“Oblivion” can be categorized as a film about fighting the system, a kind of supreme structure that suppresses human freedom. But when watching such movies, it is essential to remember that they were also made with the help of a particular system, a specific social structure with enormous financial resources. And it is clear that no powerful system would make itself look weak in a film, which means that what the protagonist of the movie is fighting is actually the enemy of the system.
Hence the question arises: to whom or what in reality should the viewer project the enemy depicted in the film?
The structure of the scene
The film begins with an exposition in which the protagonist Jack Harper describes his vision of the situation on Earth. The overall spatial structure in which the hierarchy of actors is placed and the action itself is played out has the central symbolic meaning in the picture he presents.
This structure encompasses three spheres – the Sky, the Earth, and the intermediate place, the air. In the sky, there is Tet, the main command center in the form of a white tetrahedron, scavengers live on Earth, and the air sphere is reserved for humans and drones. In the ancient Greek tradition, these symbolic locations correspond to the three universal beginnings – mind, substance, and soul.
The sky has always symbolized the mental domain, the sphere of unchanging essences and laws, the field of meaning.
The Earth has always been a symbol of the material, sensual world.
In the air, between Earth and sky, there is the Observation Station, where Jack and Victoria live. Several times it is referred to as Paradise. 06:23, 52:35. If you add to this the fact that Jack and Victoria were created by Tat, the analogy with Adam and Eve becomes obvious. The main characters live in Paradise and are able to communicate directly with God.
The three types of characters -humans, drones, and scavengers- well overlap with the traditional division of the human soul into three beginnings, which was formulated by Plato in the dialogue “The State”: the rational, the active-willed (fierce), and the passive-sensitive (covetous).
Accordingly, if we treat the characters as contingent parts of personality, Jack and Victoria represent the rational beginning, the drones the active-willed ones, and the scavengers the lustful ones.
The rational beginning must strive for wisdom and dominance, and the fierce beginning must serve the rational and subdue its lusts.
“The eager beginning, by nature, covets wealth. It must be monitored lest it multiplies and intensify at the expense of bodily pleasures and cease to fulfill its purpose: otherwise, it may attempt to enslave and subdue that which is not related to it and thereby pervert the vitality of all beginnings” (442a-b).
Thus, the film’s heroes are initially in a blissful, paradisiacal state, living in accordance with the natural order of things. But we are given to understand from the first minute that Jack somehow doubts this established order. And a particular chain of events generates internal changes in him.
To rescue the drone, Jack descends into the library building, where a book by Thomas Macaulay, “Songs of Ancient Rome,” is already prepared for him at the entrance. 16:40
After the battle, Jack picks it up. And, secluded in the workshop, he opens the book on a page with a bookmark. 22:12
The line he needs to pay attention to has already been cleaned of dirt. All this makes us suspect a deliberate manipulation of Jack’s mind.
Of particular importance in the story is the issue of rules.
The scene when Victoria throws away the flower Jack gave her is meant to show the viewer the inhumanity of this woman and her indifference to the Earth.
“You know the rules.”
We are shown that Victoria places rules above expressions of love.
The director’s task in this scene is
- to show that Victoria is “not our man.”
- to make the viewer resent her action
- to imbue us with the belief that the rules can sometimes be disregarded.
We know the consequences of disregarding the rules from the characters in “Prometheus” and “Covenant .”But in “Oblivion,” the creators’ task is to make us understand that it can be done.
Heaven on Earth
Another idea that is insistently conveyed to us is that our home is not in Heaven but on Earth.
Jack is haunted by the vague feeling that he should not fly away to Titan. In five years of work, he has built a lakeside hut, his own paradise on Earth. 33:25
He puts the book he finds on top of “A Tale of Two Cities” by C. Dickens. The book is about the lives of aristocrats and ordinary people during the French Revolution.
In this way, we are shown that Jack is slowly being imbued with revolutionary ideas.
Dickens, in this book, brings to the readers that the revolution was unavoidable in a situation where the aristocracy was squeezing the last juices out of the people. But at the same time, he was very afraid of uncontrolled violence, revenge, and destruction.
