Edge of Tomorrow: The Superior Video Game Movie
Usually when I watch a trailer I get drawn into its short narrative and take it as veracity, believing it’ll appropriately represent the larger picture. But as is often the case, the small and carefully crafted montage does not mirror the real thing. Edge of Tomorrow has the reverse issue. The trailer cannot replicate the baby steps the movie takes you on, as it holds your hand, and it cannot express all the small pieces that culminate to create a vast and intimate story.
Edge of Tomorrow is less science-fiction and more war movie in a future setting; its about a man who endlessly repeats the same day of battle after death, doing it over and over again like a double helix. The only thing that changes, is how he responds and adapts. And his name is Cage (mwhahas, yes I see what you did there).
The resulting relationship that develops between Cage and his companion who suffered the same issue, must be a field day for sociologists. Cage is the only one who retains his memory after the day resets, but time and time again he ‘develops’ a relationship with a decorated war hero, Rita Vrataski, one that gets more interesting the longer they survive each repetition. It’s an intriguing phenomenon watching Rita interact with Cage with the knowledge that she has known him in many instances, while he does know her – the product of countless times together.
What’s fascinating to me is that Edge of Tomorrow stumbles unintentionally, with ironic accuracy, upon the essence of a rival medium – video games. This medium follows a predictable format: fight, die, and repeat all over again. You learn better how to conquer the challenge and tailor your strategy accordingly. Nothing else could better help you understand the film, and no film has in turn, better portrayed gaming.
Repetitively showing the same scenes over again, easily risks becoming dreary. Not only is it used to effect, but watching Cage attempt different ideas under the same circumstance is refreshingly absorbing. Though still trepid of death, his apparent immorality encourages him to try things no sane person would, and the results are often hilarious. Despite this, the film’s not so set in its ways that it forces you to watch every event because it’s so happy with its own creativity.
The writing is good enough that you’ll know when things have jumped ahead, and you’ll know when Cage has already lived through the scene you’re watching more times than you’d care to experience yourself. Fortunately too, otherwise the plot would take eons to get anywhere. It’s entertainingly repetitive (if ever there was such a thing) yet intelligently selective.
Often it’s best not to reveal the mystery. So disappointment set in when Edge of Tomorrow decided to explain itself with quantum physics – via one of ‘those’ scientists Hollywood use to try and make rational otherwise unexplainable enigmas. The justification turns out to be little more than awkward metaphysics, but it represents a larger issue – that even inventive, fun ideas like this require explanation because you need one in the ‘intellectual age’. In an effort to justify its own idea it also loses some of its principles in a vain attempt to accommodate the academics, and it’s worse for it.
While the second act is absolutely incredible, it’s the third where Edge of Tomorrow begins to let slip. Revealing as little as I can, toward the end the film loses its main premise, its creative juices and becomes another normal movie, which I’m not convinced was the right decision. If it stuck to its thesis, I’m certain more could have been achieved. They managed it thus far.
Edge of Tomorrow is more ‘video game movie’ than those that count themselves among the ranks. More so than Resident Evil, more so than Tomb Raider, more so than Prince of Persia. It doesn’t need the subject matter; it encapsulates the interactive nature of the medium and does it finely. Even if the filmmakers didn’t entirely intend so. It has issues, but that comes with experimentation, and I’m inclined to favour it because Edge of Tomorrow had the courage to try something different. It’s even better to see those risks pay off.