Joseph Kosinski and Claudio Miranda so disliked the extensive use of blue screen mattes in Tron (2010) that for this film, they wanted to use real glass, mirrors and shiny surfaces for the glass tower set. The sky footage was projected on a 500x45' screen consisting of 21 monitors, and was filmed for three weeks from the summit of Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii. The rooms with windows were lit by the light from those projections. The monitors took ten technicians several weeks to install and fine tune with floor-level rig support. In the end, the actors complimented the production team for that design to such an extent that Tom Cruise declared that the glass tower was one of his favorite film sets.
Tom Cruise's fiftieth birthday occurred during filming. To celebrate the milestone, director Joseph Kosinski presented him with one of the futuristic motorbikes from the film. Tom also gave Joseph a present of his own: a die-cast model of the bubble ship in a glass case.
The scene of Jack Harper on a precipice watering a small plant was filmed on Earl's Peak in Iceland, 2,000 feet high. The crew had to use helicopters to get people and equipment to the filming location.
Initially, Disney had acquired the rights to Joseph Kosinski's script in a heated auction. However, they later realized that making a PG-rated film based on the script would require a lot of story changes. The rights were subsequently acquired by Universal Pictures.
The painting on the wall showing a woman in a wheat field is titled "Christina's World" and was painted by the American artist Andrew Wyeth in 1948. The woman is based upon a real person who had been partially paralyzed due to polio. Wyeth was inspired to create this art when he saw her crawling across the field.
The sample "ash can" chapter of the novella was first distributed at San Diego Comic Con 2008 for free. The sample eventually ended up at the hands of Tom Cruise, who approached Joseph Kosinski to develop the film and story. Development continued in background while Kosinski was working on Tron (2010), with the film and the novella released at the same time to prevent spoilers.
In the flashback scene, the completed new World Trade Center buildings are visible in the background, when Jack holds up the ring in front of the binoculars. This movie was released in April 2013. The first tower was finished in October 2013. According to the story, this scene should take place in early 2017.
The whooping alarm heard as Discovery nears the Tet is taken from sounds produced by the TAWS (Terrain Avoidance Warning System) actually used in aircraft. These systems help alert flight crews to impending collisions and other flight problems.
The opening scene when the Universal logo appears offers the viewer a quick survey of how damaged the earth is. The Tet is in orbit, the oceans are nearly dry, land masses have craters the size of entire countries, there are no polar ice caps, and even the logo appears worn and damaged.
Saturn's moon Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and the only object other than Earth to contain liquid rivers, lakes, and rain on its surface. Surface temperature is cold: -180 degrees Celsius (-350 Fahrenheit).
The Oblivion project originated as an eight-page treatment written by Joseph Kosinski, which was pitched in 2007 to Barry Levine and Jesse Berger at Radical Publishing, as a graphic novel. The project was subsequently developed into an illustrated novella released to coincide with the film release.
There were ten days of location shooting in Iceland, where daylight lasted virtually 24 hours. Joseph Kosinski wanted to make a film that was very much based in daylight, considering that a lot of classic sci-fi movies like Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) were shot in near darkness.
The song that plays during Jack's first visit to his house by the lake, (while he lies down on the grass to sleep) is "Ramble On", track seven from "Led Zeppelin II" by Led Zeppelin, first released in 1969.
Jack's bike is a Honda CRF450X - chosen for its minimalist design and ability to handle stunts. Its designers hid the exhaust pipes and gave it a tank that held less than 1 liter of fuel, allowing only 20 minutes of ride time.
When tracing the signal to the Empire State Building, the lat/long co-ordinates are shown as 41.14N 73.97W. In reality they should be 40.74N 73.98W. This is either an error, or an indication that an event took place that changed the orientation of the Earth's axis. Reviewing the general state of the place at large, the latter seems probable.
Joseph Kosinski wanted a 4K version release, but budgetary constraints coupled with an additional six weeks post-production work prompted the idea to be abandoned, and the film was finished and released in 2K instead.
The Bubble Ship was inspired by the Bell 47 helicopter which Joseph Kosinski fell in love with when he saw one in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. He likened the design to a dragonfly.
