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Film / Oblivion (2013)

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"Earth is a memory worth fighting for."

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 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:

  • After the End: The primary setting is an Earth after devastated by an interstellar war.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • The drones seem almost as ready to shoot Jack as they are to shoot Scavs. He has to identify himself, sometimes repeatedly, to get them to back off. That's because the drones are actually designed to hunt and kill humans.
    • The Tet is actually an evil alien artificial intelligence-spaceship-thing that raids planets for energy to keep itself running.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Amnesiac Lover: Jack has memories of meeting a woman he doesn't know, in a place that he knows was destroyed before he was born then she shows up alive.
  • 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: Someone 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 the victim getting shot and any medical assistance being applied, which often results in acute peritonitis. Of course, in the end, it turns out all the person has to do is get the bullet out. 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. 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).
  • Attack Drone: The spherical, heavily armed, tough as hell drones Jack repairs for a living.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The drones have several such points (like cameras, energy core hatches, etc). Toyed with in that they are small targets on a highly-mobile weapons system, those who try to shoot it use big guns and try to do so when the drone's standing still (and are virtually point-blank), and it still has a high chance of not working.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bad: "Sally", the Tet's A.I.
  • 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.
  • Big Dumb Object: The Tet
  • 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.
  • Broken Record: "Are you an effective team?". One of the first signs that something is pretty wrong.
  • 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".
  • California Doubling: Set in New York City and New York State. Filmed (for the most part) on location in Iceland. The Alien Invasion and subsequent war has turned the place unrecognizable except for some remaining landmarks.
  • Capture and Replicate: Jack and Victoria were captured, cloned and then sent back to Earth to take it over.
  • Catch-Phrase:
    • Victoria's "Another day in paradise." It's what the original Victoria said in the Odyssey.
    • Sally's "Are you an effective team?"
  • 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 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 Gunman:
    • 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 NASA Mission Control for the Odyssey mission.
    • 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.
  • Cloning Blues: There's at least 52 different Jack Harper / Victoria Olsen pairs still active and scattered around the world, and we get to see one of each die.
  • 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 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 Hat: Jack's Yankees baseball cap. The fact that it's possibly the last one existing on the planet pretty much makes it this.
  • 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 Old Guy: Malcolm Beech is this. His first scene is him smoking a big cigar and somewhat hammily interrogating and giving exposition to a captured Harper. He also mentions having fought on the war and having survived the devastation of Chicago. His biggest desire is down there in Foreshadowing.
  • Cool Plane: The "Bubble Ship" (see Future Copter below). Visually speaking, the drones, as well.
  • Cool Shades: Worn by Malcolm Beech.
  • Cool Starship: The "Tet" space station, and the Odyssey (for how little time it appears on-screen, anycase)
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: The "Tet" space station and water processing plants.
  • 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.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • The evil-looking Scavengers all wear dark colours 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.
  • Darth Vader Clone: The Scavenger leader, who dresses all in black with a voice-filtered Cool Mask and a cape. It's actually Malcolm Beech wearing a mask and body armor.
  • 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. 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.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Jack 52.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Expendable Clones: Jack and Victoria, given Victoria 49's fate.
  • Expy: The Scavenger grunts look a lot like the Helghast, and their leader looks like a cross between the Predator and Darth Vader. This is to deliberately mislead the audience into seeing them as the bad guys when they're actually the human resistance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Tet always communicates with Jack and Vika with edited footage and the voice (even with distinctive dialect) of "Sally", the original Jack and Vika's long-dead NASA Mission Control. When Jack confronts the Tet face-to-face, he continues to address it as "Sally", and it maintains using that voice.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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 Moebius comic.
  • Ghost Planet: The entire Earth is almost empty of people after the war which caused it to become a wasteland. Jack claims the humans left to live in a colony in space. The truth is even worse.
  • Girl in a Box: Julia Rusakova later Harper kicks things off when her escape capsule lands on Earth and Jack investigates.
  • A God Am I: "Sally" (the Tet's central AI) calls itself Jack's God since he was created by it. Jack doesn't accept that logic.
    Tet/Sally: I created you, Jack. I am your God.
