Lucía and Jun-Dai at the BFI IMAX at 18:00 on 21 April 2013.
Not as visually stunning as I’d been led to believe from rottentomatoes.com, but the film was less dumb than I expected. Kind of interesting to see this after watching Trance, since the films have a few things in common. Trance did a much better job of coming out with unexpected plot twists from nowhere, whereas in Oblivion everything is sort of banked on a couple of major plot twists, which are pretty well foreshadowed and entirely predictable.
Moon is a pretty obvious comparison point for Oblivion, although it is a much more focused film that really tries to grapple with a single problem.
Oblivion is one of those films that’s interesting to think about a bit, but start to seem pretty stupid if you think about it too much. Why do the drones suddenly stop working when the Tet explodes, given that they’re capable of running without it the rest of the time (such was when it’s on the other side of the planet)? Why do the vehicles and other devices have no remote operation? Once Jack is considered hostile, should pretty much everything stop working for him (hovercraft, gun)?
Oblivion‘s broad scope comes at a price—the story is told from Jack’s perspective, and we hear a bit of Julia and Malcolm’s history, but mostly the world is unknown to us. We only get a glimpse of what life is like for Malcolm’s crew. We have no idea what has happened to the rest of the world. The Tet itself is a bit of a MacGuffin, since all we see inside of it is empty space and pods—we are meant to imagine that a civilisation is there, but what that civilisation is like or how it lives is irrelevant. In this sense we realise that we are not really meant to care about what happens to humanity, we are really just concerned with what happens to Jack, since the story is about him.
There is an interesting question embedded in the film: If there are many Jacks and they all have an equal claim to loving Julia and to being the man she loves and married, and she knows no difference between them (except perhaps for the main Jack who’s gone off to get himself killed), how is one to deal with this problem? The film avoids this question, of course, as it does the question about what Jack would do about Victoria were he able to save her.
Victoria really gets the short end of the stick in the film. We are not meant to like her, because she’s a goody two shoes, and because she represents a usurper to our heroine Julia. She does nothing particularly wrong, but she’s treated as an unsympathetic character that somehow represents the lure of techno-fascist mindlessness of the world Jack inhabits in the beginning film, and she’s basically brushed away as a character. If the aliens had their way and were able to replace her with Julia-clones, then she really would have been brushed away to irrelevance on a whole other level.