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 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’s it look?
With Ultra HD/4K becoming a little more commonplace, it’s likely that we’ll see more catalog movies make their way to the new format. And it would make sense to release those films that take the most advantage of the new format. Is Oblivion the correct choice to showcase the HDR capabilities and increased resolution of 4K? In a word, yes. In another word, no. There’s no denying that the look and feel of the film is very unique. The 2.40:1 4K image reeks of detail and the improved colors give even a more desolate look to some of the darker scenes. Yes, there are a tad more than fifty shades of grey here. Taking a close look at this alongside its Blu-ray counterpart, there isn’t much difference at first. But as I’m finding with these UHD titles, sometimes it takes a second viewing to appreciate some of the subtle nuances that are there. Blacks seem a bit darker, contrast a bit more consistent and it’s not as if the Blu-ray looks bad by any means. Put these two side by side, stand 20 feet back and I’m willing to bet you can’t tell the difference. Still, this is one of Universal’s inaugural UHD titles (along with Lucy and Lone Survivor) so it should give us an indication of what’s to come.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Probably the biggest improvement with this release is the addition of a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The Blu-ray did contain a DTS HD Master Audio mix along with a TrueHD (on the isolated score only), so this is an upgrade in every sense of the word. I noticed a little more action and depth to some of the action scenes. It just seems to be more alive if that’s an accurate way of describing. Vocals are pure and crisp, but what really took me by surprise were the atmospheric nuances, little things in the rear surrounds that circled around the spectrum. For those that are so equipped, this new Atmos mix is up there with the best of them, though the DTS Master mix isn’t anything to shrug off.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are no new features for this Ultra HD/4K release and the only supplement on the actual UHD disc is the audio commentary. The remainder of the supplements are on the included Blu-ray.
- Audio Commentary – This features the director and Tom Cruise as they provide notes during the film. Fans will enjoy the track.
- Isolated M83 Score – I understand there’s a fan-base for these types of features, but I’m not one of them. I care little to sit down and listen to nothing outside of a film’s score. But if that’s you’re thing then by all means dive in. It’s presented in Dolby TrueHD.
- Deleted Scenes – A series of 4 deleted/alternate scenes are presented here.
- Promise of a New World – This is a 5 part documentary that covers virtually every aspect of the film’s production. The 5 sections are (Destiny, Voyage, Combat, Illusion and Harmony). There’s a lot of praising here, but we also learn about how Tom Cruise insists on doing his own stunts. The effects are also covered. As mentioned, every aspect is covered.
The Bottom Line
As we embrace yet another new format, we have to ask ourselves the question: is it worth it? If you’re a fan of this movie and want to start building a 4K library, this is a good place to start. The upgrade in audio is a bit more impressive than the video, but don’t read that the wrong way. There are no new supplements to speak of, but all the ones from the Blu-ray are present (albeit on the Blu-ray disc).