Oblivion is one of those extra special theatrical experiences that I’ll never forget in life. I owe it all to Aaron Neuwirth. The year was 2013 and my significant other and I had just moved down to Austin, TX from Cleveland, OH. This was before Cleveland was a championship town. We were both lost down here like deer in headlights. A learning opportunity put me in the close vicinity of staff writer Aaron Neuwirth for a week. He took me in that Sunday evening for Game of Thrones and even bought a roast beef sub to keep my stomach occupied. The very next day is when the magic happened. I forget what we had planned to do, but Aaron texted me and said do you want to see Oblivion. Back then I wasn’t much of a Tom Cruise fan, but I do like a good science fiction feature. Plus I was in posh California. Why would I say no? So I accepted his invitation. Surely it wasn’t just so he could justify riding in the carpool lane the entire way there. I’m kidding! Ha ha.
So there I was, again like a deer in the headlights, sitting in this huge IMAX theater with Aaron Neuwirth and some of his reviewer friends. You got to remember folks. I’m a poor boy from Cleveland, OH. We don’t have nice things like this over there, and neither do we in Austin, TX either. However, I digress. Let’s get back to the story here. I did not expect much. I just wanted to be entertained and enjoy California. I wish I was rich enough to live out there. That’s why I believe in reincarnation. I hope and pray one day I can come back a rich Californian. Shoot! I’m getting off topic again. Sorry! The lights eventually dimmed and the feature started to play. From some of the very first sequences and images, my jaw hung dropped. My world was instantly rocked.
When the feature ended and the lights finally came back up I was speechless. I wanted more of what I just saw and heard. I eventually did get more IMAX screenings of Oblivion under my belt once back down in Austin, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After the screening Aaron introduced me to the mighty Scott Mendelson of Forbes. It was a quick meeting as I was still mind blown and very much speechless over what I had just witnessed on the gigantic IMAX screen. Only later did I find out somehow Scott escaped Ohio once too. He was luckier than me though. He made it to where I so badly want to be one day. We were talking about Oblivion, right? Ha ha.
I vividly remember that car ride home from the theater back to my hotel room too that night. I brought up the score in this film with Aaron. That coupled with the breathtaking scenery and action painted the Mona Lisa for me in terms of a near perfect science fiction picture. I’m not naive or forgetful. I know Oblivion heavily borrowed from other great sci-fi films, but it’s the gorgeous way this was flawlessly executed in my opinion that made me instantly fall head over heels for it. Aaron might have been generous in his 3.5 scoring of it over here, but to me Oblivion went on to become my most favorite film of 2013 as proudly ranked here.
Expecting nothing more than a shallow, pointless sci-fi trip in IMAX I was instantly transported to a world in Oblivion that I immediately cared about. It is both visually stunning and beautiful despite the depictions of our Earth nearly destroyed and being harvested for all remaining resources. The cinematography is literally out of this world (pun very much intended). I hadn’t been that impressed since the prior year’s Prometheus. Then there’s the heart tugging love story (actually stories) going on with one hell of a clever twist (albeit borrowed from other films) as to how things really don’t appear as they seem to most parties involved. Many complain that the plot may be a bit too shallow, contain too few action sequences to sustain its inflated run time and that the film borrows heavily from every other sci-fi adventures that have come before. Yes I am talking about you Moon. However, that’s just it. Wake up and smell the coffee, people! There are no original ideas anymore. Everything is a retelling or a trial to accomplish something bigger and better. It’s how you tell the story and deliver it that matters nowadays.
Let’s talk familiarity and borrowing first. The plot devices Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski borrows from in science fiction movies of the past are of all the “right kind” in my opinion. So I know I’m kind of in the minority here with my love of this Tom Crusie/Morgan Freeman sci-fi action vehicle, but I’m proud to stand up and defend the title that has meant so much to me in 2013 and now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. I have taken in Oblivion three times in IMAX and countless spins on the Blu-ray format. Each and every time I watch Oblivion I still get goosebumps. I can’t help but have a total geek orgasm with each viewing. From the kick-a$$ M83 score to the breathtaking visuals, I just lose myself entirely in the world of Oblivion every time. The biggest kicker was the fact that I’m not even a huge Tom Cruise fan, but the gorgeous cinematography and rapturous sci-fi story complete with decent acting makes me completely forget all about the fact that he’s in it. Since then, I have let go of my resentment of Tom Cruise and have actually become quite the fan of his from the Mission Impossible features all the way back to The Firm.
Then there’s that pool scene up in the heavens. Wow! The beautiful siren Andrea Riseborough is stunningly radiant as she basks in the glow of the gorgeous Blu-ray blue hues in the water. She seductively lures Tom’s fully clothed character into the pool with that accompanying M83 score in full tow. That scene alone forces me to change my pants each and every time. In my opinion it has to be one of the sexiest scenes ever caught on film. Ingredients such as attraction, chemistry, visuals and the sound are all perfectly mixed in just that one sensual scene. Is Oblivion and I still an effective team? Hell yeah, we are! Did you notice I really haven’t even talked about the action or story yet? Ha ha.
