I’m a little brother. I say this because it invokes a certain expectation of my childhood to readers, with many of the stereotypes being true. Through blood I have one older brother, but because of how tight-knit my family was with other families, I grew up with more than half a dozen men I consider my “brothers”, and to this day we still keep in close contact with each other. As role models go, I had a combination of the worst and the best of examples to follow. It was more than I could have ever hoped for, and wouldn’t change it for the world.
That being said, none of them ever let me win any game that we ever played, and through a combination of skill, guile, and straight-up lying to my face, I learned that fair play was never going to exist throughout childhood. Whether it was Hide-and-Seek, Street Fighter, or Monopoly, there was always some loophole that wasn’t explained to me, with the end result of being the loser as the only constant. I was so young though, that I never really realized that all of these “rules” were arbitrary fabrications; instead, I would dwell on hoping to stumble across these magical rules, and use them for my own gain one day. On top of desiring a result, I also craved for an explanation, in hopes to understand a concept that was pretty elusive to me at the time.
It’s been years, but I received a similar feeling last night, sitting in the dark theater, trying to piece together Edge of Tomorrow.
I understand better than most people that in order to enjoy a piece of science fiction, there has to be two requirements met from the audience: a) a suspension of disbelief, and b) to understand the laws given in the piece and to work within those bounds. The first point is self-explanatory, but the second point takes a little bit more critical thinking to understand, even if the audience does this naturally. A science fiction piece has to provide rules and regulations for its universe, in order to move plot and character development, but also in order for the audience to follow in a meaningful way. For example, Looper’s time rules state that people can go back into time, but can never move forward, while in the Doctor Who universe, there are fixed points in time that can never be changed.
In Edge of Tomorrow though, there were no time rules that were clearly defined by the characters, but more importantly, no clear time rules defined by the narrative. The audience has a good sense of how Cage’s (Tom Cruise) reset-button works, but abandons any sense of rules in the last few minutes of the movie, making for a semi-confusing ending that may not sit well with general audiences. It felt as if the last part of the script was heavily revised in the writing process, to the point where the entire narrative loses all of its weight. It’s such a stark departure from the rest of the movie, that I’m excited to read about the behind-the-scenes happenings; I have a sneaking suspicion that executives were involved in the artistic process, trying to make it more “marketable” to an audience that usually doesn’t view sci-fi. A great attempt at an explanation for the rules of time can be found at Screen Rant, but it still feels like a stretch.
Another problem that I had was that there wasn’t anything that particularly stood out to me as “great” or “amazing”. The acting was good, but the exchanges between characters, while enjoyable in the moment, never really resonates with the audience after the fact. The plot was interesting, but felt like it had one hand tied behind its back, never truly getting the chance to let loose and tell a powerful story. It was as if the people in charge were aiming to make one of the most easily forgotten B-movie sci-fi films; if that was their goal, they definitely succeeded, for whatever that is worth. With talent like Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise, Bill Paxton, and Doug Liman behind the camera, there was a lot more to be desired, but ultimately does not live up to expectations.
What I did appreciate was the level of detail that was placed into the costuming. The mech-suits that were used in the movie, playfully referred to as “jackets”, provided a great sci-fi touch to a time-inspired story, but a touch that was never really elaborated on, much to the dismay of the film. The jackets don’t really add anything to the plot or the narrative on a conceptual level, but instead provide something visually impressive to see during fight scenes; I was extremely disappointed by this fact, being a huge proponent in Checkov’s gun. While I loved the feel that it lent to the story, they were never truly necessary, but a struggle between modern technology and our concept of time would have been a welcome theme to any kind of audience.
A semi-forgettable B-movie perfect for a lazy day at home, Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t quite deliver on its promise of “Groundhog Day Meets Starship Troopers”. While worth the watch, I recommend waiting to rent it for the comfort of your own home. As long as you know that there will be little regard to the idea of time and science fiction, it’ll be an enjoyable, adrenaline-fueled ride with a repeated yoga scene from Emily Blunt that will be seared into my brain for a while. That’s not a huge loss in my book; I mean, at least it isn’t as bad as being convinced that I can only hide in trash cans during Hide-and-Seek.
Seriously, I hate my brother and my extended family.