I’m not one to blindly promote products just for the sake of information, so a Blu-Ray release doesn’t usually inspire me to comment. However, when that film is Edge Of Tomorrow, and there’s a chance you may have dismissed it at the cinema on account of the worst marketing campaign in recent memory, then I have to try and change your mind. For it’s not just Tom Cruise’s best film in years, it’s also one of the finest slices of sci-fi escapism you’ll ever watch.
I saw Edge Of Tomorrow on its first night in a cinema so small the seats filled up thirty minutes before the lights went down. Next door, in the fancy AVX theatres with their massive screens and flesh-shaking audio systems and bookable reclining thrones, Maleficent and X-Men: Days Of Future Past continued their respective runs of fair-to-middling success. I settled in for something that had been sold to me as SCI-FI TOM CRUISE HEROIC ACTION MOVIE by a few months of weak, grey Warner Bros. marketing. Initial financial predictions had been terrible, with huge predicted second week losses overshadowing the launch. Hence the tiny cinema, I supposed.
But then, that beautiful wave of positive word-of-mouth picked up quickly. Initial press screenings glowed about the nuances of Cruise’s character and the fantastic tricks the film uses for its central time-reset conceit. And all for very good reason: Edge Of Tomorrow is nowhere near a generic Tom Cruise sci-fi action movie. It bursts with originality, truth, wit, desperation, and hope.
It all comes down to Cruise’s character. For from being an invincible superhero who bests every situation with miraculous luck and gritted teeth, his Major William Cage is a coward and deserter. Hailing from a background in advertising, he uses his fast mouth and easy grin to promote and publicise a war that he has no intention of joining. It’s a bitter onslaught against an invading alien army that has slowly spread through mainland Europe and is now snapping at the heels of the British Isles. Through a run-in with a certain kind of alien grunt, Cage inherits the power to reset the day in the event of his death, thus enabling him to learn from every mistake. Emily Blunt’s kickass soldier, whose previous ability with the same trick earnt her a well-deserved reputation as chief alien killer, then has to transform Cage from superficial TV show host to weapon of destruction.
Make no mistake, Edge Of Tomorrow isn’t just like watching a video game, it’s structured like one too. However, far from having this devalue the main ideas, it rather embraces the dark humour around the idea and places it at the center of the whole film. The premise is identical every game ever – every death is a learning experience that helps you live a little longer next time. In fact, it’s even closer to the idea used in Dark Souls, where death isn’t just inevitable but a required part of your character’s development. The skills stack until you’ve transformed from jumpy rookie to battle-hardened warrior.
The time resetting trick also neatly side-steps the problem with so many action games and movies. The histrionics of a master fighter is nowhere near as compelling as The Rise Of The Everyman, but then we are emotionally disconnected when the unreality of them becoming suddenly able to hold off swathes of enemies becomes too much to ignore. Here, we see the journey. Each reset gives Cage progressively more – not just skills, but also courage, confidence and insight.
This is where the marking for Edge Of Tomorrow had been a total failure. Instead on focusing on the (gasp) interesting character played by one of the world’s most famous actors, in the exploration of an (gasp) intelligent and compelling time-twisting narrative, Warner went straight for the money shot and pushed it as backlit battle-hardened Cruise single-handedly taking down alien armies, like so many other nameless movies that we’ve seen before. It’s a good job (for then) that Twitter exists – the tidal wave of good feedback has flipped their approach to the point where it’s rumoured they delayed the release of the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending as they realised that Edge Of Tomorrow had serious staying power.
This last-minute boost certainly helped the cinema takings, but it’s in the digital and Blu-Ray releases that the movie will gain ground. It’s reputation is now much wider known, the barrage of great reviews working their magic. Warner have even taken the unprecidented step of all but renaming the movie – instead of Edge Of Tomorrow front of centre, it’s relegated to additional information under a giant blocky Live. Die. Repeat. Here’s hoping that it’s a massive success this time around, and gives studios the confidence to both make and promote more large-scale pieces of original, interesting science fiction.