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Film / Oblivion (2013)

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"Earth is a memory worth fighting for."

Oblivion is a 2013 post-apocalyptic Science Fiction Action 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. It is adapted from a comic book created by Kosinski that never got published.

Cruise plays Jack Harper, a repairman who maintains a series of drones on the surface of the Earth in the aftermath of an alien invasion which resulted in 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.

Not to be confused with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion nor the 1994 Space Western or its sequel.

This film has the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: A high-speed canyon chase ensues between Harper and three drones after he stops being loyal to Sally.
  • After the End: The primary setting is Earth after it was devastated by an interstellar war.
  • A God Am I: Though done more as a Badass Boast. When Jack quotes the line about "the temples of his Gods", the Tet replies: "I created you, Jack. I am your God."
  • Alien Abduction: What happened to the real Jack and Victoria. It was Harper's decision to uncouple the piloting section from the crew section as it was being swallowed by the Tet that prevented the rest of the Odyssey's crew from becoming clones.
  • Alien Invasion: By a race referred to as "Scavengers," or "Scavs" for short. The setting is in the aftermath, about 60 years afterwards, and The Remnant haunt the Earth's underground. 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.
  • Alien Sky: The wreckage of the destroyed Moon.
  • And Starring: "And Melissa Leo." note 
  • Apocalyptic Log: The flight recorder playback of the Odyssey.
  • 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?
    • Also, "effective team." If they stop being an effective team, Jack and Victoria are killed and replaced.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Julia is shot in the abdomen and survives. While being shot in the digestive system isn't normally fatal with prompt care, there are many vascular organs such as the liver or spleennote  that may be damaged. In the film there is a lengthy delay (in emergency-medicine time) between her getting shot and any medical assistance being applied, which often results in acute peritonitis. Of course, in the end, it turns out all Harper has to do is get the bullet out. The medical technology of the time is evidently so amazing that Julia later is more than willing to have sex and get pregnant that night. A Deleted Scene would have helped justify this by showing the medical technology at work, and yes, it is supposed to be that amazing.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The Moon is still in several large pieces that haven't orbited each other nor fallen back together after 60 years.
    • The buildings of Manhattan are buried under an improbable amount of dirt, and probably couldn't take the weight of that much dirt on top of, around and on their sides without being in much worse shape. Tsunamis and earthquakes are mentioned, but they would probably have destroyed the buildings rather than just buried them all. However this all makes for some stunning, beautiful visuals.
    • The Tet appears to be in an orbit around Earth that is at most a couple of hundred kilometers high, yet it appears to lose line of sight (and communication) with Tower 49 for around 12 hours each night. Such a low orbit would normally mean 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 note . The 12-hour orbital period shown in the movie would correspond to a much higher orbit of several tens of thousands of kilometers.
    • 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? It seems unlikely that the bike would be heavy enough or anchored well enough by the two stands to hold Jack up, especially with the acrobatics he goes through on the end of that line.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: How the Tet and anything related to it (the Towers, the suits, the drones, the firearms) is represented. Borders Everything Is an iPod in the Future in some places (like the Towers' communication consoles).
  • Award-Bait Song: Oblivion
  • Babies Ever After: The movie's epilogue which shows Julia tending the garden at Jack-49's secret cottage with a three year-old girl which is most definitely his.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: The film shows the protagonist atop a rocky mound in a post-apocalyptic New York, looking up at a waterfall cascading off the Empire State Building.
  • Belly-Scraping Flight: Happens a few times to Jack's aircraft, sometimes with its belly scraping the side of a canyon because it's capable of flying in several different orientations.
  • Big Applesauce: The movie happens in a virtually unrecognizable New York State. What remains of the Empire State Building is a plot-important location.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • 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.
    • A swarm of drones swoop down to finish off La Résistance. Sykes and Kara order everyone inside while they make a clearly suicidal attempt to hold them off. Fortunately they're a Keystone Army and fall out of the sky the moment the Tet is destroyed.
  • Billed Above the Title: Downplayed. The movie poster has Tom Cruise's name appear in small letters right above the title.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: Jack finishes his Opening Monologue with "I can't shake the feeling that Earth is still my home". The last scene of the movie has Jack closing with "And I am home".
  • Bulletproof Vest: The suit Jack wears for most of the movie is a pretty effective Space Clothes kind of armor. We see how effective it is when Sergeant Sykes shoots him in the chest during the interrogation scene. At the least, it can take 9mm rounds with nothing to show for it but one hell of a scare.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: "There is no Titan".
  • Catapult Nightmare: Jack awakes this way from another dream of Julia at the lake, at the moment when she calls out for him.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The fact that drone fuel cells are pretty devastating when they go off comes to bite both sides of the conflict in the ass a few times.
