Oblivion: Movie Review
Jason and I recently watched the relatively new Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion. I can only assume the title refers to the writer's utter obliviousness to the necessity of putting agency into the hands of women. Many little things bothered me. Victoria (whose name was shortened to Vika) was absolutely nothing more than window dressing. Supposedly Vika and Jack (I'll get back to his name in a minute) are an "effective team," but in reality, Vika does nothing. Even her computer interface could be effectively operated by either of my two-year-old nephews. I am not exaggerating. It is all drag and drop, and appears to require very little thought. Ostensibly, Vika is the boss of where Jack goes, but in reality, he pretty much ignores her suggestions whenever he feels like it. Which is often. Spoilers follow. Not that I think this movie could stink much worse. Even Morgan Freeman couldn't save it.
I assume Julia was intended to be a Strong Female Character, but she's not. Jack saves her life on their very first encounter. Then we find out she's a pilot, and theoretically his equal. Yay, right? But if she's a pilot, why does she scream and freak out when he drives a little enthusiastically in the futuristic looking jet-ship thing? I mean... seriously. SERIOUSLY?! I can't even. Ugh. The WordNerd is driven to silence. Yes, it's that bad.
And then, Vika dies. She is killed by a drone. Her death is the event, (I think it's supposed to be the climax of the story) that tips Jack to the side of definitely believing that the Tet in the sky is bad, mmkay. That's basically the definition of the Women in Refrigerators trope. Except he never really loved her, even though he was living with her for three years, he was always dreaming of Julia, but that's totally okay because she's actually his wife. (Totally having Total Recall flashbacks here, are you? Except, despite the original being made TWENTY FOUR years ago -- do you feel old? I do-- the happy little wifey character turns out to be a badass agent who tracks down the man to whom she was assigned.)
Where was I? Oh right. So Vika dies. Five seconds later (I didn't count, but it felt like this), Julia gets Mortally Injured, (theoretically while saving Jack, but not really, because he's gonna save her much more impressively) and Jack has to save her AGAIN. Which he does, by finding out that ... umm... basically the world revolves around Tom Cruise and we're all just along for the ride, okay?
Tom, I say this with love. I have been a fan of your movies since Top Gun. Even in that your female co-star had more power and autonomy than the women in Oblivion, and I don't even want to LOOK UP how long ago that was, because it will make me sad. Why are you taking roles that move you backwards? I loved the Mission: Impossible movies. And that was in no small part due to your female co-stars possessing spines. Playing off of women who are just set pieces cheapens you. You can do better. Don't you have a little girl? Don't you want her to be an action star if she so chooses? Or do you want her to be relegated to the refrigerator?
This movie even manages to fail the Bechdel Test despite the fact that three out of four characters with significant speaking roles are women. When Vika talks to Sally (wonderfully portrayed by Melissa Leo, but still not enough to save the movie), all they talk about is Jack.
My husband pointed out as I was about to hit publish, that I had not finished watching the movie. I guess it was wishful thinking on my part that it was over. In an effort to be fair, I'm now going to watch the rest and give it a chance to redeem itself.
Let's see. Drones attack Rebels. Random gunner guy dies. Don't care. Never saw him before this shot. Morgan Freeman utters probably the must banal line he's ever uttered. Julia and a bunch of kids and people I'm supposed to care about but whose names I don't even know get targeted by shiny white lights from a drone. Its probably not about to shoot rainbows and butterflies. Don't worry, a man saves them. This time it's blonde-man-Jaime-Lannister-who-doesn't-believe-in-Jack-but-later-they'll-have-a-moment instead of Tom Cruise. I mean Jack. Why does Julia assigned to the "get the women and children below" job and the manly men get to defend the colony?
So. Morgan Freeman is maybe dying, tells them to send the drone with the Big Bomb up to the Bad Thing (Tek? Tesla? I don't care. I may have been mistaken about my ability to remain open-minded.) Jack says the drone is gone. But he'll deliver the bomb himself. Oh, so heroic! So selfless! But wait! Julia says she will go with him. Open minded. Julia MIGHT get to do something. Oh god, he just gently lowered her into her seat in the pod with both hands like she's a frakkin' china doll. I just puked popcorn all over my couch. Oh, my bad, it's her SLEEP POD. He tells her to "dream of us." And we get to watch her gasp her way to sleep. UGH. You guys... I kid you not... he is dragging her frelling sleep pod to his spacy-jet. Why couldn't she WALK to the jet and then go to sleep, if she's gonna go to sleep? Because women are dainty and walking is hard.
Oh boy, a flashback of a scene in a ship while we're in a ship. Real Vika is his co-pilot. In the world we have seen, Vika never even leaves their Condo. SO... MAYBE... the bad bad aliens are to blame for all the male chauvinism exhibited in this film, and Julia is about to take them out with a BFG. You see? The benefit of the doubt... I am generously bestowing it all over the place.
Oooh Oooh, Real Jack gave Real Vika an order and she DEFIED him, because they're a team.
Jack goes into the Tet. BUt wait! It's not Julia in the pod at all, it's Morgan Freeman. How sweet of Jack to do a switcheroo so that Julia doesn't have to die. I mean... sure, she said she wanted to come with him, so he put her to sleep and didn't take her. Am I... I mean, that is what happened, right?
Happy happy, little fragile Julia lives, and oh, what a shock, 3 years later there's a little girl hanging out with Julia at their house by the lake. Cool. Jack left her to be pregnant and raise an infant by herself in a cabin in the wilderness. AWESOME. I bet that ROCKED.
You know, I like happy endings. I do. I wanted that ending to be touching. But the whole movie has just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, I watched all the way to the end, but I'm not going to detail it because A)It's pretty predictable and B)there might be people who want to see this movie, so I've tried to dance around a couple of the major Darth-Vader-is-Luke's-Father type revelations. I'm not counting Julia being his wife as one of those, because it's also incredibly predictable.I will say this for Oblivion. It is pretty. The special effects are outstanding, and the scenery, both barren and lush, is fantastic. And maybe that's kind of my point. Vika and Julia just feel like more scenery for Jack to chew up and spit out.
And speaking of being chewed up and spit out... Oblivion was billed as being based on a graphic novel, assumedly to cash in on the recent successes of comic book movies as a genre, but it was never actually a graphic novel.
In contrast, I watched The Avengers this morning, and was immediately struck by how beautifully and effortlessly Joss and the team smash not only the Big Important gender roles but also pay attention to the little details. More on that tomorrow. I know you guys won't read more than this, your notifications are flashing, your phone is dinging, and you need to harvest your crops in Farmville. It's all good. Thanks for staying with me. See you tomorrow.