Oblivion is a 2013 American post-apocalyptic action-adventure film co-produced and directed by Joseph Kosinski, and produced by Peter Chernin with screenplay by Karl Gajdusek and Michael deBruyn, starring Tom Cruise in the main role alongside Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in supporting roles. Oblivion, based on Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel of the same name, pays homage to 1970s science fiction.
|Directed by||Joseph Kosinski|
by Joseph Kosinski
|Edited by||Richard Francis-Bruce|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$287.9 million|
Oblivion takes place in 2077, on an Earth devastated by war with extraterrestrials that has caused humanity to relocate itself to Titan. The film follows the story of Jack Harper, a technician who has been sent back to Earth to service drones used in the fight against remaining extraterrestrials (scavengers). After witnessing a spacecraft crash, from which he rescues a survivor, Harper is captured by scavengers (who are revealed to be humans) and fights against a new and evolving alien threat.
Oblivion was released in IMAX by Universal Pictures on April 19, 2013 and held its world premiere in Buenos Aires on March 26, 2013. The film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $286 million worldwide, on a production budget of $120 million.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria "Vika" Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) are among the few people left on Earth by March fourteenth, 2077 and live on the "sky tower", a modern house protected above the clouds. Sixty years earlier, a race of scavenger aliens destroyed the Moon and invaded Earth; people won the war, but the use of nuclear weapons and the loss of the Moon left most of the planet uninhabitable. With Vika as his communications officer, Jack works as technician number 49, fixing combat drones that hunt the remaining scavengers and guard "hydrorigs", hydroelectric platforms that convert seawater into fusion energy. The team reports to Sally, the mission commander aboard the "Tet", a space station that orbits Earth once a day like a harvest moon; they will depart for Titan, a moon of Saturn within two weeks. Though Jack and Vika's memories have been wiped, Jack has frequent dreams and visions of a pre-war life in the company of an unknown woman (Olga Kurylenko).
Jack narrowly escapes a scavenger trap while searching for a disabled drone in the ruins of New York's public library. After a hydroelectric platform is destroyed, he discovers that scavengers are sending coordinate-reporting radio waves into outer space, thanks to the use of the Empire State Building’s antenna. Jack turns off the transmitter and visits his lakeside cabin filled with mementos of Earth's past, and built and kept secretly, based on a loving memory of a life project. An unidentified object falls into the transmitted coordinates. Jack goes to the crash site and finds five humans in hibernation chambers, including the woman in his dreams. Jack protects the sleeping woman's life from drones that arrive and shoot, and carries her to his base. He and Vika revive her and are told her name is Julia Rusakova, who has been in deep (or delta) sleep aboard the spaceship Odyssey since before the war, in 2017.
The emotional tension between the three increases. Jack and Julia return to the crash site and retrieve the Odyssey's flight recorder but are captured by scavengers and taken to the Raven Rock Mountain Complex. The leader, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), reveals that the scavengers are humans in dark robes with which they hide from drones. Beech frees Jack and Julia to discover the truth in a desert known as the radiation zone. Julia reveals that she is Jack's wife, this revelation reminds him of the full marriage proposal made in the Empire State Building.
Vika sends an aircraft for Jack and Julia, but is heartbroken to see them reunited. She alerts Sally, who starts a drone that kills Vika before Julia can destroy it. Jack and Julia flee in the jet and destroy the drones chasing them, but land in the supposed radiation zone. Another technician, number 52 and a clone of Jack, arrives to fix disabled drones. Jack incapacitates him, but Julia ends up getting shot in the fight between the two. So Jack heads to the clone's base to get medical supplies, before tricking the Vika clone by pretending to be Tech 52. He takes Julia to the lakeside cabin, where she recovers and the couple re-consummate their marriage, also listening to the A Whiter Shade of Pale song.