  • Chekhov's Gun/Brick Joke: Lots of them:
    • The Logo Joke shows the Tet and the Odyssey, the latter being easy to miss. Repeated reminders about the Tet's blind spot make this especially relevant later in the film.
    • Jack's recurring dream about a viewfinder on the Empire State Building. It's where the original Jack Harper proposed marriage to Julia.
    • The picture of Jack and Vika in the apartment. It's the picture Victoria took in the Odyssey just before arriving at the Tet.
    • The fact that the Scavs aka La Résistance have been stealing drone fuel cells.
    • The fact that lightning strikes force electronics (such as the Bubble Ship's and the drones') to reboot if struck while flying.
    • The constant reminding to Mission Control to please send parts and armor to repair the drone on Tower 49, which Sally keeps disregarding. Julia's Big Damn Heroes moment later on is also a good example of Worf Had the Flu because of it.
    • 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 the Scavs during the final act.
    • When Jack first reports about finding Julia to Mission Control, Sally says there is a great deal of interest up there in bringing her up to the Tet. 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 arrive, you can see them taking that capsule. It becomes pretty important later on as it is the capsule Julia goes into thinking that 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. He remembers seeing the child who dropped it later. Also, Julia's child is seen playing with it in the movie's epilogue.
    • When Jack first checks up on the downed Drone 166 in the opening scenes, he affixes the loose fuel cell 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 fuel cell out quickly and easily because it was just chewing gum holding it in.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The deactivated drone that is being repaired on Tower 49.
    • Jack Harper. Clone Number 52, to be specific. 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.
    • It's left unexplained why Tet would send out Harper clones instead of the superior Attack Drones to fight the human forces, though given how often the coversations between Vika and Sally concern a lack of spare parts for the drones and the unacceptability of losing one, it can be inferred the drones are either non-replaceable or at least much more resource-intensive than clones are.
  • 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 Bike: Harper's motorcycle-which is collapsible so it can be carried on the Bubble Ship's storage space, has integral winch and sensors, and is pretty rugged. Pity that it gets stolen early in the movie, and then soon after Harper gets it back it runs out of gas.
  • Cool Guns: Harper's assault rifle and sidearm are pretty cool. On the side of the Scavs, there's the anti-material rifles they use to shoot down drones.
  • Cool Mask: The Predator-style masks that the Scavs 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.
  • Cool Plane: The "Bubble Ship" (see Future Copter below). Visually speaking, the drones, as well.
  • Cool Starship: The "Tet" space station, and the Odyssey (for how little time it appears on-screen, anycase)
  • 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.
  • Cryo Sickness: When Julia is woken from her cryogenic escape pod, the first thing she does is vomit. It also turns out she is dehydrated. She makes a full recovery from this state though.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • The evil-looking Scavengers all wear dark colors and live in dark underground areas, but are eventually revealed to be a human resistance force led by Malcolm Beech with noble goals.
    • The Tet is a pretty ominous-looking black obelisk in space, but Jack describes it as being something like a human Mission Control HQ. Jack's wrong. The Tet is monstrous.
    • At first, our hero Jack, Victoria, their home and all their equipment is pure white, establishing them as the good guys. As Jack continues his trip away from the evil side and towards the good, his white uniform becomes darker and closer to black. Notably, the Odyssey crew wear very dark gray uniforms which are nearly black. Also, the real Sally wears black, but when the Tet is impersonating her, it crops close to her face and doesn't show her black jacket.
  • Detonation Moon: A torn-apart moon is a constant sight during night sequences. Malcolm Beech reminisces when it was blown apart to cripple the human race pre-invasion.
  • Die Laughing: Combining the savoring of the imminent doom the Tet is facing and Jack's one last comment to Sally, Beech does this as the bomb lights off.
  • Drone of Dread: The soundtrack makes use of the drone sounds.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Jack 49 and Malcolm Beech.
  • 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.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: The Bubble Ship in particular is a prime example, all sleek curves and shiny white surfaces.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Expendable Clones: Jack and Victoria, given Victoria 49's fate.
  • Eye Lights Out: At the tower, the "death" of the drone that Julia is able to shoot down is signaled by its red light going out.
  • The Film of the Book: Of a Graphic Novel, actually. It was written by the film's director, as it happens. However, as of 2021 it still hasn't been printed yet and most likely due to the movie's lukewarm reception, never will.
  • 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.
  • Flashback Effects: Jack's memories of Julia at New York City are depicted in black and white.
  • Forbidden Zone: The radiation areas.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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).
    • The phrase about sacrifice Jack finds in a book sets up his final sacrifice.
  • 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.
  • Genetic Memory: Within both Jack Harper 49 and 52, which causes the original to be, in a sense, "reincarnated" in both.
