In 2005, five years before Joseph Kosinski directed his first feature, TRON: Legacy, he wrote a 12-page story titled Oblivion. In his sci-fi adventure set in 2077 — six decades after an alien invasion irradiates Earth — readers follow the missions of Jack, a repairman on a nearly destroyed planet who is uncertain of his place in the universe.
The Bubbleship is Jack’s (Tom Cruise) primary form of transportation as he travels to and from Earth’s surface. Kosinski was thrilled to see the vehicle he imagined several years ago — a hybrid of a jet fighter and a Bell 47 helicopter — finally come to life on the big screen. “The Bubbleship was the first thing we designed for the film,” he offers. “For everyone who grew up on Top Gun, like I did in the ’80s, it is pretty spectacular to see Tom back in the cockpit flying an aircraft like this.” Producer Peter Chernin adds, “Tom’s a flying junkie. He’s a pilot himself. I think he had a lot of fun with the Bubbleship, and you can see it on the screen.”
Once approved designs were in place, the Bubbleship took four months to build in a warehouse in Los Angeles. Then it was taken apart, shipped off for filming and subsequently reassembled in Louisiana, Iceland and Mammoth, Calif.
For the design, Daniel Simon and his team at Wildfactory in Camarillo, Calif., were inspired by emergent NASA technology. Still, Simon knew how critical it was for the audience to comprehend how the Bubbleship might be able to fly. From dials, foot pedals and joysticks to a seat with lumbar support, the cockpit resembles a helicopter, while still evoking a futuristic craft. Made of aluminum and fiberglass and weighing in at 4,500 pounds, the Bubbleship travels in seven containers, with four technicians accompanying the vehicle. It has to be disassembled for air cargo, and it may only be lifted by forklift. It takes five hours to assemble, with a four-person crew working nonstop on all of its parts.
Cruise discusses the experience of being on the Bubbleship: “Joe showed me the drawings and the concept art, and I just thought, ‘This is so cool.’ I’m a pilot, and I love the way he designed it. It’s as beautiful as it is onscreen. Every piece of it was so smooth and elegant, and they designed it to fit my body for all the action.” He laughs, “I want someone to build it so we can fly it for real.”
Oblivion is available starting Aug. 6 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2013 Universal Studios
Credit: Universal Pictures