They return to the scavenger's hidden base. There, Beech tells him that the Tet is an alien artificial intelligence. Determined to extract Earth's natural resources and destroy humanity, the Tet destroyed the Moon and invaded Earth with an army of Jack clones and drones. The victory of the human race and the escape to Titan are elements of a fictional Tet story. Jack reprograms a captured drone to sabotage the Tet with a nuclear bomb, but other drones attack the base and leave Beech injured and the captured drone damaged beyond repair.
Jack volunteers to deliver Julia to the Tet in order to infiltrate while carrying the bomb made from fuel cells scavenged from ten drones and Odyssey's fuel. Julia admires a bucolic painting of Christina's World (1948) that reminds her of the lakeside cabin where she and her husband would live, before they say their final goodbyes through a lasting kiss. En route, Jack listens to the audio from the Odyssey's flight recorder and understands the truth: he is a clone of the NASA mission commander who was going to explore Titan, Vika was his co-pilot, Julia was the newest crew member in her first cosmic travel and Sally was the Earth mission director. After the mission was interrupted by the appearance of the Tet, Jack separated the control cabin from the rest of the Odyssey so the part of the spaceship where Julia and the entire crew were sleeping could return to Earth orbit, while he and Vika were captured and cloned.
In the present, Jack enters the Tet and finds thousands of clones of him and Vika in stasis. Jack is confronted by the Tet's projection of Sally. Jack opens the hibernation chamber he brought with him, awakening Beech instead of the promised Julia. Jack and Beech detonate the bomb, destroying Tet and themselves. Julia wakes up in the cabin impressed with the change of plan and opens an envelope that contained the painting she had admired in the scavengers' hideout, moments before she witnessed Jack's sacrifice for her, the scavengers and the planet, as the explosion was seen in the sky.
Three years later, Julia has kept the painting in a frame inside the lakeside cabin where she has given birth to her and Jack Tech 49's daughter. They meet with surviving resistance members and are joined by Jack Tech 52, who has recovered the original Jack's true memories including his sublime love for Julia.
- Tom Cruise as Jack Harper, Tech 49: An American technician who works to repair drones on Earth. Originally, he was the commander of a mission en route to Titan who was then captured by the Tet and cloned to fight humanity. Cruise also plays Jack Harper, Tech 52, a clone who initially remains loyal to the Tet.
- Morgan Freeman as Malcolm Beech: An American veteran soldier and leader of a large community of scavengers, the human survivors of the alien Tet's attacks.
- Olga Kurylenko as Julia Rusakova Harper: Jack's wife and a Russian crew member on the Odyssey, who was sent back towards Earth by her husband to protect her from the initial contact with the Tet.
- Andrea Riseborough as Victoria "Vika" Olsen: Jack's communications partner and housemate. Originally, she was the British co-pilot of Jack's mission to Titan who was captured and cloned to assist in the Tet's war on humanity. Riseborough also plays a clone of Vika who Jack misleads to obtain medical supplies.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Sergeant Sykes: The main military commander of Beech's community of scavengers who is skeptical of Jack at first.
- Melissa Leo as the Tet and Sally: An alien artificial intelligence seeking to acquire Earth's natural resources and wipe out humanity. Sally was the mission director of Jack and Julia's mission to Titan; her likeness was copied by the Tet to serve as its visual and auditory representation.
- Zoë Bell as Kara: A soldier and member of the scavengers.
Kosinski wanted to film a cinematic adaptation of the graphic novel Oblivion, which he started to co-write with Arvid Nelson for Radical Comics. The novel, however, was never finished, as Kosinski now admits that "It was just a stage in the project [of film development]". He explained in an interview with Empire that "partnership with Radical Comics allowed me to continue working on the story by developing a series of images and continuing to refine the story more over a period of years. Then I basically used all that development as a pitch kit to the studio. So even though we really never released it as an illustrated novel the story is being told as a film, which was always the intention."
