Part Wall-E, part The Truman Show and part 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi outing Oblivion faces an oblivion of its own.

This review contains spoilers.

Jack (Tom Cruise) is a technician who maintains drones protecting the energy generation for a mission to Saturn’s moon Titan to evacuate the last humans from Earth, following its destruction sixty years earlier by an alien race known as the Scavs. He is ably assisted by Vika, who serves as his mission support and lover, wife perhaps. The two are an “effective team” and their mission controller, Sally, regularly asks her about their continuing effectiveness. In 2 weeks, Jack and Vika’s mission will end, he will return to the Tet and accompany the rest of the humans in the Tet to Titan. However, Jack is reluctant to leave, haunted by dreams of a mysterious woman, and his belief that somehow Earth is still his home despite its ruined state.

Initially Jack believes the “scavs”, short for scavengers, attack the drones and act with hostility towards Jack. He soon figures out that they are not trying to kill him but are in fact trying to catch him. By contrast, the drones protecting the energy generation for use by the humans, are programmed to kill humans.

Jack investigates a signal emanating from the Empire State Building, which Vika identifies as coordinates. Later, a human ship crash lands, and Jack investigates, He finds survivors but the drones begin to kill them. Jack stands in the drones’ path, rescuing one remaining woman who is the woman of his dreams, Julia. Julia is his wife.

Later, when Jack and Julia are escaping drones, they accidentally cross into the radiation zone, which they are forbidden to enter. Here, he discovers clones of both himself and Vika performing exactly the same tasks in exactly the same way. In other words, the radioactive zones are barriers designed to prevent the techs discovering the other tech clones.

When they discover this truth, Jack returns to the Scavs, where their leader tells them that Jack and Vika are a pair of thousands of clones created by an alien in the Tet, who has assumed the identity of Sally during the war – everything they have been doing has been in service of the alien, their true adversary! Jack and Julia join the scavengers in launching a mission to destroy the Tet.

In the final confrontation, Jack and the alien engage in this intense dialogue:

Jack Harper: How can man die better: than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods.

Sally: I created you, Jack. I am your god.

Jack Harper: &@#$ you, Sally.

Jack says there’s more honour in death than to live under a god. (See comments section – it’s not so much that Jack verbally says it’s more honourable as I suggest here, but rather that his death in this way demonstrates his rejection of a god for reasons given above. That is the honourable death and preferable way to live). And if God is like the alien god of Oblivion, I reckon I’d probably agree with Jack.

The primary attributes of this alien god are control and oppression: it gives orders, kills humans, doesn’t allow the humans to be with the one they love, and the barriers the alien/god creates ostensibly for the good of humanity are false barriers preventing the humans from discovering their true identity. If this alien/god wasn’t close enough to the version of God presented by the New Atheism, the alien/god is also feminine.

But if Oblivion is supposed to be some kind of a treatise against belief in God – the Christian God is suggested by the triangular shape of the alien though other aspects may suggest the more generic “Eye of Providence” – it seems to me Oblivion is almost completely oblivious to what it is that Christians at least believe about God.

Christianity says a good God made a good world and created humanity to enjoy that good world in relationship with God. And even though we reject this god – either in self-worship or the worship of created things, which results in destructive behaviour – He does not wipe out these rebels, and instead purposes to restore the world.

The focal point of the Bible’s storyline is Jesus. The unique claim of Christianity is that we see God most clearly revealed in Jesus. Jesus does not bring a revelation – he is the revelation! Jesus comes to us not only as the perfect revelation of God, but the perfect revelation of all that humanity can be – compassion, self-sacrifice, love for others.

When we look to Jesus on the cross we see God redeeming people, freeing people from self-worship and perfecting a broken world through sacrifice.

This is not to say that Oblivion gets it completely wrong. For example, the alien god claims that as creator it can do what it wants, even though here it results in oppression. I think most people would agree that if there is a creator, that creator might have some claim over the things it has made, or at least reserve some right to have some thoughts about it. Likewise, the God of the Bible does do as he pleases and does have a say – but the difference is, this God does so in accordance with a loving and just character.

This God gives us life and breath and everything we need for life and godliness – food and water to sustain our lives and his Word to guide our hearts. But his justice also means he does not let evil go unpunished.

That’s understandably uncomfortable for people, including many Christians.

And it’s understandable that someone might not like that.

But my dislike of a truth claim is irrelevant to the truthfulness of it.

Still, it seems dislike is a sufficient reason for people to reject the idea of God. Oblivion says we should reject a god that essentially creates people to mess with them. (And like I said I think if that was the god then probably Oblivion is right!) But even if that is what God is like, we can’t simply blow him up with a nuclear weapon if we don’t like what he says or does.

Rejecting God won’t make God go away.

When Richard Dawkins released The God Delusion in 2006 he catapulted the discussion of God and religion into the public popular discourse. The book energized skeptics and atheists to speak and engage believers with the supposed irrationality of belief in God and the evils of religion. And even today, you’re likely to hear some version of the arguments presented therein, albeit without Richard Dawkins articulate English accent.

But then something happened that the Dawkins didn’t expect.

Some who read Dawkins’ book were motivated by the arguments presented therein to not reject Christianity, but to investigate Christianity. They eventually found themselves convinced by it. Alister McGrath relates this account:

I’d just finished giving a lecture in London in early 2010. A young man came up afterward and asked me to sign a copy of my textbook Christian Theology: An Introduction. I asked him what had led him to study theology. He told me that he’d read Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion a year or so earlier and it seemed so unfair and one-sided that he felt he needed to hear the other side. So he started going to church. After a while, he found he could not sustain his faith in the parody when confronted with the real thing. He converted to Christianity – joyfully and decisively. “Without Dawkins,” he told me, “I would never have given God a second thought.” Alister Edgar McGrath, Why God Won’t Go Away, Thomas Nelson 2011, p. 147

This story among other illustrates what’s going on in Oblivion. Oblivion asks us to reject a parody of God, akin to the version of god presented and rejected by the new atheism, a god who doesn’t care about injustice and doesn’t care about humanity. And a god like that would be easy to reject, if one could.

But this is a far cry from the portrait of the God we read in the Bible, where we see a God who cares about the oppressed and is redeeming a good world gone bad.

We need to look at the real deal, not some caricature.

We need to take God as he is, not as we want him to be.

We need to ask ourselves on questions of belief if we are rejecting someone else’s version of God or whether we are genuinely exploring the truth about God and humanity for ourselves.

Because maybe, just maybe, the new atheists and Oblivion are keeping something from you.

Advertisements