makes You Evil: The flashback scene hints that Victoria was attracted to Jack even before they were cloned. Although she refuses to reveal whether (like Jack) she still has memories of her human life, it likely (subconsciously or otherwise) fuels her instinctive dislike of Julia and her betrayal when Jack reveals that she is his wife — she'd rather a false reality where she and Jack are together as lovers than the truth.
Ludicrous Gibs: What happens to anybody who gets hit with the drones' weapons. Exhibit A: Victoria 49.
Meaningful Echo: Stanza XXVII of Horatius (The Lay). Gets used three times. First time is just a random passage of a book Jack scavenged that he reads aloud. The second time it's said by Malcolm Beech to tell Harper that he's different from the army of Harper clone soldiers that assisted in devastating the planet, since he has curiosity and they were 'soulless'. The third time is said by Harper right before his Heroic Sacrifice by setting off the nuke inside of the Tet.
"And how can man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods."
Meaningful Name: The Odyssey is the name of an ancient greek poem which describes Odysseus' journey home from the Trojan war, during which he gets lost for 10 years. Similarly, the spaceship Odyssey returns to earth after being lost in space for a long time.
Mirror Match: A rare live-action version. Jack Harper-49 vs Jack Harper-52.
Monumental Damage: One of the first things we see during Jack's Opening Narration is the Pentagon smashed almost beyond recognition by a huge crater. The New York Public Library is completely underground. The Empire State Building is buried up to its observation deck, leaving only the gift shop and the spire above ground. The Statue of Liberty is broken up and scattered, with the torch-holding hand visible during a high-speed canyon chase. The One World Trade Center building, taller than the ESB and prominent in the flashbacks, is nowhere to be seen in the present time, implying that whatever wasn't buried was demolished.
Monumental Damage Resistance: The Capitol Building and the Washington Monument are free and still standing, everything else is gone and replaced by mud flats.
Nipple and Dimed: The nude swimming scene, showing off pretty much everything they could of Andrea Riseborough and still have a PG-13 rating - including light shining through her thigh gap.
No Endor Holocaust: The Tet is in low orbit and explodes in a giant explosion. No one is hurt.
Hell, the freaking Moon was destroyed before that! Whatever happened later, couldn't be much worse.
Nuke 'em: The resistance sabotage a fusion reactor, and later the Tet.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Victoria is a much more obedient to mission control than Jack. She refuses to go down to the planet with him, and believes everything mission control says - even ratting him out by saying they are no longer a good team.
Odd Couple: Jack is a maverick while Victoria is a by-the-book worker who struggles with his antics.
Could qualify as Actor Allusion, as Tom Cruise has played his side of that couple to many love interests over the years...
Offhand Backhand: The Drones' weapons can turn independently of each other and the general facing of the drone. Several of these ensue whenever the drones fight.
Oh Crap: When Jack is dropping down into the pit to get one of the drones, he finds out that the drone signal was fake and it was all a trap, he starts to escape successfully - and then the line snaps and he falls back into the pit.
One-Word Title: "Oblivion", meaning to be forgotten - as stated by Jack at the beginning, Jack and Victoria have chosen to forget the war so as not to interfere with his job. ...Or so he thinks.
Outrun the Fireball: Happens to Jack during the final shootout with the drones inside of La Résistance's bunker - complete with visible Oh Crap moment as he starts to run away just before the explosion.
Percussive Maintenance: Jack does this to make the Bubble Ship restart when it gets struck by lightning the first time.
Pyrrhic Victory: It initially appears that the humans have defeated the aliens, but at the cost of the Earth.
Planet Looters: Humanity has rigs draining all of Earth's oceans to produce fusion energy in order to send the rest of humanity to Titan. Actually, the Tet itself is gathering it to finish off humanity and power its trip to another planet and begin again.
Redshirt Army: Aside from Sergeant Sykes and a female subordinate, the Scavenger soldiers are wiped out to a man during the second drone attack on their base, to the point of only Sykes and his subordinate are left to fight off the much bigger third wave. Good things the drones are a Keystone Army...
Replacement Goldfish: Julia hooks up with Jack 49 the night after she learns that he's just a clone of her husband. Then at the end of the movie, three years after Jack 49 sacrifices himself to save humanity, it looks like she's gonna get together with Jack 52.
Retirony: Throughout the movie, both Jack and Victoria mention that they had two weeks remaining on their mission before being sent to the Tet, where they would go with the rest of the human survivors to their new home in the moon of Titan. It's all a lie anyway. It's unclear what the Tet would actually do to them when that time comes, butconsideringthemoviedoesn'thold backin showingitsmonstrosity...
The Reveal: The war with the Scavs never happened the way it's told. Rather, the Tet kidnapped the real Jack and Victoria, cloned them a billion times and used them to Kill All Humans and Take Over the World to use as a fuel source for itself.
Scavenger World: The underground world beneath the surface of the Earth, where the remaining humans live.
