I recently sat down and watched Oblivion starring Tom Cruise which has a number of scenes that touch upon a couple of the books we read towards the end of the semester (Neuromancer, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). In fact I probably annoyed the other people that were watching it because I kept interrupting with sentences beginning “Oh, this is just like that scene in…” It is not a great movie. It’s kind of like a special effects “porn”, very flashy, obvious symbols, not much else. It also takes two plus hours to do what I wish it would have done in a fraction of that time. That is, it became monotonous very quickly and stayed that way throughout, with very little payoff at the end. Those of us that remained awake (seriously) spent a good amount of time discussing what it could have been, or how certain scenes would have been more effective, with not an established film critic in the bunch.
It is set in the year 2077 and focuses on a character named Jack Harper. Jack lives with his wife on an Earth that is more or less uninhabitable due to an alien war. Most everyone else has relocated to the largest moon of Saturn, Titan. This reminded me somewhat of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Blade Runner, save for the fact that there really are no throngs of people still on the planet. They serve as mechanics or technicians that take care of the robots that continue to comb the planet for enemies that threaten their resources, what they believe to be aliens. Right off, we can see something not quite right with his wife. She is too mechanical, again I thought of Blade Runner, and its portrayal of Rachael and Pris. Aside from each other, the only other character they encounter is their boss, who supervises them through their daily routines. Problems arise when Jack starts “remembering” things. This becomes an issue because they are not supposed to have memories, they’ve supposedly been wiped. At any rate, the woman from his memories turns up in a field after crash landing and Jack has to defend her from the robots that have been tasked to kill her. SPOILER: She turns out to be his real wife, Total Recall anyone? Ultimately, this leads to the Jack finding out who he really is, or isn’t. He encounters the “alien” enemies along the way, who turn out to be the lovable Morgan Freeman, and friends. He also ends up encountering himself. This ends up working out along the lines of The Matrix, only not as clearly explained, or explainable for that matter. Bottom line, it is a head scratcher of a movie that is really beautiful to watch, has re-watchable appeal built into the storyline, but fails in its execution. It didn’t endear itself to me enough to be successful in this regard. It tried to be too many things without establishing whatever it was supposed to be on its own. Which was disappointing considering the talent involved. So in summary: big budget, visually breathtaking, mind-numbing and tedious. My recommendation: wait for it to air on network television, then watch, this will lead to a new-found appreciation of commercial advertising and the breaks they provide.