“Are you an effective team?”
This is what Sally repeatedly asks Vika regarding her relationship with Jack. What is an effective team? By the terms of Oblivion, it is a heterosexual relationship where Vika is unwilling, refuses even, to leave the confines of their palatial home while Jack explores the world below. Even when Jack is in danger, Vika remains in place. She longs for his return but is completely without agency.
In this future version of Earth, we have regressed to the 1950s. Take Jack’s return. He works in the ‘garage’ on the repair of a drone while Vika prepares dinner. She, in fact, comes downstairs to call him up. Like Donna Reed, she remains impeccably attired and in high heels. Following dinner she initiates sex via a naked romp in the pool.
But Jack dreams of another woman. And conveniently the hand of God intervenes to bring her back into his life.
Julia crash-lands in Jack49’s space and he manages to save her from the drone in the nick of time. Although these moments stretch credulity. What happens next is poor scriptwriting at its worst.
What was Julia’s rank/occupation? I gather that she is an astronaut, but of her actual job that earned a spot on the shuttle? Nothing.
The information we gather about her character is that she loves Jack and he loves her. That’s it. Nothing else about them is offered except for the house on the lake. She does not question his character nor offer him information about what is going on. Not once does she ask what the hell happened between going to sleep and the insanity she has woken up in. Being with Jack becomes her new central focus.
As I noted in Part 1, Vika’s partnership with Jack is now the threat. For him to retain his ‘true’ wife the ‘other woman’ must be removed from the story. This is obvious in the next scene in their home. Jack could tell Vika what he’s found on the planet. Instead, we get his half-hearted attempts to draw her out. He provides zero evidence to Vika to justify his requests, but the story can’t sustain her survival. She is eliminated and he can now return to Julia without the distaste of adultery on his conscience.
(A wise eye might notice that Melissa Leo (Sally) is the actress closest to Tom Cruise’s age (she’s 2 years older than him), while both Vika and Julia are played by women in 31 and 34 respectively.)
The only other female character is unnamed in the movie (Zara on imdb.com) but she has no speaking parts and instead of utilizing Zoe Bell’s stunt prowess, she is saved by Jack in a fight with the drones.
But back to Julia.
Jack loves Julia and Julia loves Jack. The audience hears this ad nauseum, but they do not exist as people. Once Julia accepts Jack as her husband, creating an ‘effective team’, they make love and return to save the day. Instead, the resistance is ambushed by drones (more realistically they open the doors and let them in). The faux drone is damaged and it is obvious that someone will have to fly the bomb to the Tet.
Julia offers. Why? Because she loves Jack. A woman who was smart and successful enough to be an astronaut will now lay down her life for her husband’s clone because she loves him. Oblivion can’t even dress it as saving the Resistance, this is all about Jack. We’re drilled this in when Julia introduces herself as Julia Harper, accepting her husband’s last name and affirming his dominance over her. I have no problem with taking a spouse’s last name. I have a problem with the narrative shoving the agenda in our face as her complete and ultimate submission of a woman followed by her locking herself into a Sleeping Beauty casket for love.
Vika has died for Jack and now Julia shows herself willing to do the same.
And when Jack saves her, where do we find Julia? In the home he built her, as content to remain there as Vika was to remain on the station. Sally as the requisite Big Bad is dead. But Julia now awaits the return of her husband to his home, a mindset validated by the appearance of Jack52 a clone who only caught a single glimpse of her. Vika’s gilded cage was too artificial, Julia’s is supposed to be more natural, more desirable, a return to simplicity and the domination of man, or of this man.
This may be the first science fiction movie that tempted me to vomit a little upon its ending….and I’ve seen Battlefield Earth.