The film's backstory includes a manned mission to Saturn's moon Titan in 2017- four years from now. NASA doesn't even have concrete plans for a mission to Mars. Such a mission isn't likely to materialize until the 2030s. Also, it seems FTL communication is already possible by 2017, which seems very unlikely.
Also, even if cracking the Moon caused massive tidal waves and earthquakes, there wouldn't be enough sedimentation to completely bury New York up to the Empire State's observation deck.
Sensor Suspense: The first time the Bubble Ship is struck by lightning, we get a glimpse of the Ship disapearing from the Tower's sensor display, much to the distress of Victoria.
Shiny-Looking Spaceships: The winners of the war deploy clean, shiny and very advanced weapons and crafts. An early hint about something strange going on, as an Used Future befits a post-apocalyptic civilization.
Single Tear: After Victoria tells Sally that she and Jack are no longer an effective team, she sheds one tear from her left eye ... and then one from her right.
Several to 2001: A Space Odyssey, such as the shape of the drone pods, Jack being suddenly denied access to the base, the red glaring eye of the eerie antagonist or the name of the space mission to the unknown, The Odyssey.
The number of shout outs to the Mass Effect series in this movie is rather astounding:
Jack's rifle looks almost exactly like the Viper Sniper Rifle from Mass Effect 2. It also sounds the same with similar-looking glowing blue projectiles.
Jack Harper has the same name as (Mass Effect spoiler) The Illusive Man.
The soundtrack is at times reminiscent of the Mass Effect soundtrack.
The Big Bad is a giant sentient spaceship with a god complex.
However, Sally's voice, her Deadpan Snarker attitude, and the turrets, along with the cloning of two people, using them as test subjects, setting up individual areas, the remarkably mechanized voice when approaching the core, and the glaring red eye when confronted are much closer to GlaDOS. All we need now is a literal Companion Cube and we have a post-apocalypic Portal!
The drones resemble the Oculus fighters. The scene where the drones attack the human base is very similar to the scene near the end of Mass Effect 2 where an oculus breaks into the Normandy's cargo hold.
There's also a nice shoutout to the Fallout series, with the present year being 2077, the same as the Great War. Considering the vital part nukes take place in the back story, it's hardly a coincidence. Also, in the making-of features, we learn that the Scavs' base is called Raven Rock - the same as The Enclave's base in Fallout 3. Raven Rock is a real place too, in any case.
The name Sally might be a shoutout to Sally Calypso from the Doctor Who episode Gridlock. The character was a newscaster who communicated with everyone solely via video transmissions, and also turned out to be a recording of a person long dead.
Someone to Remember Him By: At the end, Julia tends a garden while her two-year-old daughter plays nearby. Subverted, sorta, when it's revealed that Jack-52 note the other Jack that was in the Mirror Match who was shaken from oblivion upon seeing Julia himself had joined up with Sykes and company and searched for the hidden cottage he knew was out there.
Tomato in the Mirror: He's not the real Jack Harper, but a clone. He works for the Tet, which is stealing the planet's water for fuel. And he's just one of many (we follow the 49th, which fights the 52nd later on, and Beech mentions that the Tet used an army of Harper clones as foot soldiers during the war).
Trailers Always Spoil: The fact that humanity isn't completely dead and there's a resistance led by Morgan Freeman would have been a great plot twist if it hadn't been included in the very first trailer. Fortunately, there are other twists that the trailer managed to omit.
Unreliable Narrator: Jack has no memory from before he began his current job - his Opening Narration is entirely based on what Sally tells him ( and Sally herself is an Unreliable Expositor). Even better, for the whole first act of the movie, Jack, Vicka and Sally are the only characters with lines.
The Unreveal: The origin, motives and nature of the Tet — is it an Artificial Intelligence stealing the energy it needs, or is it acting on behalf of an unseen alien race?
Voice of the Legion: During the final confrontation, "Sally's" voice is layered with a very robotic voice.
Wacky Marriage Proposal: As far as they go, proposing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building by holding the ring in front of a viewfinder while your fiancee is looking through it (and convincing her to look through said viewfinder by saying that it can show the future) is a mild (and pretty sweet) example.
Wham Shot: After Jack goes into the forbidden territory of the Radiation Zone and crash-lands with Julia, he finds another person who had landed in a Bubble Ship, and as a quick zoom-in shows when they're face-to-face... it's another Jack.
Jack 52 gets to grow old with Julia. What happened to the Victoria 52 that we saw?
And to the other 50+ Jacks and Victorias that presumably must be out there somewhere.
Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Averted. Sgt Sykes actually does that when Jack 49 initially refuses to cooperate. Fortunately he was wearing a Bulletproof Vest, and Sykes was using a low caliber handgun, so while it knocked Jack down, it did stop the bullet.
Woman Scorned: Victoria doesn't betray Jack when he brings Julia back to the tower, but she does when she catches the two sharing a moment through the Bubble Ship's camera. When Jack explains that Julia is his wife, she rats them out to Sally.