Walt Disney Pictures, which produced Kosinski's previous direction Tron: Legacy, acquired the Oblivion film adaptation rights from Radical Comics and Kosinski after a heated auction in August 2010. The film was a directing vehicle for Kosinski with Barry Levine producing and Jesse Berger as executive producer. Other studios that made bids on the film were Paramount, Fox's Chernin Entertainment, and Universal. Disney subsequently released the rights after realizing the PG-rated film they envisioned, in line with their family-oriented reputation, would require too many story changes. Universal Pictures, which had also bid for the original rights, then bought them from Kosinski and Radical Comics and authorized a PG-13 film version.
The script for the film was originally written by Kosinski and William Monahan and underwent a first rewrite by Karl Gajdusek. When the film passed into Universal's hands, a final rewrite was done by Michael Arndt, under the pen name "Michael deBruyn". Universal was particularly appreciative of the script, saying, "It's one of the most beautiful scripts we've ever come across."
The Bubble Ship operated by Cruise's main character, Jack 49, was inspired by the Bell 47 helicopter (often colloquially referred to as a "bubble cockpit" helicopter), a utilitarian 1947 vehicle with a transparent round canopy that Kosinski saw in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and which he likened to a dragonfly. Daniel Simon, who previously worked with Kosinski as the lead vehicle designer on Tron: Legacy, was tasked with creating the Bubble Ship from this basis, incorporating elements evocative of an advanced fighter jet with the Bell 47 to create a light, functional vehicle that was both practical and aesthetically pleasing, much as he observed with the ships in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"When Kubrick made 2001, rather than going to the hotshot concept designers of the day, he hired NASA engineers", said Simon. "I believe in form follows function. I'm not a fan of excessive decoration, of putting fins on something because it looks cool". Rather than employ digital models, Wild Factory, a Camarillo concept car company, built the Bubble Ship as a 25-foot-long (7.6 m), 4,000–5,000 lb (1,800–2,300 kg), mostly aluminum prop. Elements of the cockpit, such as the placement of the joystick and pedals, were customized for Cruise, who is a qualified pilot, and who had some input into the design. The craft was also made to be easy to disassemble and assemble, to facilitate transport to Iceland shooting locations, where it would be mounted on a gimbal for shots of it flying. The unmanned aerial drones that were featured prominently in the plot were created to appear to be in the same design family as the Bubble Ship.
For casting the lead role of Julia opposite Cruise, the producers considered five actresses: Jessica Chastain, Olivia Wilde, Brit Marling, Noomi Rapace and Olga Kurylenko, and all five auditioned on August 27, 2011. On September 26, 2011, it was announced that Chastain had been cast. Chastain was subsequently offered the lead role in the Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty and Tom Cruise let her be released from her contract for Oblivion in order to make the other film, for which Chastain has publicly thanked Cruise. The role was later recast with Kurylenko.
In preparation for the role, Kurylenko watched astronaut training videos as well as classic science fiction and romance films (such as Solaris, Notorious, and Casablanca). "What's funny is I actually watched Solaris; Joseph never brought it up", said Kurylenko. "I come from Tarkovsky-land, and at that point I hadn't watched it for many years. I watched the new one as well, with George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. The story – both in Solaris and Oblivion – deals with space and memory."
For the other leading role, Victoria, the producers initially considered Hayley Atwell, Diane Kruger and Kate Beckinsale. The three actresses traveled to Pittsburgh to screen-test with Cruise, who was filming Jack Reacher. The role finally went to Andrea Riseborough. Melissa Leo was cast at a later date as Sally.
Production began on March 12, 2012, and concluded on July 14, 2012. Filming locations included Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana. Out of approximately three months of shooting, 69 days were shot in Louisiana, from March through May 2012, 11 days were shot in New York in June 2012, a few in Mammoth in California in June 2012, and 10 days were filmed in Iceland in June 2012, when the daylight lasts for nearly 24 hours a day. As well as showcasing Iceland's volcanic landscapes, the film's director Joseph Kosinski sought to take advantage of the round-the-clock light, in particular the 6pm to 1am waning light known as "magic hour", to "bring sci-fi out into the daylight", in contrast with films such as Alien, which spent their time in dark hulls or benighted planets.