The action within Oblivion is further enhanced by the riveting score throughout. Sure, there are many slow parts in this, but make no mistake about it. When the action kicks in, it will thrill you. There’s no denying that this is the best Oblivion ever looked and sounded in the home front, but to truly experience the fantastical ride that Oblivion provides you must have seen it in IMAX back in 2013. Despite my love for the 4K Ultra HD format, I can’t short sell that aspect of the experience.
So what’s it all about? You’re asking all the right questions today. Oblivion is obviously a sci-fi romp, but for me there’s more to it. It’s also part mystery and part romance. There’s a coming of age finding out who you really are aspect to it all, but in the core of the story, like any good one has, there’s the love interest angle too. You think it’s fairly obvious the way things start out, but as Moon showed us back in the day nothing is what it really seems. There’s also the whole fight to save the Earth from the aliens story too. Essentially there’s a lot going on, a borrowed twist from other films, and what I feel is a pretty satisfying conclusion to it all as a great standalone science fiction outing. I can’t ask for anything more, but sometimes my tastes are very basic and simple. Other times, I can be a bit complex and dramatic. I always welcome the first situation whenever possible in life.
I know I’m definitely on the “minority report” here with this title, but Oblivion is one of my all-time favorites. I did ten cartwheels in the front yard when Universal announced it several months ago as one of their first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray title offerings. I couldn’t be more happier about their selection here. That’s where you all come in. I’m sure you’re sick of reading all my vernacular masturbation over this probably mediocre title in your opinion. You’re just here because you want to get the 4-1-1 on the 4K audio and video presentations of the film. Am I right? Of course I am! I know my readership very well and that’s why without further ado I present to you Oblivion‘s 4K A/V vitals that you’re all here for.
The below video score and relative comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Oblivion with HDR-10. If you’re interested in the grading of the 1080p presentation of the film on the included Blu-ray here, please refer to our previous Blu-ray review of Oblivion.
- Encoding: HEVC / H.265
- Resolution: 4K (2160p)
- Layers: BD-66
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Clarity/Detail: Oblivion is going to be an odd one to judge here. It’s not because its terrible looking. Quite the contrary folks. It’s because of its dystopian bleakness that is of filmmakers intent, but at the same time I never seen a more natural looking 4K Blu-ray presentation. I’ll skip the color conversation until down later, but if there’s any softness to be nitpicked here it’s of intent. I say that only because I know there will be others like me exclaiming where’s the razor blade sharpness. This one is all about the HDR. To me, personally, it kind of looks a wee bit filtered or not as sharp as the Blu-ray 1080p counterpart. That’s the only reason why I am giving this a 4.5 score as I wasn’t wowed like I expected to be. Things do get sharp here from the pores and stubble on Tom’s face to the set environment inhabiting his onscreen cabin, but don’t expect a Sicario or Martian UHD-like presentation. I feel stupid saying this, but this presentation kind of took me back to a 1977 Star Wars feel to the cinematic look of things here. I guess the only nitpick would be since this is rumored to be from a 2K master is that some of the explosions look a bit fake. However, that’s not to detract for how organic and pure things do look here.
- Depth: Depth of field is pretty much found everywhere you look here from the expansive landscapes and backdrops to the sterile interiors and rich set details. Some of my favorite moments take place outside in nature near Jack’s secret cabin.
- Black Levels: Black levels are another tough one to grade here due to the white light employed and the level of shadows in interiors. What I mean by the latter is your so accustomed to deep, inky blacks in the Blu-ray presentations we watch nowadays that it’s weird to see a feature where the black levels are so layered. Some examples of what I am speaking of can be found in the underground library where the Scavengers are hunting Jack, the nighttime candlelight scenes between Jack and Victoria and even Jacks’ interrogation scene.
- Color Reproduction: This is dystopia folks! Colors don’t pop! They are sterile, natural and sometimes cold. This presentation faithfully reproduces this not to mention some gorgeous blue skies to die for. I already mentioned it up above, but this is one of the most natural looking 4K presentations I have seen thus far.
- Flesh Tones: Skin tones are spot on natural and authentic looking throughout. I have no complaints here whatsoever. Every freckle is faithfully rendered.
- Noise/Artifacts: Sure there’s a thin hint of grain, but nothing obnoxious or anything that will ever make you take notice and say yuck over. This one is perfect in so many ways if you’re into natural beauty.
Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and judging comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Oblivion. If you’re interested in the grading of the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound presentation on the included Blu-ray here, please refer to our previous Blu-ray review of Oblivion. Thankfully, this time out on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format Oblivion gets an upgrade. The 4K Ultra HD disc comes with a bombastic Dolby Atmos surround track to boot. Hell yeah!
- Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- Dynamics: Oblivion has always been one these atmospheric tracks that I can eat for dinner every night. Everything just sounds right about it from the quietest of human whispers and birds gently tweeting to the loud obnoxious sound of a drone taking off or a TET being blown to smithereens. The overall volume of the surround track itself seemed a tad lower than say my experience with Man of Steel over here, but make no mistake as things are in check within this presentation. No sound, no matter how big or small, gets shafted here. If you ask me, it’s kind of brilliant. You just need to turn this one up a wee bit more volume-wise than what you usually listen to your other 4K titles at.
- Height: When we’re talking height due to the employment of the Atmos equipped track, noticeable moments include both drones and the Bubbleship takeoffs and landings, rain hitting the ship and even the imaginary roar of the crowd in Jack’s football memory.
- Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is both powerful and monstrous here due to the impressive action sequences and the roar, many takeoffs and landings of the Bubbleship and drones. The aggressive gun fights and explosions keep you engaged in the action and your living room thumping.
- Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound leaves you completely immersed in this presentation because of the impressive prioritization of everything going on here. Examples of things that stand out to me here include that M83 score, wind, Bubbleships and drones flying by and even water dripping in the cave, which turned out to be a library of sorts where the “alien” Scavengers plan their attack on our hero, astronaut Jack Harper.
- Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue is clear, intelligible and prioritized throughout. What I loved about this one is I could intelligibly hear even the quietest of whispers leaving me never missing a thing.
Oblivion on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases as a 2-disc Universal set. You get the film in 4K on the Ultra HD Blu-ray with optional feature commentary and on the regular Blu-ray you get the 1080p presentation of the feature plus all the same bonus features from the 2013 release. In addition to the two Blu-ray discs you also get a Digital HD redeemable code good for the film in both UltraViolet and iTunes. It has been reported that redeeming the Digital HD code for either Flixster or VUDU unlocks the UHD streaming version of it. That’s a win! The one thing I found weird was that they dropped their famous swish looking disc menus on this UHD disc. I did not preview Lucy yet to see what her menu looks like. In the meantime, let’s take a quick, closer look at everything you’ll find here supplemental-wise on the 1080p Blu-ray disc.
- Audio Commentary – Director Joseph Kosinski and actor Tom Cruise discuss the production of the movie from start to finish. This commentary is worth listening to and gives a small insight into some of the director’s decisions employed in the making of the film.
- Promise of a New World – Here we have a well done five part making of documentary, lasting over 45 minutes which touches upon the sets, Cruise’s “bubbleship,” the stunts, a look at the great visual effects, and finally the music. The five parts in this documentary are titles as such below:
- Promise of a New World: The Making of Oblivion – Destiny – This one includes the development of the story, Iceland shoots and all the practical sets.
- Promise of a New World: The Making of Oblivion – Voyage – This one is all about the “bubbleship,” the making of, inspiration and design of it all.
- Promise of a New World: The Making of Oblivion – Combat – This one takes a closer look at the stunt work and action sequences.
- Promise of a New World: The Making of Oblivion – Illusion – This one gives us a closer look at those exceptional special effects.
- Promise of a New World: The Making of Oblivion – Harmony – This one, if you couldn’t tell by the name alone, is all about the riveting music.
- Deleted Scenes – Here you will find four deleted/alternate scenes including,”Bubbleship Flyby,” “Stadium: Original Opening,” “Medkit” and “The Archives.”
- Isolated M83 Score – Here you will find the isolated score from the film presented in 24-bit/96kHz Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound. I don’t know how you feel about it, but as a fan of the film’s score this is pretty cool in my opinion.
Oblivion is obviously one of those 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray upgrades that makes sense for the fans only. There are a lot of people out there, including my reviewer peers, who find Oblivion to be your average run of the mill sci-fi romp. It has too many “borrowed” moments for them. However, diehard freaks like me do exist and believe me when I exclaim to you that we’re beyond excited that Universal selected Oblivion as not only one of their first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog titles, but among their first UHD releases too. August 9th marks a historic day for Universal as they usher in their first 3 offerings onto the new format: Oblivion, Lucy and The Lone Survivor. The Blu-ray already had a reference audio/video presentation so you better believe the 4K Ultra HD nearly doubles down on that refinement (a couple exceptions are noted in the A/V parts up above). It also delivers the latest audio format (Dolby Atmos) to rocket you out of your chairs and into this science fiction adventure. It’s a worthy upgrade for me because I am biased in my love for this movie, but ask yourself this. If you’re not a fan of the film, what will the 4K UHD version do to win you over? All others, hit up that order link down below and bring home Oblivion on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray today! It just makes sense to do it!
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