DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Oblivion, Blu-ray (2013)

A thoughtful, epic sci-fi trip in spite of borrowings from many other previous ones.

Published on August 4, 2013

Oblivion, Blu-ray (2013)

Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough
Director/Story Writer: Joseph Kosinski
Music: Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese
Studio: Universal 61125006 [8/6/13] Blu-ray+DVD+UV Digital Copy (2 discs)
Video: 2:40 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1, DD 5.1, DD 2.0, French & Spanish DD 5.1, French & Spanish DTS-5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Dubbed versions: French, Spanish
All regions
Extras: Commentary track by Tom Cruise and Joseph Kosinski; “Making of” featurettes: “Voyage” – discover the Bubble Ship, “Combat” – action-packed stunts; M83 isolated score for entire film; Deleted scenes; “Destiny” – how the film was shot; “Illusion” – groundbreaking visual effects; “Harmony” – the music of M83; Ultraviolet
Length:  124 minutes
Rating: ****½ 

This is currently the No. 5 best seller at Amazon, and seeing the mentions online of the great-looking visuals in the IMAX conversion, I was wishing I had seen it that way at the theater, instead of the disappointing Pacific Rim.  It’s a rather somber but pleasing sci-fi story that borrows heavily from many other sci-fi classics, but still retains a uniqueness of its own. And the various sci-fi gadgets—including the drones, Jack’s two-seater “bubble” aircraft, and his motocycle, are great fun.

Set in 2077, the Earth has been ravaged by a terrible war which included nuclear warfare, supposedly fought against aliens. The few humans left have a huge triangular home in orbit around the Earth, a series of floating machines which extract the sea water for energy, and a few couples stationed in delicate structures here and there—dedicated to serving the drones which patrol the Earth, keeping the few remaining “scavs” in check, who try to sabotage installations. Most of the rest of Earth’s population is supposedly now living on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, and Jack and Victoria will soon have served their time and are scheduled to be sent there for a pleasant life. But Jack spends time occasionally at a hidden old-fashioned log cabin on a lake, where his overseers cannot track him.

Although Jack has had his memory of the war erased, he has dreams about another woman who was actually his wife. While repairing some drones, Jack sees a spacecraft crash land. A drone appears and kills all the occupants but one woman who is saved by Jack. She turns out to be his wife and together they eventually join the “scavs” down on Earth (led by Morgan Freeman) after he learns of the sinister goings on.

The film’s sets are huge but sparse, in keeping with the ravaged earth where just a few New York City landmark ruins stand out, such as the NY Public Library and the top of the Empire State Building. Cruise does all his own stunts, and some are spectacular. Freeman’s “Beach” is a cool character in his sunglasses, and the flying drones seem like robots from Wall-E gone over to the Dark Side.

One little thing that bothered me was any reason for the poor and noisy reception of the video connection from Sally, the pair’s overseer with her Southern accent. (Who repeatedly asks if they “are an effective team.”) Their elevated futuristic house is shown to be within direct sight of the orbiting triangle, so in this futuristic world with perfect electronics, the signal should have been perfect.

The Blu-ray transfer looks great, and the fact that many of the special effects were done in camera rather than depending on later cgi work shows in some very believable scenes. Where cgi is used it blends perfectly with the live action. The soundtrack with its marriage of a 90-piece symphony orchestra (about 80% of the score) with the music of the now-defunct French electronica group M83, is completely effective. In other words, having heard it twice now I can’t recall a note of it. It’s most interesting that Oblivion is one of the only feature film Blu-rays or DVDs that is All Regions; usually that only happens with music videos; I wonder if that was dictated by Cruise.

—John Sunier




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