The single most difficult scene to film was when Harper takes a break to admire the view and waters a flower. It was filmed by having Cruise sit next to an 800-foot (240-meter) drop at the top of Iceland's Jarlhettur on the root of Langjökull, which is accessible only by helicopter. The scenes set at Harper's idyllic forest retreat were filmed at Black's Pond in June Lake, California.
Oblivion was filmed with Sony's CineAlta F65 camera, which was shipped in January 2012. A Red Epic was also used for scenes that required going handheld or when body mount rigging was applied. The film was shot in 4K resolution in Sony's proprietary raw image format, but for cost reasons (and over Kosinski's protests), both the digital intermediate and final version were done at 2K resolution.
For the Sky Tower set (built on a soundstage in Baton Rouge), Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda worked closely with visual special-effects house Pixomondo to establish both environment and lighting by the use of 21 front-screen projectors aimed at a huge wraparound backdrop to form one continuous image, rather than blue screen backdrops. The backdrop consisted of a single seamless piece of painted white muslin, 500 by 42 feet (152 by 13 meters), which was wrapped around the set for 270-degree coverage. This enabled the full environment to be captured in camera, and assisted in lighting up to 90 percent of the set.
Had blue screen been used on the "glass house" Sky Tower, the glass would have disappeared into the blue lighting, and would have had to be reproduced digitally in post-production. The actors enjoyed working in the environment, as they could look outside and actually see the sunrise or sunset imagery. This new technique allowed them to cut down on both the effects shots, which ended up at around 800 in total, and the expenses. Even the "control table" which Victoria operates was filmed then displayed on a large screen.
To obtain the necessary footage to create the illusion that the Sky Tower set was sitting high above the clouds, Pixomondo sent a crew to film the view from the peak of Haleakalā in Hawaii for four days with three Red Epic cameras mounted side by side on a single rig. Pixomondo's Stuttgart office then stitched together the data from the three cameras to form a single gigantic video stream (with each still image consisting of 26 megapixels) and produced a variety of different time-of-day clips to be projected on the set.
On June 28, 2012, it was announced that French electronic band M83 would compose the soundtrack for Oblivion. On why he chose M83 to score the film, director Joseph Kosinski said, "I went back and I found my first treatment for Oblivion from 2005 and it had listed in the treatment a soundtrack of M83. Obviously, the Tron: Legacy collaboration with Daft Punk worked out as good as I would have ever hoped, [so] I wanted to do something similar in that I'm pulling an artist from outside the movie business to create an original sound for this film." Kosinski continued, "Daft Punk's music wouldn't make sense for this movie. It had to be an artist whose music fit the themes and story I was trying to tell. And M83's music I felt was fresh and original, and big and epic, but at the same time emotional and this is a very emotional film and it felt like a good fit."
To guide Anthony Gonzalez of M83 through the scoring process, director Kosinski brought in Joseph Trapanese, who co-wrote the score alongside Gonzalez. Kosinski states, "Together they have created the score that I have dreamed about since I first put this story down on paper eight years ago." Trapanese first came to Kosinski's attention when he collaborated with Daft Punk on Tron: Legacy as arranger and orchestrator.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez said, "I started to write the soundtrack just reading the script, and then when you get the picture in, it's different, and you kind of switch to another vibe and change stuff and start experimenting a lot with the music." Gonzalez added, "I worked with Joseph a lot, and he's very particular about the music in his movies, so we spent a lot of time talking about music and working the arrangements together."
|Oblivion: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||April 9, 2013|
|Label||Back Lot Music|
|Singles from Oblivion: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Consequence of Sound|||
|Under the Radar|||
The soundtrack album was released on April 9, 2013, by Back Lot Music. A deluxe edition of the soundtrack was released the same day exclusively through iTunes. It features an additional 13 tracks.