Next in the story, the scavengers blow up the hydro platform and transmit a signal into space for the descent of the living module. On the shield, we see an image of the sun, which may have something to do with the symbolism of the ship’s landing with Julia. 31:50
This episode is associated with the fall from the sky of Lucifer, who in some occult teachings is revered as the bearer of light, who brought people true knowledge.
So Julia is the character who brings Jack the forgotten knowledge of himself.
“You are not who you think you are” 01:05:00
Like the tempter, Julia appears in Paradise, where she promises to help Jack figure things out. 48:30
Jack agrees and falls into the hands of the scavengers.
Here a local authority named Beech, played by Morgan Freeman, informs Jack of an alternate worldview, according to which Tet is the main villain, who is destroying people and consuming the Earth’s resources.
Thus, the filmmakers inverted the symbolism that laid its foundation. Familiar archetypes get the opposite meaning; their values are overturned.
What is above is declared evil, and what is below is declared good. And we begin to see the real, hidden meaning of the film, which is that the lower wants to overthrow the higher. Sensuality wants to get out from under the power of the intellect; chaos wants to destroy order.
Indeed, within the film, inside this ideological construct, the actions of the inferior forces will be justified, and the picture of reality they offer will be perfectly constructed.
And while we are absorbed in the film, that paradigm shift that happens to Jack is experienced as an exciting plot twist. But if we detach ourselves from the picture on offer and begin to see the film in its cultural context, we start to understand how the film’s semantic series is superimposed on general cultural symbols. And we realize that the movie’s images reflect the global upheaval that has taken place in Western culture and continues to affect minds.
At the interrogation, Beech utters the same lines that Jack read, which makes us think of manipulation again. But it is not only Jack’s mind that is manipulated here but also the mind of the viewer. Once again, the idea is conveyed to us that it is ridiculous to follow the rules and do one’s job duties unquestioningly.
“You don’t go into the contamination zone; you don’t ask unnecessary questions.” 54:55
And then the true nature of the insurgents is revealed to us, which can hardly be called humane. The rebels openly demonstrate how they will behave towards those who don’t want to comply with their demands. 58:57
They will do what revolutionaries have always done to opponents of their reforms. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Jack is, to them, only a clone, one of many whose life can be sacrificed for the sake of universal equality. And even Julia’s life they are willing to sacrifice because they don’t need her; they only needed a compact reactor from the ship. 57:40
So our characters are set free not at all for humane reasons but by happy accident. The inferior does not know humanity because good ideas arise only from the superior, with which the low fights.
In addition to the traditional symbolic triad Sky-Earth-Man, the film uses the mythologem of forgetting and recollection.
Its idea is that man at birth forgets about the fact that he has an immortal essence, and during his life, he must rediscover it in himself and recall it. It is clear that since the essence is something unchangeable and comprehensible only by the mind, it belongs to the sphere of sense. And the sphere of meaning, as I have said, has always been expressed in the sky’s image.
But “Oblivion” again reverses the interpretation of this mythologem: it escapes us that man’s proper place is not in the sky but on Earth. That is, that man’s core is not spirit but substance. That man, in essence, is only an animal. And this is what Jack must remember.
The scene of recollection, or acquiring knowledge, takes place “on top of the world” on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Here the film’s ideas are unobtrusively embedded in a political context.
“I’ll show you the future.” 01:05:25
After these words, literally for a second, they present a view
of the World Trade Center, built on the site of the demolished Twin Towers. This building (the Freedom Tower) is referred to by some as an emblem of the financial power of the United States. Of course, its appearance is not coincidental and can be considered part of the message of the film.
The Fall from Sin
After Jack tastes from the tree of knowledge, he is thrown out of Paradise and accused of breaking the rules. 01:09:09
Nothing less than the fall into sin takes place. Actually, the meaning of the myth of the fall into evil is that man’s mind goes into a state of obscurity by sensuality.