  • Genre Throwback: Joseph Kosinski's word is that it's meant to evoke sci fi movies of The '70s. What we see wouldn't be (that much) out of place in a Heavy Metal or Mśbius comic.
  • Go for the Eye: Along with the engines, this is one of the few unshielded points on the drones.
  • Happy Flashback: Jack and Julia, before the war.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jack 49 and Malcolm Beech.
  • 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.
  • Hope Spot: Jack and Julia return to the resistance base so Jack can reprogram the drone for an attack on the Tet. The drone is loaded on a vehicle and the doors are opened...just as three drones arrive outside and catch everyone not wearing their stealth gear. The reprogrammed drone is then destroyed in the subsequent shoot-out.
  • 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 of scavenged memorabilia 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.
  • Human Shield: The only reason Julia isn't killed on landing is that Jack physically stands between the drone and her pod. Without the ability to get orders from the Tet, the drone withdraws. It's this act that convinces Beech that Jack is more than just a clone.
  • Human Popsicle: Julia and the rest of the Odyssey crew.
  • 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"
  • I Want My Jetpack: By 2017 (a mere 4 years after the movie's release), we were supposed to have self contained "delta sleep" capsules that allow humans to survive for up to 60 years in hibernation and all of the space hardware we need to send a manned mission to Titan. This did not happen.
  • 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.
  • Kill and Replace: Jack and Victoria were astronauts on a mission to Titan when Mission Control picked up the Tet and sent them to investigate. They were captured, cloned and probably killed. Then their clones were sent back to Earth to maintain equipment while the Tet drains the world of water to power itself.
  • 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-Happy Attack Drones.
  • Logo Joke: The Universal logo features Earth with coastlines consistent with much of the oceans being drained. It also shows the "Tet" space station floating over it, as well as the Odyssey, which is 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!
  • Mars Needs Water: 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.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Rename: Julia Rusakova makes a point of presenting herself as Julia Harper when she and Jack go back to the bunker. When the Trojan Prisoner gambit is being worked on, she enters a capsule with a Meaningful Name on it. See Chekhov's Gun for details.
  • 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 Monologue 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.
  • Morning Routine: Before the film's title card, we see Jack with Vika eating breakfast, exercising, and leaving for work in his bubble ship while his voice-over narrates the fall of humanity.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: Non-lethal example. During the fight between Jack-49 and Jack-52, they are struggling for a gun and it goes off. Julia (and the audience) only notices that she is hit by discovering the blood on her hand several moments later.
  • Multinational Team: The NASA mission.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Beech gives a small one when Julia Rusakova reintroduces herself as Julia Harper, revealing that she and the original Jack were secretly married, so Beech realizes that single factor might have been the only thing that made "bringing back" Commander Jack Harper at all possible.
  • 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.
  • Opening Monologue: Provided by Harper while we get brought up to speed on the characters and situation and see a montage of Scenery Porn (The skies and some parts of the planet that look less wasteland-y), Scenery Gorn (the shot of the bombed-out Pentagon - with implications of it having been ground zero for a nuclear strike during The War - and the remains of New York and Washington, DC), Technology Porn (Tower 49, the Bubble Ship, the collector vessels, the guns and the Tet), Fanservice (Shirtless Scene and Toplessness from the Back) and some Irony in that most of the info is unwitting bullcrap on Jack's part.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: Jack's rifle, and the guns on the drones and bubble ship too. Though not the human's weapons.
  • 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.
  • Plummet Perspective: When Harper descents into the abandoned library, there is a huge chasm at the bottom which several objects fall into for effect.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: Jack discovers a shaggy dog early on and almost shoots it by accident.
  • Posthumous Narration: Subverted. In the epilogue, we're initially made to think Jack's narration is this, but it turns out to be Jack 52 looking for Julia.
  • Precision F-Strike: Jack: Fuck you, Sally. *detonates fuel cells*
  • Product Placement: A really bizarre example: in the final scene when the human survivors arrives to Jack's hidden valley, one of said survivors has a sweater with the Coca Cola logo printed on it and he spends a significant amount of time front and center amongst the crowd.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: It initially appears that the humans have defeated the aliens, but at the cost of the Earth. It's actually the opposite. The aliens have conquered the Earth, but they haven't yet managed to successfully wipe out the humans.
  • Ramming Always Works: While set on a much smaller scale, drone 166 does this to Jack 49's bubbleship a couple of times. The final time knocks him to go into the radiation zone.
  • Recurring Camera Shot: The scene where Jack finds Julia's sleeper pod, with her visible through the viewport while he looks down at her from the right with a hand on the pod, is mirrored later when he puts her back into it right before he flies up to the Tet.
  • 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, but considering the movie doesn't hold back in showing its monstrosity...
  • 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 thousand times and used them to Kill All Humans and Take Over the World to be able to use the ocean water as a fuel source for itself.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: At one point we see Harper riding his Cool Bike across a plane with lots of shipwrecks sticking out of the ground.
