Oblivion (2013): Overview

Release date: 19 April 2013, United States

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As with all overviews, ALL THE SPOILERS ahead. Some movies warrant just a few paragraphs, but it turns out this is a rather complicated plot.

Oblivion opens 50 years after an alien invasion, during which a great many things happened.

  • Aliens called “Scavs” hammered the moon into huge clustered fragments
  • (In turn) Doing massive ecological damage to the Earth
  • The humans retaliated with nuclear weapons
  • The Earth became contaminated with radiation
  • Most of humanity had to leave the planet to colonize Titan
  • Massive hydro-rigs were set up in the oceans that convert seawater into energy
  • Semi-autonomous flying robots called drones patrol and defend the hydro-rigs from the remaining Scavs, who attempt to destroy the drones and hydro-rigs
  • A massive tetrahedral spaceship called the Tet was put in orbit around the earth to serve as command and control for pairs of humans who live as a couple and work as a team in their section to monitor and protect both the hydro-rigs and the drones
  • One member of these teams stays in their sky home, called the Tower, to monitor activity and relay information to and from the Tet
  • The other member of these teams, the Tech, operates a “bubbleship” to patrol the sector to which they are assigned

One team, Victoria and Jack, are two weeks away from retirement when they are awoken one night by a massive explosion. It is one of their hydro-rigs, sabotaged by Scavs in their section. While investigating the wreckage, they detect a strange radio signal. Jack traces it to its source, discovering a repeater in the ruined Empire State Building broadcasting a set of coordinates off-planet. Later he spies a vessel landing at the broadcast coordinates. He visits the crashed vessel to find it is part of a pre-war human spacecraft, the sleeping pod of the Odyssey. Within are hibernation chambers, but only one crewmember is alive. Jack recovers it as drones show up to destroy them. At the Tower, Jack and Victoria revive its occupant, Julia. The next morning Julia travels with Jack back to the crash site to fetch the flight recorder, but both are taken captive by Scavs.

In captivity Jack learns the horrible truth…

  • The Scavs are actually the only humans left after the war
  • The Tet, drones, and hydro-rigs are the alien technology
  • Jack and Victoria are the tools of the aliens defending their tech from the rest of humanity
  • Sacvs remote-controlled the Odyssey to crash in order to scavenge its nuclear fuel for a bomb to be delivered to the Tet in a captured Drone

Victoria, unaware, sends drones to save Jack, forcing the Scavs to release Jack and Julia. The leader Beech encourages Jack to visit the forbidden radiation zones to confirm the truth. Julie further reveals…

  • The Odyssey was originally en route to Titan when it was intercepted by the alien Tet
  • Jack and Victoria were once part of the Odyssey crew as well
  • Jack and Julia were husband and wife

Through a remote-controlled bubbleship camera, Victoria observes them kissing and this drives her to betray Jack and Julie to the Tet. The Tet activates a Drone and sends it to kill them all, but it only kills Victoria before Julia destroys it. Traveling to another sector, Jack sees a clone of himself appear in a similar bubbleship, to service a Drone. They fight and the clone is killed, and Julia is wounded in the melee. Jack gets into the clone’s bubbleship and travels to its Tower, where he meets a Victoria clone, and he realizes that the planet must be populated by huge numbers of these clones. He fetches a medkit and returns to Julia. He takes her to recover in a log cabin in a lush valley he has been keeping secret from Victoria for a long time. After she heals, he returns to the Scavs, and helps them reprogram their captured Drone, but the Scav enclave is largely destroyed by other drones sent by the Tet.

They load the bomb into a hibernation chamber, appear to seal Julia inside, load it onto a bubbleship, and fly to the Tet. En route he plays the flight recording from the Odyssey to learn…

  • When the Odyssey originally approached the Tet, Victoria and Jack were pilot and copilot
  • When they were caught in the Tet’s tractor beam, they ejected the sleeping pod with the remainder of the crew to protect them

Finally, in the bowels of the Tet, he…

  • Sees the clone vats where more Jacks and Victorias are being grown
  • Faces the horrible alien intelligence
  • Awakens the person in the hibernation chamber, which—surprise—is Beech, not Julia
  • Explodes the bomb, destroying the Tet

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Back on Earth, Julia is awakes in a different hibernation chamber at the lush log cabin, as part of Jack’s duplicitous plan to save her. She gives birth to a daughter, and three years later is found by one of the Jack clones, accompanied by a group of the surviving Scavs.

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Ghostbusters (1984): Overview

Release date: 8 June 1984, United States

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Ghostbusters is the story of a group of quirky scientists who start a paranormal pest control service in New York City. Though they struggle initially, the number of infestations mysteriously increases and they begin to capture and incarcerate more and more, leading to national fame. At the same time, the charismatic Ghostbuster Peter Venkman gets romantically involved with Dana, a customer whose case happens to lead them to the center of the mystery of the increasing paranormal activity: the imminent return of an ancient world-destroying demigod called Gozer. Just as the mystery deepens and Dana becomes possessed, they are arrested and their custom-made incarceration device is powered down by an aggressive and suspicious government employee. As a result the device explodes, flooding the city with spooks even while the Ghostbusters, in jail, are helpless to do anything about it. After convincing the mayor that it is in his best interest to release them, the Ghostbusters confront Gozer and use their homemade equipment to send it back to the dimension from which it came, freeing the possessed Dana as well as her neighbor Louis, and saving the day.