This is what happens to Jack if we interpret his story as an illustration of the inner development of the individual: the intellect passes into the grip of sentimentality, of substance.
But the evaluation of this transition is again given according to the inversion of senses. Everyone knows that personal development is impossible without discipline and self-restraint. But we are shown that those who make the rules and enforce them are soulless, cruel, and incapable of empathy.
“You killed her.” 01:11:33
And those who break the laws are supposed to elicit sympathy from us.
This is one of the prevailing ideas nowadays, which became especially popular after Freud, that cultural inhibitions and restrictions are what supposedly prevent a person from revealing himself.
Finally, Jack meets the alien creature itself. It has a tetrahedron shape and one eye. It’s not difficult to see an allusion to The All-Seeing Eye or the Radiant Delta in this image.
The radiant delta is a symbol of the omniscient God. But in the film, this mark is inverted: the triangle is reversed and black. In other words, God is shown as a world evil who has enslaved mankind.
“I am your God.”
He is also charged with the destruction of the Moon. What could this mean? Unlike the sun, which symbolizes the direct contemplation of truth, the Moon represents reflective cognition. Then, its destruction by the Thet might hint at religion keeping science from progressing.
In addition, the Moon is a traditional signifier of the feminine, and in this, its destruction could signify the dictates of patriarchy oppressing women. And the ideological basis of patriarchy is nothing less than the idea of the Lord.
The image of Jack Harper, who acted alone against the conqueror, the authors of the film bring together with the idea of Odysseus, who outwitted the one-eyed Cyclops Polyphemus (Jack was the commander of the ship “Odysseus”). In addition, Jack imitates Horace, who defended the bridge on his way to Rome from the occupants.
It is interesting that by the Roman Empire, the filmmakers mean the United States, thus expressing America’s imperial claims. This is evidenced by Jack’s phrase that Rome was destroyed by the Thet and the scene with the Empire State Building facade, which reads, literally, “Imperial State.”
Jack’s flight to the Thet is an inverted depiction of the mythical descent into the underworld, into hell, where the hero must defeat the monster and be reborn. This is what happens to Jack: he dies and is reborn, albeit in a very tricky way, as a clone. This is how the wonders of technology enable man to sacrifice himself and remain unharmed.
As we can see, “Oblivion” is a masterfully executed ideological creation, which even managed to pass through the filters of the “Teach Good” project.
The film plays with archetypes so subtly that the viewer, overwhelmed with sentimental emotions, does not even think of substituting meanings.
Intriguingly, there was no talk of heaven in the original script, no “I am your God” phrase. All of this was added later. And it must be said that without these obvious markers, it would have been much harder to recognize the switched ideas.
From a psychological point of view, the filmmakers took the archetypal story of the hero but directed his feat not against the dragon but against the king. In psychotherapy, and in inner development in general, this would mean not integration, but the disintegration of the personality, because the protagonist, the personification of consciousness, goes against the self, i.e., against inner unity and order. And this ideological chaos in which we live now, this problem of losing the meaning of life, the inability to find one’s place is the consequence of this disintegration.
The name “Oblivion” literally translates as forgetting. And indeed, Jack Harper’s story is about a man’s abandonment of himself, presented under the dressing of the struggle for freedom.
‘Oblivion’ continues to divide critics and audiences to this day; nothing too polar, as other Tom Cruise Tours stars, masked the film’s popularity, but enough to warrant a discussion so far. The audience’s verdict was much more favorable than what critics said about the film. However, the only thing that brought the two factions together in the movie seemed to be the visual aspects. That is true, for even if the film isn’t a masterclass in cinematography like, say, ‘The Revenant’, or another sci-fi movie, ‘Interstellar’ is, ‘Oblivion’ is gorgeous to look at, in its pristine landscapes, fantasy air flights and the ruins left behind by a devastating war.
However, both factions also lamented the film’s daring “lack of life” and a clear statement of style over the content. This could also be a result of the film being based on director Joseph Kosinski’s previously unreleased comic book, which clearly has many literary and cinematic classics. However, this is also an inappropriate irony since the best part about a science fiction movie is not the technological part: the machines, the flying cars, the robots, the AI. It’s humanity.
