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Oblivion (2013)

How many films exist where there are two worlds a protagonist will exist in—the first, ostensibly superior, almost always cleaner, but really corrupt, and the second, more raw – if not also dingier – but really the last remaining refuge of humane community? Lots and lots, of course, and Oblivion is another, and belongs with probably the whole host of those which don’t really convince that the hero doesn’t actually forego the more appealing world. The two worlds in this film are the first one, where he’s essentially living in a Tony Stark pad, with his very pretty Pepper, who, we note – just as we note with Pepper – comes close-enough to being his age-equivalent. Good for the Tom Cruise in this world, for conquering his fear of intimacy of older women for the pleasure in mature company! He has a hankering for old ways of the past, which makes him not so much sentimental as cherishing, but which could look to become obsessive: witness his whole lake-cabin thing. And she has, or refuses to acknowledge, not a wit of it, which can make her seem a bit clinical, anesthetic, but also maturely distancing – they are going to have to leave all this behind – as well as a useful counter to her husband. They work together as a team, and they have the daily pleasure in knowing that what they are doing assists the other enormously. But they also have distance, so that every day when he arrives back they have the pleasure in taking in one another, maybe not so much anew, but with what each of them accrued in their time spent apart. We have here, or what we see and feel of them here, is an adult couple.

The second world is essentially a tenement world. Lots of dingy people, closing huddled together. It’s a world of a “wife,” his actual legally married wife, that is, but which has throughout really the feel of a siren lover who has enraptured him – they talk about how they would grow old and argue with one another, but all we ever see speaks of new romance not of how couples relate past this, try to romance past this (his “false” wife in the first world, did a good job previously showing how this gets done). He gets to be a savior of this world, which makes him a bit epic, mythic – what an adolescent dreams of being before learning what it is to function proprietarily in a world of adults. He gets to kill off Mother for belonging to this world, but in the previous one She didn’t require killing because She had already been managed into the delimited role of a boss – someone who is ultimately just as much just doing her job, as accountable and non god-like, as “you” are. Yes, I’m stretching a bit here, but there is a sense that She, the god, really is just mission control.

The first world wife judges Cruise tainted, and won’t let him into their domicile after seeing him devolve with his floozy. He is. He’s entered the adolescent imagination this SciFi film, of all places, had built a world against – in its first world. She’s a Ripley without the credit.


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