Wednesday, May 8, 2013

“Oblivion” – Answer me this…

I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach on this review. I’ve purposely held off on writing this review because I have some questions about the movie and I wanted to give everyone a couple of weeks to see the film. What I’m hoping for are responses from readers to the questions I’m about to ask because some of them have been bugging me for two weeks. If you haven’t guessed yet, this means spoilers – I’m going to reveal major plot points and twists in some of these questions. I’m also going to provide one possible answer for each of these questions and I’ll leave it to you to agree or counter with another possibility. So, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ll warn you when the spoilers are coming so you can stop reading and just skip to the rating at the end.

Tom Cruise plays Jack, a drone repairman in the year 2077. He lives in tower 49 – his house and base that sits several hundred feet above the remains of New York City – with his communications officer and love interest, the stunningly beautiful Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Seriously, even female audience members won’t notice Tom Cruise is there when she’s on screen. Anyway, they are two of the last remaining humans on Earth sixty years after aliens showed up, destroyed the moon (which, in turn, wrecked the Earth), and were defeated by what remained of humanity. Jack and Victoria’s job is to maintain the drones, which protect giant hydro-energy converters from remaining pockets of alien “Scavs,” as they are known. They stay in contact with the Tet, a control center and communications relay for their orders and are only a couple of weeks away from joining the rest of humanity on Titan (a moon of Saturn), where humanity now resides.

If you’ve seen any of the previews, you already know that Jack discovers something that calls into question that story and that Morgan Freeman leads a group of human rebels hiding on Earth. You’ve seen snippets of Jack running from Scavs, Malcolm (Freeman) talking with Jack, and Olga Kurylenko. Now, if you don’t want to know any more, stop reading, go see this movie (I liked it quite a bit), then come back and finish reading.

(Okay, one more warning. I’m about to reveal the big plot twist. This is your last chance to look away.)

The world in which we find our characters is filled with radiation, covered in sand, and the only signs of life are the occasional Scav that try to kill Jack when he ventures to the surface to fix broken drones. We eventually learn that only one of those three things is true, thanks to Malcolm. As a matter of fact, Malcolm and his rebels are the Scavs, there is no radiation (no more than is natural, that is), and Jack and Victoria have been lied to about the rest of humanity. The Tet is actually a giant artificial intelligence that is sucking up all the water for its own energy purposes. Moreover, we learn that Jack and Victoria were part of a space crew sent to investigate the Tet sixty years earlier and subsequently captured by it. After destroying the moon and killing nearly every human, the Tet made thousands of clones of the two of them and populated identical towers across the Earth with one of each of them to maintain the drones.

The biggest question that’s been on my mind since seeing this film is: “Why do Jack and Victoria clones exist?” The only reason I can come up with is the AI was either bored or suicidal. It honestly seems like they exist solely to bring about the Tet’s destruction. There is simply no logical reason I can come up with for them to exist. Why would the Tet create beings it has to lie to, keep alive (when it could just create machines to do the work) and, rather than using Jack clones to fix broken drones, just destroy them with working drones to keep their power cores away from the rebels (the rebels use the cores to destroy the energy converters). It all leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy and can be interpreted as an interesting concept forced into being by illogical writing.

The existence of the clones, in turn, raises more questions. We’re told early on that the clones have routine memory wipes, so we can safely assume that the Tet programs them with memories and skills. So, why lie to them about radiation zones when they could simply just program them to believe that all humans look alike? That way, if they ever run into another clone, which they shouldn’t since they are following orders, they wouldn’t think twice about it.

Then, there’s the matter of the remaining crew members from original Jack’s ship. Even if we accept the fact that the Tet somehow missed the escape capsule, how did Malcolm and his group know about it? Was Malcolm part of the organization responsible for the mission, even though that would put him into his eighties, if not older? Did he have archived information about the mission? I think the latter is more likely because he wasn’t moving around like an eighty-year old who’d spent sixty years living an extremely hard life.

Finally, there are the drones themselves. They seem to exist solely to hunt humans, which actually brings us back to the existence of the clones. If the Tet is hell-bent on killing on humans – and the drones are programmed with that sole mission – why is it creating more humans? More importantly, why are the drones flying all over the place to hunt out the few remaining humans who can’t possibly present a threat unless they happen to capture a drone? Why aren’t the drones just staying around the converters?

Those are the questions I’d love to hear back on because I think people will have interesting theories. If we can come up with some satisfying answers for the existence of Jack and Victoria it will close the loop on an otherwise very good sci-fi flick.

Rating: Ask for one dollar back because my main question is just too large to ignore.

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