Pleasantly, ‘Oblivion’ seems to struggle between intimacy and spectacle. While it’s certainly a completely watchable movie, there’s no denying that it functions more like a popcorn artist than a jigsaw. Again a contradiction because somewhere behind all the violence and fury is a good movie that deals with complex ideas and even philosophical themes. This is what we are going to discuss in this article.
“Oblivion”: Ending Explained
To get to the end, we need to understand the many tropes involved in ‘Oblivion,’ which director Joseph Kosinski had no inhibitions about claiming was inspired by ’70s and 80’s sci-fi films, and quite honestly, it shows, especially from the music and score choices. There is a protagonist here who is a cog in the wheel and is about to discover important information that will change the fate of the world he lives in and that he is unknowingly oppressed.
In doing so, the film also borrows from several classic dystopian novels and movies, including 1984, Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ and, of course, the Replicant setting from ‘Blade Runner. ‘In our attempt to move towards the end, let’s first decipher what we are told at the beginning of the film and what is discovered to be the total truth by our protagonist, Jack Harper, Tech 49.
The lie we are told
As the film begins, we hear a disillusioned protagonist narrating how the Earth was ravaged by the war between humans and their extraterrestrial invaders, the Scavengers. The film picks up about 60 years after the invasion, and the Scavengers, termed by humans, attacked and destroyed Earth’s Moon, causing the effects of lunar gravity on Earth to become frenzied, resulting in a series of natural calamities.
What followed was an all-out war between the humans and the scavengers on Earth, prompting the humans to employ nearly all of their nuclear resources and weapons. The battle is said to have been won, but the planet has become an uninhabitable, barren landmass with no resources to sustain life and many places pressed into perpetual nuclear winter. Looking towards a new future, humans seek to transport the population to Saturn’s largest Moon, Titan, to which they are all aboard a mysterious floating pyramid craft in orbit around Earth, called Tet, awaiting transport.
Gigantic machines called Hydro rigs are tasked with draining the planet’s significant bodies of water and oceans to produce a steady stream of renewable energy through fusion to sustain humans on Titan. During this time, a team of surviving humans, Jack Harper and Victoria’ Vika’ Olsen, are tasked with protecting the hydro platforms and servicing large combat drones designed and assigned to fight any remaining scavengers on Earth.
Jack handles the field work within the duo and is the technical partner, while Victoria liaises with mission control in Tet, headed by Sally, the mission director. The two undergo a mandatory memory scan every five years, something they both seem to know about. The film opens with two weeks remaining for the duo to be called back to Tet for transport to Titan when the Hydro-rigs’ work is complete.
The truth we discovered
Through Jack’s journey and discovery of the truth, the film’s most significant revelation and major plot twist turned out to be how humans never won the war against the alien threat and that the Tet was not a ship containing the surviving human population transported to Earth. Titan. The Tet was the alien threat that appeared and destroyed Earth’s Moon, setting the movie’s events in motion. Presumably, the threat was never organic, and Tet seems to be an AI threat that caused thousands of clones of Jack and Victoria to do their bidding on Earth.
The scavengers weren’t an alien threat either, but the surviving humans on the ravaged Earth, aware of the truth and trying to overthrow their alien overlords, even sixty years from now. They are in constant struggle with the killer drones tasked with eliminating them in an attempt to clean their parts, especially their nuclear fuel cells, to build a nuclear bomb to be transported aboard the Tet, to destroy it. With that, the Hydro Rigs are also draining the planet’s resources, sucking it almost literally. They plan to get the bomb aboard the Tet is to have one of the captured drones carry it, to be reprogrammed by technician Jack Harper they’ve been monitoring in Sector 49.
A big part of the Scavengers’ plan to take down Tet and the alien invaders involved seeking help from Jack, the technician they monitored in Sector 49. Presumably, the Scavengers observed many of the technicians (Jacks) in different sectors before focusing on sector 49.
