Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow - 113min - PG13

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." - Tom Clancy. This phrase is the fundamental truth that everyone who enjoys science fiction and fantasy lives by. Writers who work in this genre know that if you set down rules to define the fantastic things you are showing us, you need to make sure that they are understandable, and when you set down rules, you live by them. This film worked very hard at balancing the story and plays within the rules for 95% of the film, then completely ignores its rules in the last 5% of the film. For that last bit, they earn a Red Light.

Earth is being invaded by aliens and the humans are losing. Lt. Col. Cage (Tom Cruise) works in the Army press office. While being reassigned to the front lines, he freaks out and gets busted down to private. Now, instead of reporting on the invasion he is fighting on the front lines, even though he is not a combat trained. The invasion goes poorly and he dies confronting an alien that contaminates his blood and causes him to restart his day. Just like a video game when you die you go back to the save point and try it again. After you die, you now know what is going to happen so you can avoid it.

This is a genetic capability of these aliens and the sole reason they are winning. Once alien Alphas die, they go back in time and, armed with the knowledge of how they died, avoid it. So that is the rule that we now live with. In this story this is how things work. Cage, being tainted with the alien blood also has this power now. He starts back at the morning before the final battle. The problem is that no one believes him. Really who would?

Here is where the rules are very important. The moment he dies he has to go back to that same moment in time before the battle. So he struggles through and learns how to fight from that same battle over and over again. He runs into another person who has had the same kind of event affect her. Sgt. Rita (Emily Blunt) was contaminated and had the same problem but she almost died and had a complete blood transfusion and lost the power. Not before winning a battle and winning her the moniker The Angel of Verdun. Cage tells her, and she tells him to contact her when he wakes up again.

Together they work to get Cage ready to change the outcome of the battle and formulate a plan to end the battle.

Remember the rule they started with? Once he dies, he gets come back to the morning before the battle. I love how they have edited out all of the boring restarts we don't need to see again. We see death after death after death but don't have to walk through the boring parts. You have to realize that Cage has had to live through the entire day several hundred times. Possibly thousands but we don't need to watch the reboot from the start. The gamers in my readership will get this next observation.

Imagine you are playing a game that has no save point except right after the character creation. Now imagine there is no quick play button through any of the cinematic scenes. Now imagine you can never play any other game or sleep or do anything else but play that same game you are locked into. You now have an image of a new level of hell. That has been Cages existence for years? This is a pretty horrific existence and I love video games.
I enjoyed thinking of that aspect of the film and not having to watch it. By this time, you had me bought into this new world and its rules on how things work. There was a lot of work done here to transfer the best parts of this hellish world to entertain us.

I hate however how this film now takes those rules and throws them out at the end of the film. If you don't want any spoilers stop reading here, but if you want to see this film rant continue please keep reading.

What have we learned, dead means reboot. So we have to kill the alien that is rebooting before we die. And if we kill them what happens? Reboot. This is the first problem that I have with this concept. The aliens reboot when they die and have the ability to avoid the thing that killed them. Ok let's pass this one up. Let's go to the one that really gets me mad.

The death blow is delivered. The alien Omega is dead and Cage and Rita have convinced a strike team to sneak behind Alien lines and deliver the final blow. They die Heroes and save the world. NOPE, they miraculously find themselves free of the cycle and are back before the morning of the restart and never start down the path of events that lead to them being heroes. The news reports that the aliens have just died. It seems that Cage gets some of the big alien blood in him and he is now free and can keep his original job and also gets to court Rita because he knows everything about her and they live happily ever after.

I am not anti-happy ending. I enjoy them as much as the next viewer. I really don’t like them when they are misplaced and an opportunity missed. Here is my armchair directing suggestion that I would have liked to see. Cage does kill the Omega. He sacrifices himself and the time moves forward. They are heroes for finishing the war and saving humanity. Having them make the ultimate sacrifice is great, but stealing it away with a restart that wipes away their efforts seems cruel.

Maybe we can slather the film in alien blood and get a better ending after this film dies. But I suppose that is just me.

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