Monday, June 9, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow review

    Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers.

    That premise makes Edge of Tomorrow sound so much cooler than it is. I'm usually all over military science-fiction, especially when it's not endorsing fascism, but this one gave me bad vibes from the trailer out. Some of my fellow geeks were wary of it because of Tom Cruise, the actor having burned many bridges due to his Scientology advocacy, but I didn't mind his starring role.

    I like Tom Cruise's acting, even if he's played the exact same character since Risky Business. Tom Cruise never doesn't play Tom Cruise, whether he's Lestat, Maverick, Ethan Hunt, or a super-soldier on a dead world ruled by an Apple iPod. No, what made me wary of the trailer was I knew they weren't going to do anything interesting with the premise.

Tom Cruise joins the Mobile Infantry! Would you like to know more?
     Time travel stories are, after space-travel, THE thing in science-fiction. It's easily the most science-fiction thing you can do because it's impossible with current technology, recognizable to mainstream audiences, and something that opens a bunch of questions by the nature of its existence. What happens if you kill your father before you're conceived? What would happen if you killed Hitler as a baby? And so on and so on.

     The premise is that Tom Cruise's character, Major William Cage, is a horrible human being/public-relations expert (if that's not redundant *rimshot* I'll be here all night, folks!), who finds himself drafted onto the battlefield after a craven act of cowardice turns a superior officer against him. During said battle, he acquires the ability to time-travel back 24 hours every time he dies.

    This is already a variant of time-travel I'm iffy about since it takes an already wildly implausible premise and runs a marathon with it. However, they proceed to tack it onto an alien invasion by a race called the Mimics. Which, despite the name, don't actually mimic anything. It's more or less Space D-Day (they're even invading France) and humanity loses the battle every time Tom Cruise fights in it.

You can't hate a guy who is obviously making this movie to have fun like this.
     I admit to not having read the book Edge of Tomorrow is based on but I am judging the movie on its own merits. There's a lot of interesting places Tom Cruise's character could go in this situation. Can a single man, if he does things perfectly, win a war which is otherwise lost? What is it like to watch your friends and associates killed thousands of times only to resurrect? Would a life consisting of D-Day repeated forever drive you insane?

    It doesn't do any of this. Instead, the story proceeds to crib the rest of its plot from The Phantom Menace.

    I kid you not.

    You see there's this, let's just call it the Droid Control Ship, which controls all of the Mimics. Anakin Skywalker, as played by Tom Cruise, has to make his way to the Droid Control Ship and blow it up. This, despite the fact he starts as objectively the worst soldier in the world. Albeit, one who is functionally immortal (which makes him the best soldier in the world--confused yet?). Once Tom Cruise destroys the Droid Control Ship, the war is over, so his goal is to do it. He has immense trouble with this despite the fact he has an infinite number of video game continues.

Rita Vrataski is a great character. She could play Samus Aran.
    The comparison to a video game is actually quite apt and one that I almost wish was lampshaded within the movie itself. Tom Cruise's experience reflects a video game player who grows in his skill at playing the game and for, whom, death is cheap because he can always reset. This, too, is underplayed. Tom Cruise gets noticeably better due to training by Emily Blunt's character of Rita Vrataski. It's possible for Tom Cruise to die permanently but only in a very unlikely set of circumstances.

    Emily Blunt's character is the highlight of the movie, really, and it's a shame she's not the star. Rita Vrataski is a nice gender reversal of the stone cold badass who takes no **** and puts the mission first. Plenty of my friends have compared her to Commander Shepard and I think this is an appropriate comparison. While there's nothing new about her character, the fact she's a woman with almost no commentary on it (other than how everyone treats her like a marvel--something which annoys her deeply) pleased me.

    In the end, my response to the movie was to be underwhelmed. There's a lot of action, great special effects, and some good character moments but the movie is devoid of tension. After all, we see our hero killed literally dozens of times with no more effect than some lost time. The process doesn't even appear to be painful. There's nothing wrong with the movie, per se, but it's not anything which blew me away.


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