Starship Troopers (1997): Overview

Release date: 27 June 2008, United States

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Starship Troopers follows Johnny Rico and his friends Diz, Carmen, and Carl, from humble beginnings together at school, into their participation in a war against the super evolved insect race called the Arachnids, or “Bugs.” Johnny, who is excellent at sports but poor with verbal and math skills, enters the infantry with Diz. Carmen’s scores and skills lead her to being a pilot aboard the war ship Rodger Young. Carl shows nascent psychic ability and winds up in military intelligence. In these roles they travel to the bug home planet of Klendathu to not only score a major victory in the war, but come of age in dealing with life and love.

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WALL-E (2008): Overview

Release date: 27 June 2008, United States

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Humanity’s materialistic society has left Earth uninhabitable. A powerful mega-corporation – Buy-N-Large – offered resort-like spaceships for humanity to live on while they left behind an army of solar-powered trash collection robots to clean up the mess. Fast forward seven centuries, and Wall-E is the only surviving trash robot left. He continues to do his job, kept company by a cockroach who has also managed to survive the end of civilization.

Wall-E’s life is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Eve, a BNL (Buy-N-Large) probe meant to search for any signs that life is returning to Earth. After becoming emotionally attached to Eve, Wall-E shows her a plant he found during his trash collection. She “freaks out”, collects the plant, and leaves the planet. He follows her back to her home and what may be the last surviving outpost of humanity: the Axiom, an all-inclusive lifeboat and pleasure cruise that has been waiting to return to Earth for 700 years.

Aboard the Axiom, Wall-E opens the eyes of people who have become so accustomed to having every wish granted to them by BNL that they have stopped doing anything for themselves. Eve and Wall-E fight the Axiom’s autopilot and security systems for the plant, and draw in the humans aboard the Axiom to the fight.

After the people on board the Axiom realize that they need to start doing things for themselves, they are able to deactivate the Axiom’s deceitful autopilot and trigger the ship’s return mode to land back on Earth. Wall-E, Eve, and the other robots of the Axiom then help people rebuild civilization on an Earth that is beginning to heal.

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Logan’s Run (1976): Overview

Release date: 23 Jun 1976, United States

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In a self-contained hedonistic society, the enforced maximum age is 30. Lifeclocks implanted in citizen’s hands register their ages. Once their time is out and their lifeclocks are blinking, citizens are killed in a public ritual known as “Carousel,” in which they hope to achieve “”renewal,” a form of rebirth.” Logan 5 is a Sandman, whose job is to catch “runners,” people who try and escape this fate.

On the body of one of the terminated runners, Logan encounters a mysterious ankh. When he reports this object to the central computer, the computer prematurely ages his lifeclock and sends him on a mission to learn more about an underground resistance movement and a mysterious place called “sanctuary.” Now a runner himself, Logan gains the trust of resistance member Jessica 6 and escapes the city and the pursuing Sandmen. At the edge of the city, they meet one of the robots that maintain life within the city, and beyond that, the ruins of Washington D.C. There in the outdoors they meet an old man and come to realize the possibility of a life beyond 30.

Returning to the city to try and share their message of liberation, Logan is captured instead. Hearing that Sanctuary does not exist, the computer suffers a meltdown and explodes, ruining the city in the process. Citizens escape to meet the outside world and a new future of age and liberation.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): Overview

Release Date: 28 Sep 1951, United States

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In 1951 a mysterious spaceship lands in a Washington, D.C. baseball diamond in broad daylight. From it a man named Klaatu, clad in a concealing space suit, appears. Misinterpreting his actions, a soldier wounds the man. A robot emerges from the ship armed with a disintegration ray that destroys weaponry and tanks. The alien tells the robot, named Gort, to stop, freezing it in its place. Klaatu is apprehended and taken to a hospital under guard. Out of his spacesuit, he is quite human-looking, and escapes the hospital to spend a few days among the human populace, learning about the way of life on Earth and befriending a woman named Helen and her young son. The U.S. Army catches up with him and kills him as he flees. Following Klaatu’s instructions, Helen issues an alien-language command to Gort, who sequesters her in the spaceship before retrieving Klaatu and reviving him. The revived Klaatu dons his space suit again and speaks to a gathering of scientists outside the spaceship, explaining that his research has uncovered the aggressiveness of our species, and issuing a stern warning against bringing our violence to any other planet. Having passed his judgment, he enters his ship and flies away.

Ghost in the Shell: Overview

Release Date: 18 November 1995, Japan

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Sometime in the “near future,” (June 13, 2029, as the interfaces will tell you) a cybernetic assault team who works for a mysterious government agency called Section 9 is hot on the trail of a hacker known as the Puppet Master. Their lead officer, Motoko Kusanagi, leads the team to chase down a garbage man who has had contact with the Puppet Master. Unfortunately after the garbage man is captured, they learn his memories have been erased.

