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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Oblivion lacks depth

Published: April 26, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

“Oblivion,” starring Tom Cruise and directed by Joseph Kosinski, features a post apocalyptic Earth ravaged by a supposed alien invasion. Although interesting, the film lacks coherent plot development. The film traces the journey of Jack Harper, a technician living with his wife Victoria in a dwelling stationed above the Earth. While Victoria directs his expeditions from their station, Jack returns to Earth to repair drones, machines designed to eradicate the aliens that have invaded the planet.

During one such expedition, he discovers human survivors, kept alive but unconscious inside metal devices depicting their vital signs. Suspicions arise as one of the drones begins killing the human survivors, evoking an inexplicable desire within Jack to save the life of one woman, Julia, whom he seems to share an unshakable connection. The camera focuses on dramatic shots of Harper (Tom Cruise), leaving viewers thirsty for actual plot progression.

It becomes apparent that Harper and Julia share chemistry stemming from some sort of forgotten shared history together.

During his treacherous expedition to Earth in which he rescues Julie, he is captured by the aliens, who are revealed to be human beings in disguise. The aliens are adorned with some sort of strange headdress, which, they say, act as a protective device, although it obviously proves obsolete against the attacks of the drones. Casting themselves as victims, they bequeath the aid of Harper, who is too ravaged by confusion to process what has enfolded.

Returning to his wife Victoria, who appears to be less than thrilled about the new guest, Harper nurses Julia back to health. His recurring dreams and strange connection to this woman shatter the reality of his world, as Julia reveals herself to be his wife. Witnessing the two sharing a moment together, Victoria is plagued by jealousy and reports to the commander Sally that she and Harper are no longer an “effective team.” This “Sally” figure then sends a machine to murder Victoria, leaving Harper and Julia to be together.

For a man who has just witnessed a woman he thought to be his wife murdered by machines he repairs on a regular basis, and who discovered he has another wife who had been completely eradicated from his memory, Harper seems quite calm and emotionless.

The plot only becomes more complex, or more accurately, bizarre, as Harper discovers he is but a clone of Julia’s original husband, and that there are other versions of himself and Victoria operating for the strange “Sally” figure.

At this point, it becomes almost painful to follow the random twists and intended psychological turns in the film. The idea of implementing surprises throughout the film, revealing aliens who are actually human survivors, a man who is actually but a clone trained to aid in an initiative to deprive the Earth of resources, and the projection of Sally as some sort of mechanical alien entity, may appeal to huge fans of sci-fi. Despite attempts to incorporate plot twists, however, each of these surprises is highly predictable, failing to instill shock in the audience and instead becomes a tangled mess of a story.

Julia, who has lost her husband through some tragedy, accepts this new Harper in his place, barely questioning the bizarre nature of the situation. She seems convinced that he shall replace her lost husband, despite the fact that there are hundreds of clones just like him.

Toward the conclusion of the film, the plot truly begins to unravel while focusing on fighting scenes without maintaining a coherent thread of events. Harper, of course, murders the alien entity Sally, although exactly how this occurs is incomprehensible. Skipping over what could potentially be an illuminating moment in the film, Harper is depicted in action scenes destroying Sally—a large, metal entity.

Although the film attempts to engage the reader in a complex, psychologically stimulating journey, the intended surprises in the film are actually highly predictable and the plot itself lacks depth.