by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Aug 6, 2013

Joseph Kosinski ("Tron") wanted to tell a Sci-Fi tale that would be both epic and intimate. Visually, "Oblivion" fits into the "epic" category; narratively, the film draws from a grab-bag of genre films, but it does touch upon the sense of isolation, interdependence, and eventual uncertainty among a small cast of characters that propelled earlier stripes of Sci-Fi film, especially in the '70s.

Much of the story concerns Jack (Tom Cruise) and his teammate / lover, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). They are one of a handful of teams left on post-invasion Earth to maintain and defend automated installations that support the off-world population. Everyone else has fled to a huge orbiting space station, or to a moon of Saturn. Tom and Victoria live and work in a comfortable aerial base perched thousands of feet above the ravaged surface; only scattered bands of defeated aliens called "scavs" remain on the planet below.

Until, that is, human survivors enter the picture, led by Morgan Freeman, with "Game of Thrones" star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as his sidekick. (Sadly, both actors are wasted on flat, one-note roles.) There's also a beautiful woman, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), whom Jack already knows because she's in his recurring dreams.

Though the film as a whole is a stale, under-written mess, the Blu-ray / DVD combo offers some intriguing special features that fire the imagination -- not so much the Deleted Scenes (there are four; one of them gives a little deeper sense of the relationship between Jack and Victoria) but rather the featurettes, of which there are three on the DVD disc:

"Destiny" is all about how Kosinski conceived of the film in strong visual terms from the outset, first as a lavishly illustrated novel and then as a cinematic project. The featurette is something of a 101 course in how a movie of this sort is created, from pre-visualization and CGI modeling to the finished product.

"Illusion" delves deeper into the visual effects, both practical (the gorgeous vistas from Jack's penthouse in the sky aren't done with CGI or green screens, and they probably look better for it).

"Harmony" digs into the story behind the film's score by M83.

The set's producers were wise in not being too awfully stingy about what they put on the DVD disc. That said, the Bu-ray disc contains some equally intriguing additional material:

"Voyage" takes a detailed look at what went into the design of Jack's "bubble ship," the dragonfly-like craft that he uses to travel his assigned territory to keep security drones in good repair and fend off the predations of the "scavs," alien survivors whose tenacious occupancy of the surface leads to ongoing problems.

"Combat" reveals the secrets behind the film's action sequences.

If you like M80's music for the film, you can enjoy it as an isolated score, which is another feature exclusive to the Blu-ray disc.

There's also a commentary track with Kosinski and Cruise.

Universal Pictures

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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