The reason for the same is the noticeable humanity that the Scavengers find in this one, as it is revealed that this Jack, Tech 49, would often turn off his communicators and venture into a secret “earthly” habitat he kept. His sanctuary, where he likes to be. of living by the lake, indulging in essential literature, including ‘A Tale of Two Cities and ‘War and Peace, and listening to classic rock. Their approach to this Jack also served to be correct, as this Jack, Technician 49, was the most human of them all, as proof that he often dreams of the black-haired woman and the visor at the top of the Empire. State Building.
When Jack is captured, and the truth about the Scavengers is revealed to him, he can venture into other zones, designated as irradiated and restricted zones by the invading forces to prevent any of the various technicians in various sectors from crossing into another and discovering the truth. By themselves. Jack does so, along with Julia, and discovers the truth about himself and the invasion after crossing paths with Tech 52, a clone of him, and after traveling to the tower for the same sector and discovering another clone of Julia for that sector, thus deciding to side with the Scavengers.
The first part of Jack’s understanding of the truth is the discovery of Julia, the same black-haired woman of his dreams, as one of the survivors of the landing craft, following a transmission sent by the scavengers using the Empire State Building antenna. The woman soon reveals herself to be his wife, and Jack regains part of his memories of being married to Julia before the invasion. They retrieve the flight recording that Jack later listens to on his way to Tet for the final part of his mission, discovering the whole truth about himself, including what the Odyssey mission was sixty years ago.
Jack Harper was aboard the same ill-fated ship as the captain, who was piloting it along with co-pilot Victoria on a mission to find life on Titan, when they were diverted to the alien object, Tet. The program was led by NASA in 2017, with Sally as the Earth mission director and several other astronauts aboard ecstatic to be awakened on Titan. However, as they approached Tet, the pyramid began to attract them strongly despite the reverse thrusters employed. Upon seeing a doomed fate, Jack undocks the ship’s sleep module, also containing Julia, to return to orbit. Safely around the Earth.
Jack and Victoria hold hands as Tet opens up and sucks them in, with the film not revealing their fate in the charge but heavily implying that the original 2017 Jack and Victoria were no longer there and were cloned thousands of times to replace A. Earth as Tech and Support Team Jack and Victoria, aboard various towers from various zones/sectors, like our protagonists in 49. The signal that the Scavengers were sending that brought the Odyssey’s sleep module back to Earth was a beacon to lure spacecraft from orbit where it had been for 60 years, containing several astronauts, including Julia, in hyper-deep sleep.
The house in the forest
With all aspects and plot complexities explained, we return to the film’s final few minutes, in which Jack and Malcolm hatch a plan to infiltrate Tet on a one-way mission to detonate the bomb. After realizing that the drones that attacked them and the one the scavengers had captured earlier would not carry the nuclear fuel cell bomb to Tet, Jack offers to carry it himself, along with Julia, who also volunteers. , after Sally commands Tech 49 to rescue her from Earth and bring her back to Tet.
As the two approach the Tet, with Jack piloting and Julia in hypersleep in her cocoon, they are left aboard after a series of tests that Jack deftly maneuvers, discovering thousands of his and Victoria’s clones suspended in the Tet’s stasis chamber. Upon reaching the core, where they see a giant eye-like structure with Sally’s voice, they reveal the cocoon carrying Malcolm Beech instead of Julia and the bomb they made with the drone’s fuel cells. The duo detonates the bomb, sacrificing themselves and destroying the Tet, immediately disabling all drones and platforms on Earth.
Julia wakes up in the same lake house that Tech 49 used as her sanctuary. It is revealed that she was pregnant, as three years later, she and her daughter live at the lake house when surviving members of the Scavengers and ‘Tech 52’ Jack appear there. As the film ends there, it would be fair to assume that Julia and Jack 52 would have started a life together, as this clone also appears to have had memories of Julia and to be connected in some way to Tech 49’s unique memories, as her closing speech reveals. : “For three years, I looked for the house he built. I knew I had to be out there because I knew him. I am him. I’m Jack Harper, and I’m home.”