|10.||"You Can't Save Her"||4:56|
|12.||"I'm Sending You Away"||5:38|
|13.||"Ashes of Our Fathers"||3:30|
|14.||"Temples of Our Gods"||3:14|
|16.||"Undimmed by Time, Unbound by Death"||2:26|
|17.||"Oblivion" (featuring Susanne Sundfør)||5:56|
|12.||"Return from Delta"||2:22|
|17.||"Return to Empire State"||6:41|
|21.||"You Can't Save Her"||4:59|
|24.||"Knife Fight in a Phone Booth"||4:39|
|25.||"I'm Sending You Away"||5:40|
|26.||"Ashes of Our Fathers"||3:32|
|27.||"Temples of Our Gods"||3:16|
|29.||"Undimmed by Time, Unbound by Death"||2:27|
|30.||"Oblivion" (featuring Susanne Sundfør)||5:57|
Details about Oblivion were kept secret, though the studio was said to have been "very excited" about the film. Promotions began in April 2012, with a part of the footage being screened at the 2012 CinemaCon even though filming had begun just one month before the event. The footage was described as "a combination of early concept art, rough animation, and unfinished dailies", showcasing a glimpse of the film's landscapes.
Oblivion was first presented in Buenos Aires on March 26, 2013, Dublin on April 3, and in Hollywood on April 10 at the Dolby Theatre where Cruise himself announced before the screening that the film was actually the first feature to be mixed completely "from start to finish" in the latest state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos surround sound.
The DVD and Blu-ray for Oblivion became available online for pre-order in North America on April 24, 2013, just five days after its initial release in the region. One month later it was announced that the United Kingdom branch of Universal Studios would be releasing the film on home video in its region on August 6, 2013, with the on-demand version on August 18, 2013. The release was scheduled to be in both a standard and a SteelBook Limited Edition form. In June 2013, it was announced that the film would be released on home video in America also on August 6, 2013. The Blu-ray releases will feature commentary with Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski, deleted scenes, M83's isolated score, and a series of making-of featurettes. The Blu-ray debuted at number 1 in sales for its opening week. On August 9, 2016, a 4K Blu-Ray edition was released.
In North America, the film earned US$37.1 million on its opening weekend, including US$5.5 million from IMAX screenings in 323 theaters, making it Cruise's best North American opening after Mission: Impossible film series and War of the Worlds.
The film closed on June 27, 2013. Oblivion grossed US$89.1 million in the U.S. and US$198.8 million internationally, bringing the worldwide total to US$287.9 million.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 53% based on 255 reviews, with an average score of 5.88/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Visually striking but thinly scripted, Oblivion benefits greatly from its strong production values and an excellent performance from Tom Cruise." Metacritic gives the film a score of 54 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter stated "Oblivion is an absolutely gorgeous film dramatically caught between its aspirations for poetic romanticism and the demands of heavy sci-fi action". Justin Chang of Variety said "Insofar as Oblivion is first and foremost a visual experience, a movie to be seen rather than a puzzle to be deciphered, its chief pleasures are essentially spoiler-proof." Kevin Harley of Total Film gave the film three stars and said "It isn't a reboot or reimagining, refreshingly, but Oblivion plays like a stylised remix of superior sci-fi ground-breakers". Andrew O'Hehir of Salon praised it as a "sly, surprising and visually magnificent Tom Cruise vehicle that has forced me – and many other people, I suspect – to revise my first opinion of director Joseph Kosinski."
Tasha Robinson from The A.V. Club states that an "unsettling sense of not-quite-right coats all of the film's steely surfaces, and Kosinski and his co-writers give audiences plenty of time to absorb the unease and gear up for the action". Some reviewers noted the filmmakers' ambition. James Berardinelli of ReelViews calls the film "imperfect but some of its imperfections result from being overly ambitious". Bill Goodykoontz from the Arizona Republic states that the film "may not live up fully to its grand ambitions, but it isn't for lack of trying". Jake Coyle of the Associated Press states that "[f]or those who enjoy the simple thrill of handsomely stylized image-making, Oblivion is mostly mesmerizing." Alan Scherstuhl from the Village Voice states that "Kosinski proves himself talented in ways his Tron: Legacy didn't suggest."
