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‘Oblivion,’ Tech and the Question of Humanity

person holding black smartphone taking a picture of brown house at daytime

Even with its predictable plot, ridiculous need to stick to tired clichés, and Tom Cruise, “Oblivion” gives viewers cause to wonder what makes us human. Its answer is “our memories.”

As clone whose memory was wiped five years ago, Cruise’s character Jack is bound to a tower where he lives safely and ventures out to patrol the land, kill Scavs if he has to, and fix drones. However, since Jack is cloned from the best of humanity, he starts to wonder about his existence and the dreams he has about a woman he doesn’t know. When he meets her and meets himself with a different number, he realizes who he is and who he isn’t. She doesn’t mind. She’s his wife and says that it’s the memories that make a person who he or she is.

If memories are what make us who we are, humanity might be in trouble. Smart phones and the Internet are eroding are ability to remember things. There’s no reason to remember facts when they can be found easily with a quick search, but when you don’t practice using your memory, you begin to lose the ability to remember. This is seen in the “photo taking impairment effect.” Because we take a photo of it, our brain doesn’t have to remember it. While this hypothesis is still being tested and debated, the question is:

If we are our memories, who are we when we don’t remember anything, and who will be as a society when we forget our past? What happens to humanity when the phones have our memories? Perhaps, the movie has told us more than we realize… “Oblivion.”

For further consideration:

https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/10/12/smartphones-brain-memory

https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/how-taking-photos-affects-your-memory.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10507146/Taking-photographs-ruins-the-memory-research-finds.html

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‘Oblivion’: Come Face-to-Face-to-Face with the World’s Worst Nightmare

With a plot as predictable as “Oblivion’s,” telling you that this article contains spoilers is questionable. After all, if you know what’s going to happen, me telling you isn’t really a spoiler, is it? It seems as ridiculous as this movie and its ending. Still, there may be spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Oblivion,” yet. I would suggest avoiding it altogether, and with a domestic gross total of just under $90 million for this 2013 release, it appears that’s what many people did.

That doesn’t mean that “Oblivion” is without merit. Sure, it may leave you wondering how Tom Cruise continues to get acting jobs and why Morgan Freeman decided to get mixed up in this 2-hour sleep pod. The film may even have the same effect on you as a sleep pod.

Still, it does give you cause to ponder and imagine thousands of Tom Cruises coming out of a spaceship on a mission to eradicate humanity from the planet, or at least, destroy enough people to make the planet harvestable. If the idea of thousands of Tom Cruises as an invading army doesn’t give you nightmares, I’m not sure what will.

The stunning visuals and effects were wasted on Cruise and his lack of acting ability. There wasn’t even a good running scene – he does run, but the angle that it’s filmed from doesn’t allow you to make too much fun of it. The movie’s end scene, which was supposed to be touching and beautiful, had me laughing out loud as “Oblivion” slipped into the absurd one final time.

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The Mummy of Nuclear Waste

In “the Mummy” (2017), Tom Cruise is a rogue army officer looking for ancient artifacts to sell on the black market. He gets caught in a tough spot, calls in an air strike, and blows a hole in the street of an insurgent occupied town that reveals a screaming face. His commanding officer gets there along with a woman who specializes in protecting antiquities. They discover a giant screaming bust, which she recognizes as Egyptian. Cruise, his partner and the woman go into the hole.

There the woman narrates what she sees: A rope with hieroglyphs to warn against evil spirit submerged in a pool of mercury being used to weaken its power, watchers faced inward (rather than outward) guarding against the pool, a set of chains (not for bringing the object up but instead, for keeping it down). We find out later that she knows monsters exist, and this is one of the most ancient. Even with all of these warnings and the knowledge of why the cavern looks the way it does, Cruise shoots the rope, activates the lifting mechanism and reveals the sarcophagus, which is taken aboard a military aircraft as a sandstorm threatens to engulf the plane.

Many of the other Mummy movies that came before involve a team seeking treasure in the desert and continuing to proceed despite warnings of natives, tribes put in place to guard against the release of the evil, and bad things happening to the team before they even enter the chamber.

There is a popular myth about the curse of Tutankhamun. Many people believe there was a curse written on his tomb and Howard Carter went in anyway. Even though there has been no curse inscribed on the tomb, it’s representative of what people will do for knowledge, history, fortune and glory. The truths exposed in these films and this legend include people are curious and people are greedy. And these are the reasons why burying nuclear waste won’t work.

Nuclear waste is deadly for 250,000 years. That’s longer than any languages will survive. Burying it with statues and pictograms detailing its deadliness may be treated as superstition from a less developed society. Or it may not be readable to explorers who have no context for the depictions. Worse, it may entice the future explorers to learn more about the inhabitants who lived amongst the strange drawings. At that point, the horror and joke will be on them. Assuming the mummy of nuclear waste isn’t unwrapped by natural disasters or our own people with malevolent intent.