A Very Close Look At The Oblivion Trailer – Clues, References And Nods

The first trailer for Joseph Kosinski‘s futuristic adventure movie Oblivion sneaked out a day early, thanks to a snafu in the UIP Columbia PR and marketing office.

That will explain the subtitles on the following screen captures as we go, step by step, and look at what appears to be going on.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The composition of this first shot is quite similar to others we’ll see later – there’s something like a proscenium arch. Oblivion is going to be released on IMAX, a format that is often hyped as destroying the proscenium, one of the last formal connections between cinema and theatre, but it seems like Kosinski isn’t yet ready to give it up yet.

On an IMAX screen, this huge amount of black surrounding the audience could feel rather claustrophobic – very possibly in a good way.

Our first look at the film’s star, Tom Cruise is at his back. Like in the poster. Like in absolutely loads of recent posters, in fact. Star Trek Into Darkness was the most recent one, but there’s also The Raid, Battleship, Battle: LA, two Batman movies… and so on.

This next beat convinces me we’ll be seeing a special Superbowl spot for this movie. Mind you, I would have predicted so anyway – just now, I’m pretty sure it will have these scenes in it.

Andrea Riseborough, on the other end of the line – cf. A Matter of Life and Death, Source Code, M in Skyfall, Rosemary the telephone operator…

It is nice to see her in a movie like this. For the movie, at least. Hopefully it will end up nice for Riseborough too.

From the grey of her costume, and of Cruise’s, and of the craft he’s leaving and the drone he’s approaching, we’re starting to get a sense of these people and these things all belonging together. To the same planetary clean up crew, as it happens.

But he has his cap – a personal flourish. Still grey, mind. Don’t step too out of line, Tom.

Even the dog is grey. This must be some kind of horrible dystopia, right?

He doesn’t look too unhealthy. I guess there’s some way that feral dogs can survive in this future world.

Here we have a man fixing a robotic device built to do jobs in the place of men, with a man drawn on it. Not sure what all of that adds up to, but I got half way through the equation at least.

Another proscenium effect. And this did remind me of Wall-E’s little home, just at a different scale. Mind you, the premise of the film put Wall-E in my mind, so I was on a hair trigger there, I suppose. I’m surprised I didn’t see Wall-Es popping up everywhere.

Now this is the Tom Cruise we know and love from Oprah’s couch.

Such an empty frame. All that space and just one wee fella.

Back to the repair procedure. Doesn’t seem to be anything more difficult than changing the battery. I do hope there’s more to it than this – surely these drones could be programmed to recharge themselves, even swap their own cells when the time comes? Who designed these things?

The eye starts “looking” properly again as it wakes up. Gives the little thing a hint of personality, or at least marks it out as having identity, rather than just being like a spoon or a toothbrush or a shoe.

We get a closer look at the illustration too.

And off it goes, apparently using normal flight mechanics of some kind – ie. not levitation or some sort of magnetic-something-something. Which makes me wonder why it’s so blessedly unaerodynamic.

Note also the number 166. We’ll be seeing a lot of these numbers.

And that number is apparently unique to this “drone” as the Cruiser has just used it to identify the unit. Such a low number suggests there probably aren’t too many of these things.

Is that… the Empire State building? This does beg the question “Where is everything? Why are some things still standing while other things seem to have vanished?” But, as you’ll see, this is solved just a few shots ahead… or in the poster, if you were paying attention.

And talking of unaerodynamic, as we were, Cruise’s little thing doesn’t look very functional. So to speak.

…it can fly through storms, though. Shots from this sequence don’t seem to appear anywhere else in the trailer.

Now, watch this scene back, in full motion. There’s an empty seat next to Cruise… or is there?

Is there something in that seat? Something appears to be wobbling around but I couldn’t tell you what. Not some sort of bobble head on the dashboard is it?

Nor could I tell you why this one-man-going-it-alone hero has a two-seater, but I expect it’s instrumental in some respect. Could just be there for subtext – as you’ll see later, he hasn’t always flown alone.

And here’s the solution to the earlier mystery – sort of.

It looks like nothing went away, just that the ground has risen up – an accretion from floods, perhaps?

But in any case, how would we explain this canyon?

And… so we’re now in a world full of mountains because there’s just more ground? I’ve started to convince myself that’s the idea here. I can’t wait to hear the explanation as tho how it has happened.

TC, TCB. He’s setting his cap in place because he’s got work to do.

More non-aerodynamic things in the sky. We can see some kid of exhaust, ostensibly explaining their propulsion or levitation. But not their shape, which seems designed to work against any kind of uplift.

This shot is pretty similar to a piece of art from the original ‘comic book proposal thing’ that Kosinski came up with before starting work on the film. See it below.

Continued on the next page.

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