While several drones are featured in the movie, it's Drone 166 that develops an interesting relationship with Jack. First, Jack repairs 166 with a piece of chewing gum. Shortly thereafter, 166 saves Jack's life in the library. 166 then chases Jack through a canyon, culminating in their both winding up in a sand dune, where Jack unplugs 166's power cell -- undoing his chewing gum fix.
This is the second movie in a row in which Tom Cruise plays a character named "Jack". The first was the title character in Jack Reacher (2012). Much earlier, he portrayed yet another Jack in Legend (1985).
In his review of Oblivion for the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," David Edelstein admitted he had such a hard time following the plot of this movie. He'd had to go online for the answers to some of his questions: "Confused? Everything will be made clear. Not in the movie itself, which is the most incoherent piece of storytelling in years, and had me crying, 'What? What?' over the din of the explosions. It was Wikipedia's 'Oblivion' entry that spelled out what was going on in the final flashback. And a few, but not all my complaints, were answered on an IMDB board in which posters argued over whether the problem was our lack of attention spans or atrocious screenwriting."
While Disney was holding the rights, the first draft of the script was written by William Monahan. That draft was ditched when Universal acquired the property. Michael Arndt also did additional uncredited rewrites to Karl Gajdusek's draft. However, Monahan was not credited.
The Tet space station may be so named because it is tetrahedral, but considering Tet is also the name for the Vietnamese lunar new year and destruction of the moon in the movie brings about the "new" destroyed earth, the name could be meant ironically.
The exclusive premiere at IMAX London took place amid a snow storm that had lasted for over 10 hours, causing traffic problems in the capital. Most of the cast attended, plus several additional guests, such as Dexter Fletcher, Bill Paxton, and James May, who sat behind him.
Early in the film, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) gives Vika (Andrea Riseborough) a play-by-play of the "last Super Bowl", or 2017 Super Bowl. The 2017 Super Bowl (Super Bowl LI) was held on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. This would mean the decayed stadium in which Jack fixes the downed combat drone is Houston's NRG Stadium.
There are two scenes in this movie that are very similar to Mission: Impossible III (2006). The first is when Jack is in the library retreating. The walkway bridge he used is taken out. He is forced to throw his rifle across first, then jumping over, barely making it, as he pulls himself up. This scene is very similar to Mission: Impossible III. When the drone takes out part of the bridge as Owen Davian is escaping, Ethan throws his rifle across as he jumps over, barely making it, and pulling himself up. The second scene (in Mission: Impossible III) is when Ethan is about to inject Anna with Adrenaline. He grabs her, and says "This is going to hurt", then injects her. A very similar scene was shot in Oblivion, when Jack grabs Julia (after she had been shot, in the desert scene) and says "This is going to hurt", then injects her. Julia is also the name of Ethan's wife in Mission: Impossible III (2006).
When Julia is first found, she is in her sleep pod with her maiden name listed "J. Rusakova", someone with no known relationship with anyone else. Later, when Julia awakens by the cabin, she's in Jack's sleep pod with "J. Harper" inscribed on the front, her married name and the one she introduces herself with once the relationship is revealed.
Jack is Tech 49, which is the same number as Tom Cruise's age during filming. The tech who finds Julia at the end of the film is Tech 52, which happens three years later when Cruise would be 52 years old.
In the beginning of the film, Victoria and Jack are watching footage of a Scav attack. The black and white footage shows a Scav running from the scene on all fours, like a dog or other animal. When we find out they're humans who run on two feet, this seems like it wouldn't make sense.
The ship originally investigating the Tet was named Odyssey, which alludes to Homer's epic poem and its hero Odysseus. The Greeks win the Trojan War by way of the Trojan Horse, a ruse dreamed up by Odysseus, much like the humans defeat Tet because it allowed him to bring a captive without realizing he is also bringing nuclear weapons.
The title and one of the scenes by the lake recall the poem "Eloisa to Abelard" by Alexander Pope, which also provides the title for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", another science fiction movie dealing with themes of memory and forgetting. Julia and Jack are listening to "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum, which contains the lines: "One of sixteen vestal virgins/Who were leaving for the coast", and Julia says to Jack, "the world would forget about us". Pope's poem includes the following lines: "Divine oblivion of low-thoughted care!", and later on, "How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!/The world forgetting, by the world forgot./Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!".