Elsewhere, a facility is hacked to produce a robotic female body, a gynoid. A consciousness is downloaded into the gynoid “shell” and it escapes the facility. When it is accidentally run down by a truck, Section 9 recovers the gynoid to learn if it contains the Puppet Master. Before they can do so, a competing agency called Section 6 storms in and takes it, explaining they had the shell made to lure the Puppet Master in. Section 6 agents load the gynoid into a car and speed away.

Suspicious, Section 9 investigates, only to discover that the Puppet Master is not a person but an artificial intelligence created by Section 6 to conduct illegal activities across the internet, including “ghost-hacking” into people’s minds. Kusanagi follows the Section 6 car to a hangar, where she confronts a powerful R-3000 “spider tank” guardian. She is almost killed, but survives to face the Puppet Master via a brain-to-brain link. In conversation with the Puppet Master, Kusanagi learns that it envies human mortality and the ability to reproduce, and that it wants to merge with her to create a new being. As they begin the process, Section 6 assaults the hangar, killing most everyone inside. One of Kusanagi’s team, Batou, manages to survive, rescue Kusanagi’s severed head, and escape, later attaching the head to a new robotic body, that of a female child. In the final scene, Kusanagi tells Batou that she has become, in fact, a blend of her former self and the Puppet Master AI.

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NOTE: In the book Make It So the authors had deliberately eschewed reviewing hand-drawn interfaces for reasons that are explained in the first chapter. Though a full-scale foray into anime is not yet planned, this is a first step towards branching out from live-action and 3D-animated sci-fi to include more of it here in the online database.

The Fifth Element: Overview

Release Date: 7 May 1997, France

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In 1914 an alien race called the Mondoshawan visit a pyramid in Egypt to retrieve and secure four sacred stones, which are part of a weapon to defeat Ultimate Evil. Jump forward to the year 2263, when the Ultimate Evil has formed again and comes to threaten the Earth, partly through coercion of an evil corporatist named Zorg, who is ordered to capture the stones and thereby disable the weapon. A Mondoshawan spaceship coming to help Earth crashes, killing all aboard. Federation scientists use some of the remains to reconstruct one of the aliens, to discover that it is a strikingly powerful and beautiful woman named Leeloo. She escapes the facility to crash into the taxi of Korben Dallas. At her request, he takes her to a priest named Cornelius who belongs to a sect that serves the Mondoshawans. Cornelius recognizes that she is a prophesized “promised one.” Leeloo tells the priest the whereabouts of the four stones.

Dallas accepts an undercover job from the Federation and flies with Leeloo to a vacation spaceship liner called Fhloston Paradise. There he defeats an uprising of Mangalore aliens and unlocks a mystery to find the four sacred stones in the abdomen of the Diva Plavalaguna. Zorg arrives to lay a bomb, attempt to destroy Leeloo, and steal the stones, but fails at all three, dying instead from a Mangalore bomb. Dallas and Leeloo escape back to Earth, where they discover how to use the stones and activate the Ultimate Weapon that destroys Ultimate Evil in the nick of time.

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Barbarella: Overview

Release Date: 10 Oct 1968, USA

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Barbarella, since she is a ““5-star double-rated Astro-Navigatrix,”” is enjoined by the President of Earth to find the lost scientist Durand-Durand, who knows the secret to the Positronic Ray and thereby threatens intergalactic peace. Barbarella crash lands on the planet Tau Ceti where she meets an eclectic cast of characters including the winged Pygar and the Resistance fighter Dildano, who help her find Durand-Durand in the city of SoGo and defeat him, letting him sink to his doom in the belly of the evil creature Mathmos.

Prometheus: Overview

Release Date: 15 April 2012, USA

In 2094 a team of scientists follow anthropological clues across the galaxy to the Earth-like moon named LV223. On arrival, the scientists discover a huge, ancient complex with urns of a strange black material. The android David sneaks some of this material on board the ship and infects the scientist Halloway with it to see the effects. Halloway has sex with Shaw, who becomes pregnant with an alien aberration.

Returning to the alien complex, David breaks free from the group and discovers that one of the aliens is still alive in a statis chamber. After Halloway is consumed by the infection, the crew returns to the ship, and Shaw uses a MedPod device to manually extract the aberration growing in her womb. Despite the chaos, the believed-dead corporatist Peter Weyland comes out of hidden stasis on the ship, to reveal that the whole enterprise was arranged to let him make contact with the aliens and try to meet his makers and achieve immortality.

Back in the alien complex, David is decapitated and Weyland and his retinue killed by the furious, reanimated alien. The alien launches a spaceship from within the complex to complete his mission of heading to Earth and infecting it, but Captain Janek and crew crash Prometheus into his ship to save the Earth while sacrificing themselves. Shaw, the lone survivor, returns to an ejected life support pod only to find her alien spawn has grown to monstrous size. The furious alien, who has escaped his crashed ship and found the pod, tries to kill her, but she unlocks the MedPod room and escapes with the alien and the aberration locked in mortal combat. The decapitated but functional David contacts Shaw through radio, and informs her that there are other ships by which they can abandon the planet and return home.

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