Kenneth Turan from the Los Angeles Times called the film "[m]ore adventurous than your typical Hollywood tent pole, Oblivion makes you remember why science fiction movies pulled you in way back when and didn't let you go." Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post states that "[i]f you're able to forgive and forget, Oblivion isn't a bad place to start loving Tom Cruise all over again." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer states that "[Cruise] oversees some pretty impressive stuff here, from the drones that ping-pong around in the air to the bubbleship that Jack uses to go to and fro to that awesome house with its panoramic views." Peter Howell of the Toronto Star states that the film "gives us stars in the cast, stars in our eyes and it even tweaks a brain cell or three".
Colin Covert from the Minneapolis Star Tribune states that the "film is rife with elements from its finest predecessors – Kubrick, Lucas, the Wachowskis, and Pixar could be listed as creative consultants – but it has the spirit of a love letter to classic sci-fi, not an opportunistic mash-up". Cary Darling of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram states that the film is "stitched together from spare bits of other, often better films, stumbl[ing] awkwardly in story and plot, shuffling toward the predictable explosions and fireballs of the third act. Yet... Oblivion is so beautiful to look at."
Richard Corliss of TIME stated that "[i]n space, Jack [Harper] hopes, someone may hear you dream. But in a movie theater, no one will see you yawn." Anthony Lane of The New Yorker states that the film "[f]eels ever more grounded and stuck." Richard Roeper of Richard Roeper.com called it the "sci-fi movie equivalent of a pretty damn good cover band". Tom Charity of CNN.com called it "[g]lossy, derivative, ambitious and fatally underpowered." J. R. Jones of the Chicago Reader states that the "story eventually devolves into a grab bag of sci-fi tropes but, as with so many other Cruise productions, the sheer scale of everything is so mind-numbing that you may not notice". Rick Groen of Canada's The Globe and Mail called it "an okay blockbuster, a multimillion-dollar exercise in competence".
Tom Long of the Detroit News states that "Kosinski offers plenty of action here, and he lets the plot reveals bleed out slowly (explanations keep coming right to the end)." Long states that "a great deal is derivative, but it's fast-moving derivative". Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger states that the movie "combines a lot of different films, yet somehow remains less than the sum of its parts". Claudia Puig of USA Today states that "Kosinski focuses on cool visuals but stints on a compelling plot. It's a dazzler, but the story lacks the impact of the futuristic look." Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal states that the "mystery posed by Oblivion as a whole is why its mysteries are posed so clumsily and worked out so murkily".
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times states that the "agony of being a longtime Tom Cruise fan has always been a burden, but now it's just, well, dispiriting". Rafer Guzman of Newsday states that "[p]laying spot-the-influence is the most fun you'll have during this expensive-looking, slow-moving plod through familiar territory." Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch states that "[i]nstead of developing characters, Kosinski pours most of his imagination into the annihilated landscapes and futuristic gadgetry." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune states that "[w]hen you go to a futuristic, dystopian, post-apocalyptic barn dance starring Tom Cruise and his space guns, you expect a little zap with your thoughtful pauses." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone calls it "arid and antiseptic, untouched by human hands".
Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald states that the "filmmakers don't even have the courage to see the story to its proper end, opting for a ridiculous finale that feels vaguely insulting". Soren Anderson from The Seattle Times states that "[y]ou start wondering whether director Joseph Kosinski and screenwriters Karl Gajdusek and Michael DeBruyn have any original ideas of their own. And then you realize they don't." Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News states that the "mix of gee-whiz gadgetry and the day-to-day routineness of Jack and Victoria's lives is interesting enough, but the film is too glacially paced for it to work". Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly states that "[a]ll the eye candy in the world can't mask the sensation that you've seen this all before...and done better. Too bad the movie's script wasn't given the same attention as its sleek, brave-new-world look."
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