Oblivion (Blu-ray)

August 28, 2013 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’ve got to hand it to Tom Cruise.  The guy has done the unthinkable and made it work for him. A high school dropout, a would be Catholic priest and he’s been arguably the biggest movie star in the world for the past three decades.  To his credit, he does have good looks, has aged incredibly well (he’s now over 50 years old) and has been very fortunate.  Still, for someone who hasn’t had to worry about money since Reagan was in office, clearly he’s doing what he loves. Part of what made Cruise a star was his equal appeal to both women and men.  Women for obvious reasons and men wanted to be the characters he played (or maybe it was Lt. Pete Mitchell in Top Gun). The last decade has seen Cruise take a lot more risks and, when you think about it, he’s delved a lot more into the action/science-fiction genre.  With films like Minority Report, War of the Worlds, the Mission: Impossible films and now Oblivion; Cruise has shown that he’s not immune to a very distinct genre.  Oblivion does represent a bit of an odd choice, though.  Created from a graphic novel published in 2005, it’s been called a live-action version of Pixar’s Wall-E.  Whatever the case, let’s once again delve into the post-apocalpytic future and see what Mr. Cruse has in store, shall we?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a technician who specializes in repairing drones, is trying to figure things out.  He and partner, communications liaison Vica Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), look over Zone 49 as if it’s their own.  It is, actually.  But their job is to ensure that the drones are running on schedule so that Earth’s sea water can be converted for use by the Tet (the god-like rulers of the world, so to speak).  Of course if things were to go on as planned, we wouldn’t have a movie.  Jack, while exploring the remains of the planet, comes across a scant society of survivors who have been waging a war against the drones and are starting to do some real damage.  Jack, believing there to be no survivors on the planet, is in a state of disbelief as they lay out to him what exactly has been going on.  It’s now a choice between loyalty to all that he’s known or those that represent change.  What to do?

If that plot synopsis sounded a bit dis-jointed, it’s for a reason.  There are several items in the movie that, if revealed, would literally ruin it for the viewer and I don’t want to do that.  And after having viewed Oblivion, I was left wanting a bit.  No, it’s not a bad movie – I admire the scope and the way they handled several different things.  Cruise is his typical self, trying to be as macho as he can while still having that “guy next door” look and appeal to him.  Aside from Morgan Freeman, who I’ve decided is in every movie (he or Bruce Willis), there aren’t too many recognizable faces.  Filmed mainly on location in Iceland, the movie does have a very desolate look and feel to it, but aside from the visuals there wasn’t anything too terribly original.  Is it worth seeing?  You bet.  Would I put it up there with some of Cruise’s better movies?  I don’t think so.  Oblivion will most likely, like most all of Cruise’s more recent choices, polarize viewers.

Video: How does it look?

Visually-speaking Oblivion is a feast for the eyes.  The 2.40:1 AVC HD image is as crisp as anything I’ve seen in a live-action film.  The special effects seem so effortless that they blend into the film and after watching a few of the featurettes as to how these were actually done – it’s even more impressive.  Huge, sweeping shots were literally projected around the set to give the depth of field a more realistic look.  The drones were literally built from scratch so that any and all visual effects would be minimal and would seamlessly integrate into the final product.  Detail is immaculate, as can be expected, we can see the ever-increasing lines on Cruise’s face, the individual hairs and the razor sharp images from their futuristic displays.  Black levels are rock solid, contrast works well and the entire palette is a rather unique visual experience. It’s amazing to look at, though.

Audio: How does it sound?

As if the image wasn’t glorious enough, we have an equally impressive DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that grabs hold and really never lets go.  Vocals are strong and solid, but what really made me stand up and take notice (yes, I actually stood up, pointed at the television and said “Hey, look!”…ok, not really) was the low end of the mix.  The drones seem to have a bass to them that really gave this soundtrack some depth.  I was reminded of ED-209 in Robocop if that helps put things in perspective. Surrounds offer a hearty mix of support and ambiance to round out what’s a solid example of a great mix.

** The Dolby TrueHD option selected as the isolated score is presented in Dolby TrueHD as an option, though the feature film is in DTS HD Master Audio.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Oblivion comes to Blu-ray in a two disc set with the second disc being a DVD of the film, also included is an UltraViolet copy for your other devices.  We’ve got a scant offering of supplements as well.

  • “Audio Commentary by Director Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise” – These two actually give a pretty decent commentary track with Cruise attempting to take the lead from time to time, but it’s Kosinski that really has the depth of the material.  We get all sorts of information from the casting, adaptation, special effects and pretty much everything in between.  Fans of the film will really enjoy this track.
  • “Promise of a New World” – This five part documentary covers just about everything that you’d need or want to know about the film.  We get “Destiny” which focuses on the story development, “Voyage” which centers around the mode of transportation – the bubble ship; “Combat” takes a gander at the stunts, “Illusion” the visual (or lack thereof) effects and “Harmony” which is a nod to the score and music of the film.
  • “Deleted Scenes” – We get a quartet of deleted and alternate scenes.
  • “Isolated M83 Score” – The score for the film is shown in an oft-used feature and is presented in Dolby TrueHD sound.

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