It is more memory in action than a novel imaginary situation. - L.S. Vygotsky, describing early childhood play versus later, from Mind in Society
Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion plays tactical games with ideas of memory, both of its character's and its audience's. While the characters are assured in the ebbing and rising of their memories (they're being paid to represent their loss or gain), I'm not so sure the audience is, which inversely has to pay to have their memories erased. Dozens of other science fiction films are spliced into the film like an insect's genetics (genetecists call this select hybridization a "mosaic"). Kosinski brings an applicable somberness to the plot-heavy last days on earth, as seen through the eyes of drones (both living and mechanical) under the control of an extraterrestrial superbeing. Remaining on-board the extraterrestrial control ship named Tet, "Sally" declines to both observe her little drones going rebel, and properly check all carry-on luggage as the rebels arrive for her destruction (Kosinski saves his worst rip-off for last: Independence Day). Technocracy is parodied as it's all sourced in outer-space, and even with higher intelligence in charge, parts are running short. The drones replace petty insubordination with white lies, yet Kosinski refuses to stock any humor on this shelf. Worse, the male drone, Jack, has memories that generate plot, while the female is left to remain a soulless automaton. Like the slowly technically bungled operation to strip Earth, the aliens don't wipe Jack's memory cleanly. Somewhere in his craving for Earth is the buried memory of his wife who circles above him in slumber only to be brought down by the rebels. That's the theme laid bare: the memory that defeats all technological efforts. The rebellion's complicity is more than remote, employing his memory's locale as a beacon, they seem to know this superdrone/clone Jack might remember his long gone (an entire generation) wife. Morgan Freeman intones knowingly "I've been watching you Jack" copied straight from The Matrix. The film games a fairly decent story in its early surveillance hierarchy but the movement ends there, the film descends into rote plot needs. Each scene ploddingly supplies the correct information that builds the puzzle, yet there's little improv. Kosinski's a mechanically minded filmmaker, he doesn't let any character invent ways out of impossibility, instead he supplies possibilities like Santa's robot. A spaceship is unable to slow its approach to a unknown object, voila, the ship has a neatly designed escape pod for its other astronauts. Jack needs to communicate with the higher intelligence, voila, a landing pad is waiting at the edge of its central room. Point A always easily gets to point B, unless the plot needs to hide something from the audience. It's all deus ex machina. The film still relies on the 'self-discovery' clause initiated verbally in The Matrix: the crux of Oblivion's drama cannot be told to Jack (Cruise), it must be shown to him, and Morgan Freeman does very little to distance his character's archetype from Morpheus's. Tom Cruise maps out a performance while he's indirectly re-recruited as an astronaut version of the clone he plays. He reverts by choice. The point of the film is a clone can regain his humanity if it revolt's against its maker, yet it's lost in the coldness of the happenings. Could it have read genuine on paper? Here it reads like an elaborate infommercial for a supercomputer gone dumb. The idea is to deliver a final payload in a strenuous effort to (once again) save humanity. Outside the continual explosions of bass that warble everytime a flying machine nears the lens, the two hours pass efficiently. Its lowest theme is placing human extinction squarely in the hands of an alien lifeforce, however automated. Kosinski robs us of any responsibility for the ecosystem in our psyche's mirror, maybe that's the most insulting of Kosinski's threads. It's an externalized Apocalypse. Sure the reveal vibrates for a few seconds as a plot-point, but it focuses all negativity onto a single target as if that coud erase 'darkness.' That's why the ending seems so false, pat. A mechanically minded plot was had by all and then it ended. Special effects are framed as epic album covers.
Fantasy apocalypses are terrible places to sift for cosmology (unless they are true doorways). These retro-myths are regressing our psyche. It's not merely the caucasian masks, it's the absence of the sciences and videogame logic (not action, there's plenty of that, but the missing link is the interpretation of motivation, which magically imbibes videogame).
Plus we search for this apocalypse in reality whenever possible....
"A city of some 625,000, in a metropolis of 2 million, screeched to a halt. Heavily armed officers patrolled eerily empty streets that looked like the set of an apocalyptic movie. The MBTA halted its trains, buses, and subways. Taxi service was temporarily frozen. Amtrak stopped service between Boston and Providence. Officials asked businesses across the region not to open. The Red Sox and Bruins games were postponed." - Boston Globe April 20
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children author Ransom went to Room 237 one weekend and he dug a little further (to this website) and underscores our research into the future of film language: Physical Cosmologies of the Blockbuster...
Both The Last of Us and Bioshock: Infinite are titled via absolutes ('Last' and 'Infinite') yet of course it's collective hyperbole. These ultra expensive games arrive this year with amplified cinematic styling, advanced AI and limited online architecture. Gaming, like film, can't yet perfect the megahit so corners will be cut even as budgets approach $100 million. Both approaching games are synched through their lead archetypes, a hardboiled 30s-40s male paired against a much younger female.
Can FPS gaming escape from this era's simplified idea of archetypes?