*Oblivion*

by on April 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm in Film, Religion, Uncategorized | Permalink

It is one of the most visually spectacular movies I have seen.  The first half is a very good movie in its own right.  The second half is mostly narcissistic trash, only periodically compelling, in which Cruise also rewrites the story of his break-up with Nicole Kidman, in what seems to me an unseemly manner.

Most of all, it is a Straussian commentary on Scientology (and Kidman), you can start your research here.  I am stunned but not surprised that very few reviews have picked on this angle at all (so far it seems that none have and even Quora fell down on the job).  Without such knowledge, the movie makes no sense whatsoever.  With such knowledge, the movie is entirely coherent but in some regards more objectionable.

There are also some nice references to other Cruise movies, such as Top Gun and Eyes Wide Shut, not to mention some of the non-Cruise classics of science fiction cinema, including Star Wars and 2001 and Solaris.

I am very glad I saw this movie, but your mileage may vary.  The Wikipedia entry is here.

FC April 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm

“Most of all, it is a Straussian commentary”

A non-falsifiable statement if ever there was one.

Sam April 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Read the Xenu story synopsis along side the Oblivion synopsis. They’re surprisingly close. Falsifiability is the test which demarcates scientific claims, not film criticism.

Tyler Cowen April 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Furthermore the Nicole Kidman stand-in has an Australian accent and is named “Victoria,” a region associated with Kidman (though she was born in Hawaii). The other parallels between Kidman and the first female lead are quite clear but would involve spoilers.

Jason from Australia April 28, 2013 at 4:05 am

This is a very interesting analysis, but the parallels between the Victoria character and Kidman don’t hold up

The “Victoria” character has lovely British accent – not remotely Australian.
Nicole Kidman was born in Hawaii and grew up in Sydney NSW. She did study and work in Melbourne Victoria.
Australia has 6 states. Victoria is the second most populous and the centre of the television and movie industry.
You’ll have a hard time finding an australian actor that isn’t “associated with the state of Victoria”.

andrewo April 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Shaka, when the walls fell.

prognostication April 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I appreciate the reference to one of the great episodes of that show, although not sure I understand it in context.

whatsthat April 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm

How can someone be stunned but not surprised

???

Dylan April 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

It’s the feeling you get when punched in the nuts after you saw it coming.

Edward Pierce April 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

We have our winner.

Elan April 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm

“There are also some nice references to other Cruise movies, such as Top Gun and Eyes Wide Shut, not to mention some of the non-Cruise classics of science fiction cinema, including Star Wars and 2001 and Solaris.”

Also the scene where Cruise returns to the Tet reminded me a whole bunch of the scene in Independence Day where Will Smith sneaks into the mothership.

Kevin April 28, 2013 at 11:14 am

The overwhelmingly clear movie/TV reference that I haven’t seen mentioned much is The Jetsons. The entire production design of Cruise’s home above the clouds is right out of Hanna Barbera.

Daniel O'Neil April 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm
Alina April 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Interesting. Appreciate the Strauss in this context.

I was just musing about the totalitarian tactics of Scientology earlier this week. It’s hard for me to avoid the almost surreal shimmer of Tom Cruise in light of his association with the Scientology “techne”.
http://alina_stefanescu.typepad.com/totalitarianism_today/2013/04/scientology-makes-use-of-tried-and-true-methods-to-in-an-interview-withjenna-miscavige-hill-the-niece-of-scientology-top-d.html

Ted Craig April 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Don’t appreciate it too much. Cowen describes every movie as Straussian, from Star Wars to The Devil Wears Prada.

Tyler Cowen April 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm

There are plenty of non-Straussian movies, most of them in fact, but they don’t need me to review them!

John Hall April 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I would hesitate to reach any of the conclusions that you have reached. Oblivion is based on a comic written by the director. I don’t know if the director is a scientologist and I don’t know how it differs from the movie (which I found disappointing). It could be that Tom Cruise decided to join the project because it had similarities to the Xenu story or his relationship with Nicole Kidman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story was written with that in mind.

Jason April 28, 2013 at 4:18 am

The comic is unpublished though so it’s impossible to verify whether the storyline is independent.

Andrew' April 27, 2013 at 3:18 pm

So what about someone taking an elementary schooler?

Scout April 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Does anyone else find it hard to believe that Tyler has time to sit down and watch a 2 hour tom cruise movie?

J April 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Can someone spell out for me the Scientology connection in this movie? I agree with Tyler than the first half was beautiful and the second half bad. The second half was extremely predictable, at least if know your science fiction. Could there appear to be a Scientology connection simply because the movie recycles shopworn sf themes? The Kidman thing seems a bit far fetched, too.

Andre April 27, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I’m shocked by this review. The Kidman angle is interesting, but I thought the movie itself just stole elements from three or four other sci fi movies. The actions scenes were straight lifted from Star War and the finally from Independence day. Even the sound effects from the drones were from Star Wars Tie Fighters. When they shot the first drone that followed them to the hideout I half expect a Wookie to jump up yelling and the background to switch to Hoth. Morgan Freeman’s character is just Morpheus from the Matrix. I knew what the twist would be before Cruise’s opening monologue finished.

whatsthat April 27, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Are you stunned but not surprised?

Barclay April 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I enjoyed it for what it was. I enjoyed it even more for the obvious and amusing Cruise ego stroking.

*Spoilers*
Not only is Cruise responsible for conquering the world, but he is also its savior. Not only does he get to die a hero’s death to save the world, but he also gets to live to help repopulate it. Not only does he get with the beautiful redhead, but he also gets the sexy brunette. Cruise lives the dream of every adolescent male of having the world revolve around him.

a-non April 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Great comment! Also here’s a related article to point out that Cruise is not the only one ‘living the dream’ on screen (and off): http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/leading-men-age-but-their-love-interests-dont.html I do enjoy the Straussian movie reviews (though they remind me of backmasking) and as of yet they have not diminished my enjoyment of the films.

Miley Cyrax April 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm

No mentioning of Moon?

Sbard April 28, 2013 at 3:33 am

I would say that Moon was a much better constructed movie.

Steve Sailer April 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Dear Tyler:

I write a lot of conspiracy theory movie reviews, too, but they are more persuasive when you can document them with quotes or career connections. If your theory is on the money, additional supporting evidence is usually not hard to find.

For example, are any of the screenwriters on “Oblivion” Scientologists?

Also, movie releases generate a huge number of interviews, and moviemakers often either drop hints or flat out state what the underlying themes of the movie are. For example, Boer refugee auteur Neil Blomkamp repeatedly told interviewers that “District 9″ was less an “apartheid allegory” (as everybody in America believed) than an allegory about illegal immigration from Zimbabwe and reflected his Malthusian worries about overpopulation:

http://takimag.com/article/alien_nation/print#axzz2Rhcicbqj

Andrew O’Hehir of Slate is practically the only politically correct critic smart enough to notice that a lot of big name moviemakers are secret rightwingers.

Yancey Ward April 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I just found it incredibly derivative. All that was missing was the hammock cloning machine from The Simpsons.

Euripides April 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Your review reminds me of another one of his movies, Vanilla Sky, which I had to get up and leave in the middle of. It made no sense and I was bored to tears.
Cruise ought to leave the deep stuff to directors like Ang Lee and focus on what he is good at: playing roles like Jerry McGuire!

Andrew' April 28, 2013 at 6:27 am

So, I still can’t tell if I should see the movie, or if a normal person should see the movie unless said normal person is pre-occupied with scientology, but only pre-occupied enough to learn about it through vague symbolism. I know that’s not the point, but that’s my observation.

Yancey Ward April 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

Don’t waste your money. Every twist was obvious right from the opening segment of the film. And it was boring, boring, boring.

R.Mutt April 29, 2013 at 5:16 am

I was fascinated by the movie’s take on the current state of the war on terror. (Mankind is continuously attacked by drones and can only be saved by a suicide bombing.)

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