  • Go for the Eye: Along with the engines, this is one of the few unshielded points on the drones.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Victoria. Moved by jealousy, she refuses entry to Jack in the house, and then reports everything to Sally, probably believing this will simply cause Jack to go away. Except Sally has other ideas on how to deal with teams that are no longer effective.
  • Happy Flashback: Jack and Julia, before the war.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: After The Reveal none of the Resistance wear helmets while fighting the drones, despite their usefulness re stealth.
  • The Hero Dies: Jack himself(or at least the clone we've been following for most of the film) dies taking out the Tet to save mankind.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Victoria is a redhead, and presented as a Love Interest. It turns out that both her and Jack are repeatedly cloned and made to work together.
  • 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.
  • Hive Mind: Possibly. The way that "Sally" ripples and moves in a cloud of pixel-like shapes while talking to Jack inside the Tet (not to mention its voice while doing so) suggests that it might be a colony of many smaller mechanical organisms rather than a single entity. If so, it's never explained whether "Sally" is the only one around and comprises the entire leadership of the invasion force, or if there are others on a homeworld somewhere near Titan.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Tet ended up cloning Jack Harper too precisely like the original. (At least the tech-workers; Beech describes the invasion soldiers as being mindless killing machines.)
  • 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 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"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Happy Attack Drones.
  • Logo Joke: The Universal logo feautures 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!
  • Love Hurts: Victoria.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Fairly hard Level 3 or soft 4. Most of the technology and the damage we see done to Earth is fairly close to currently existing science/technology, just slightly exaggerated to look cooler onscreen. The "Big Lie" / "Augmented Physics" in this scenario is the existence of a hostile alien intelligence with advanced human cloning and resource-harvesting technology. The way that the surface of "Sally" shifts and ripples when talking to Jack inside the Tet suggests that it might be made up of nanomachines.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Also qualifies 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.
    • 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Tet is named after its shape and is never given an actual classification. Other than "God," that is.
  • 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.
  • Planet Spaceship: The Tet.
  • 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.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: See Precision F-Strike.
  • Precision F-Strike: Jack: Fuck you, Sally. *detonates fuel cells*
  • 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.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: You didn't expect the HAL 9000-eyed drones to be up to any good, did you?
  • 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.
  • La Résistance: The remaining scavs after the war, led by Malcolm Beech, who live underground the wasteland Earth. While Jack 49 and Victoria are told the resistance is The Remnant of an Alien Invasion, the reality is that they work for the actual invader, an AI stealing Earth's resources.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shirtless Scene: Jack gets three (one is the Two-Person Pool Party scene mentioned below).
  • 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 an expansion 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.
    • 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.
    • 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's a small nod 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.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: At the end, you get this doozy:
    Sally: I created you, Jack. I am your God.
    Jack: Fuck you, Sally. *detonates fuel cells*
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Victoria. Just watch how quickly her personality changes the second Jack does anything to remind her of Earth. It gets really bad after she betrays Jack.
    • Sally is almost constantly smiling, even when talking to Jack about how she just killed Victoria.
  • 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.
  • That's No Moon!: The "Tet" is big enough that you can see it clearly during the day.
  • 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.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: Mission control at the space station Tet is in fact the Big Bad using clones of Harper and Victoria for their own ends.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Apparently by 2017 (a mere 4 years after the movie's release) we'll 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.
  • 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 (from the back), 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). Even better, for the whole first act of the movie, Jack, Vicka and Sally are the only characters with lines.
  • The Un-Reveal: 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.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Julia wakes up from her cryosleep, she repeatedly pukes cryo-liquid on camera.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The drone on Tower 49. See Big Damn Heroes and Chekhov's Gun.
  • Worth It: Beech confidently states that he would gladly accept a one-way trip if it meant getting to see the look on Tet's face moments before it's destroyed, and he gets his wish.
  • You Are Number 6: Jack Harper is Drone Tech 49. This becomes pretty important as the story goes.


Example of: