Monday, May 6, 2013

Don't be Oblivious: The Obvious Myth in Oblivion

[This post has spoilers.

Really quickly, where did Spring go? We've started the Summer Blockbuster season, and I havn't posted in over a month! Mostly because there wasn't much interesting going on. Besides the ends of several comedy TV series... ]

Okay, who though Oblivion (Universal Pictures, 2013) was going to be another weird Tom Cruise movie? I certainly did. Cruise is generally not an actor I follow, because I associate him with the 80s and 90s (and Scientology). Really that's not fair. His career doesn't have the normal dips and turns as other action movie stars; he's consistently made three star and above quality films since the start of his career, and the only year 21st century he didn't have a movie coming out was 2009, which is kind of excusable since he had two movies come out in 2008.

When I heard Oblivion was "actually really good," I was skeptical. Through a coin-toss I saw it instead of The Place Behind the Pines. Good choice. It contains a lot of New American Mythology themes and motifs. The following is a quick rundown of these. I thought the plot was fairly obvious, but if you're wanting to keep the movie's plot twists a surprise, don't continue to read, particularly the ones marked with ***. They're all kind of spoilers though.

Basically, I've highlighted how Oblivion uses the motifs in New American Mythology. The terms are not literal representations, but act more as metaphors. Brush up on the terminology by clicking on "Lexicon" above. Use this post as a way to better understand the Myth, and how it influences our culture.

Astronaut - Jack Harper, the main character, lives in isolation with his work and love partner, Victoria. He repairs drones which guard saltwater collectors. The saltwater will be converted into energy for humanity's exodus to Titan. Jack uses his high and low-tech know how to keep the drones running and protect the human race. ***We find out Jack Harper was actually an astronaut in his previous life. He and a crew were going to Titan to assess if human could live there; when their mission changes he chooses to pursue the danger alone (with Victoria) rather then put the rest of his crew in danger. Jack's final sacrifice at the movie's end, solidifies his mythological Astronaut status.

Cowboy - Jack acts directly against his orders multiple times, mostly on gut reactions. His collection of various human objects connects him to his true human self. His "lonesome" rides in the helicopter and fondness for his motorcycle are not unlike a man in the desert on a horse

***Zombie - Jack's previous incarnations followed orders, blindly killing off most of humanity. It sounds like they traveled in hordes, acting senselessly en mass. Victoria remains a Zombie, blindly following her programing to her demise, despite the evidence in front of her. Also, Jack dies and 'comes back to life' through Tech 52 in order to live happily ever after.


Black - Of course Morgan Freeman plays the Black god (of war)! In this narrative, Malcolm Beech leads humanity's last stand. Not only does he come up with the strategy for taking down TET, he's the one who sees Jack as the key to their salvation and shows him the Road to self-discovery. ***His death marks the end of the war, a passing of an era. With his and Jack's death, the world can be reborn.

Girl - Victoria tries to break away from the 'system' that holds her, but in the end she cannot side with Jack. She finds the small plant he gives her abhorrent, because it may ruin their chances of going to Titan with the rest of humanity. Really, it shows her lack of humanity and her assimilation into the TET's false reality.

Amazon - Julia, a 'Russian' cosmonaut, is only an Amazon when compared to Victoria. Overall she's a weak female character, but does hold important knowledge that allows Jack to free his mind, proving herself not to be a threat to Jack and superior to Victoria.

Scavs in the concept art from the unpublished (non-existent) graphic novel Oblivion was based on.
Illustration by  AndrĂ©e Wallin

Aliens - The Scav are Jack's main threat. They attack the drones, but without any real purpose. Victoria ponders why they would try to destroy the drones, why they would send an off-world signal, and why they are there at all. They are irrational, threatening creatures. (Or are they...?)

The West - Jack's excursions in the the wastelands gives him the freedom to explore the world around him without the rules of the Sky Tower. He can fix drones with gum, pick up curious objects, and wear a Yankee cap, all of which don't follow protocol. The potential run into the dangerous Scavs doesn't deter him from the potential of finding something new. Additionally, his (Rocky Mountain) retreat is an eden free from TET's (society's) prying eyes.

***Space - TET, which exists in space, is Jack and Victoria's source of information, their salvation (to Titan), their creation (via cloning), and their destruction (drones). On the flip side of the coin, Jack must enter TET's realm in order to save humanity, recreate himself, and destroy the threat.

***The City - TET supposedly holds most of the human race, waiting on a few techs to return before blasting off into Space. However, it turns out to be the lack of humanity rather than its salvation. TET programs Jack and Victoria to despise the past human life. Victoria especially follows TET's orders, fearing she'll lose her spot to Titan while not realizing she's lost her humanity.

Nostalgia - Jack's fascination with artifacts and history goes beyond topical interest. He collects small items and arranges them lovingly in his cottage. They remind him of the past glory of humanity, whereas Victoria sees them as radioactive remenants of war.

***The Road - After meeting Morgan Freeman's character, Jack must take a journey of self discovery. He starts out on a bike and drives to the Empire State building, where he finds his other half. He then returns to the Sky Tower, where he must destroy his past beliefs/self. Then, he goes through an hazardous journey across the radiation zone and meets his true self. This journey gives him the strength and conviction to save humanity.
 ***The Tower - 1) TET, a tower in the sky, supposedly awaits to deliver humanity to Titan and save all of mankind. However, we find out that it's not the salvation of mankind, but its destruction. This technological entity that Jack and Victoria believe holds the entire world has destroyed it. 2) The Empire State Building holds the key to Jack's humanity; his memories of the tower remain, and it's where his memories return to him. Before his memories return, the tower signifies the destruction of his past, and (literally) signals for its return. 3) The Sky-Tower (home-base) protects Jack and Victoria from Scavs and radiation. It's how they can live in such a hostile environment. However it also shelters them from the truth, preventing Victoria particularly from reconnecting to her original self.

At the Tower, all is made clear.

 There you go folks. Now stop saying I'm making this shit up! The terms may be outlandish, but sometimes we only notice the extremes.

Comment below!

1 comment:

  1. Loved the breakdown (you know I always love your observations) but you still couldn't pay me to give Tom Cruise my ticket money. He's just...not a good actor.