Making the Grades
Coming up with a truly original idea may be impossible in moviemaking land where the same dozen or so scripts seem to surface again and again. And Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise feels a little like a miscellany of sci-fi plots we’ve seen before—WALL-E for starters.
But Oblivion, based on an idea for a graphic novel by screenwriter and director Joseph Kosinski, re-jiggers the plots in a way that may jell with sci-fi fans willing to overlook the similarities to previous films and even audience members who are more interested in Tom Cruise than the post-apocalyptic theme. Combining the storyline with good pacing and a sleek futuristic set, the script creates its own set of rules for life in 2077—and for the most part abides by them. That allows for the plot to build in a reasonable sequence with enough back story provided to justify where things are headed.
Jack Harper (Cruise) is part of a two-person mop up team left on Earth. He and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are only a couple of weeks away from finishing their assignment as security monitors and drone repairman on a planet that has been almost entirely decimated after years of battling aliens. The war was won, if you can call it that considering the horrific devastation caused by nuclear bombs, but resulted in the remaining humans being shuttled off to live on one of Saturn’s moons. Jack and Victoria’s job is to ensure the aliens don’t return while the last of Earth’s resources are harvested.
Unfortunately pockets of Scavengers (that resemble and sound a lot like Darth Vader) still haunt the planet, blowing up the flying drones that patrol the borders and causing havoc for Jack and Victoria. But Jack is plagued by more than just these marauders. Even though his memory has been wiped to prevent valuable information from falling into the wrong hands, fleeting recollections of a dark haired woman and a time he never lived in intrude upon his dreams. When he discovers the same woman in a shuttle pod that crash-lands on Earth, his world, as he knows it, begins to unravel.
While Tom Cruise’s reputation as an action actor in Jack Reacher, the Mission: Impossible movies, Minority Report and War of the Worlds holds up in this story, the film’s content, much like the content in his other movies, pushes Oblivion outside the realm of general family viewing. Although explosions and brawls are relatively bloodless, weapon use and a sense of peril frequent the storyline and one character bleeds profusely after being shot in the stomach. Brief scenes of sensuality and female buttock nudity are also seen when Victoria strips off her dress and dives into the pair’s swimming pool. The transparent walls of the pool allow for a clear though distant view of what happens after she pulls Jack in to join her.
While most parents won’t be trekking with their kids to see this film, ardent sci-fi fans likely won’t be too disappointed with Oblivion, especially if they think of it as homage rather than groundbreaking. And with luck the film’s visuals may be enough to keep audience attention focused on the screen even when the plot begins to feel a little familiar.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Oblivion.
After being ambushed by scavengers, falling far under the ground because his rope breaks and then repeatedly shot at, Jack returns home looking like he’s had a bad day at the office. How do filmmakers skip over details (such as how Jack managed to get out of the hole) in order to keep the plot moving? What other things go unexplained in this story?
What occurrences make Jack start to question the snippets of memories he experiences?
In addition to Jack’s role as a member of the clean-up crew, what other similarities does he share with WALL-E? How are items like books, knickknacks and personal items equated with humanity in both of these films? What other likenesses are found in each of their man caves?
What are the challenges of creating a futuristic world? What rules govern it? Why is it sometimes difficult to always abide by those rules?