  • Scavenger World: The underground world beneath the surface of the Earth, where the remaining humans live.
  • Scenery Gorn: Most of the Earth has been wrecked and we get lots of shots of crumbled, bombed, and/or partially buried landmarks (among them the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Bridge, the Pentagon (implied to have been ground zero for a nuclear strike during the Alien Invasion war) and Washington, DC).
  • Scenery Porn: But the few bits of untouched scenery we do see such as Jack's hideaway are beautiful. The film was also filmed on location in Iceland and the wasteland is pretty damn beautiful as a result.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
    • The film's backstory includes a manned mission to Saturn's moon Titan in 2017- merely four years after the movie's release date. 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 did not come to pass in reality.
    • 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.
    • As is often the case in such films, the final explosion just was as big as it needed to be; in this case, the "nuke" had the explosive yield of several hundred hydrogen bombs.
  • 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.
  • Sergeant Rock: Sykes. Complete with one-liners, Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, and Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • 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 a Used Future befits a post-apocalyptic civilization.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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. Jack Harper's situation at the beginning of Oblivion is essentially a deconstruction of what happens to Dave Bowman at the end of 2001: aliens have abducted the first human astronaut to make contact with them, put him up in a luxurious all-white set of rooms, and made him into their servant.
      • Not to mention, The Tet very likely references how the Monolith originally had a tetrahedral shape in Arthur C. Clarke's original The Sentinel short story.
    • 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.
      • (spoiler for Mass Effect 3) Fridge Brilliance: The Illusive Man was Indoctrinated!
      • "Welcome back, Commander." although this is a massive case of Irony consodering where and when this is said.
      • 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.
      • Mass Effect 3's final downloadable content Citadel has the plot revolves around the clone of Commander Shepard, and its climax is the clone and the original Commander getting into a Mirror Match battle. Guess what happens in this film?
    • 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.
    • The chase scenes through the city are more than a bit reminiscent of Star Wars: A New Hope.
    • Several to Planet of the Apes: There's a shot of the Statue of Liberty during the chase (and buried ruins of the Empire State Building and other New York City landmarks evoking the 1968 film's sequel), and astronauts in cryosleep who crash back to an Earth long after apocalyptic cataclysms, and then does an inversion from Apes; there, three male astronauts survive to return to Earth but the sole woman astronaut did not due to a cryosleep failure, while here Julia and three male astronauts survive the long cryosleep and the crash of the "Odyssey", but a drone kills the other three still asleep in their pods.
    • There are nods to Zardoz, as the protagonists both stumble upon a library in the ruins which catch their interests, and one particular book they find becomes important. And like the "Tabernacle" A.I., the Tet boasts that it's a "God".
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: At the end, you get this doozy:
    Sally: I created you, Jack. I am your God.
    (a beat as Jack and Beech share a glance)
    Jack: Fuck you, Sally.
    (Jack detonates the fuel cells as Beech laughs at Jack's flippancy)
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Happens when the rope snaps and Harper falls back into the cave.
  • Smash to Black: When Jack gets apprehended by the scavengers. The screen goes black after the Darth Vader-like figure knocks Jack out with his gun.
  • 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  had joined up with Sykes and company and searched for the hidden cottage he knew was out there.
  • Star Scraper: Jack works from a Sky Tower located on a 3000 foot spindle. Another such tower is simply placed on a high mountain.
  • Taking You with Me: How Jack and Malcolm save the world from Tet.
  • Tempting Fate: Jack laughs gleefully while being fast-winched out of the Scav ambush — only for his rope to snap.
  • Together in Death: What Julia thinks (and accepts) will happen during the Trojan Prisoner gambit. Jack has other ideas.
  • 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.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Begins with Jack being made "Rule of Pool-compliant". For extra male Fanservice, Victoria's the one character we see naked (her shadow from behind), with Jack ending up shirtless afterwards.
  • Underwater Kiss: From the Two-Person Pool Party trope above.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jack has no memory from before he began his current job - his Opening Monologue is entirely based on what Sally tells him ( and Sally herself is an Unreliable Expositor).
  • 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?
  • Vehicular Assault: During the Aerial Canyon Chase, one of the drones tries to ram Jack's bubble ship against the canyon wall but fails. The last one however succeeds in doing a Taking You with Me, crashing into the bubble ship and forcing them to eject.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Julia wakes up from her cryosleep, she repeatedly pukes cryo-liquid on camera.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Julia wakes up at the cottage after passing out from her gutshot.
  • Wham Line:
    • "I'm your wife."
    • "No. We are not an effective team."
    • "The drones were designed to kill humans."
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • 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.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The drone on Tower 49. See Big Damn Heroes and Chekhov's Gun.