The cover-art of the Blu-ray (and I presume the DVD, although I haven’t seen it) betrays the problem that this film seems to have had- is it Edge of Tomorrow or Live, Die, Repeat? When a film’s identity, its very title, seems to have an air of doubt about it, you know the marketing boys are in trouble. Here’s a film that is a very enjoyable action blockbuster with a bit of intelligence and wit about it starring one of the biggest male stars on the planet, with favourable reviews and word-of-mouth, and yet it still somehow fails to live up to box-office expectations. As a product, its fine, so is the problem simply that it wasn’t sold very well?
The success of movies is always something of a crap-shoot. Some films have ‘hit’ all over them and make huge box-office, others have ‘hit’ all over them and sink without trace. The frustrating thing for film-fans is often the injustice of it. Good films fail (John Carter, Blade Runner etc) and bad movies (take your pick, but any Transformers movie is a good start) make obscene amounts of money. There just isn’t any reason to it. Some films capture the public’s attention, others don’t. Maybe the public are a tasteless ignorant horde of brain-dead morons who are suckers for loud spectacle.
Here’s the thing. They are usually very young. Its demographics. Going to the cinema is mostly a young person’s activity. Most people going to the cinema these days are a different generation to the one that grew up with Tom Cruise as a major star. For this generation, the names Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Swarzenegger or Bruce Willis or, indeed, Tom Cruise, don’t carry the same street-cred or air of celluloid importance as they did (and still do) for, say my own age group (slipping towards age 50) or even the age group before, now hitting their thirties. Is the problem simply that Tom Cruise’s status is beginning to wane, his name not quite able alone to sell an original IP with its own attendant problems regards marketing? I am always one to bemoan the number of superhero movies and remakes and sequels being made, but the perceived failure of movies like Edge of Tomorrow kind of reinforces the practices of Hollywood, the films that we usually get.
I’m not going to suggest that Edge of Tomorrow is a great film. Its good, but nothing extraordinary. But of all this past summer’s ‘blockbusters’ that I have so far seen, its likely the best, and possibly the most, dare I say it, original (although that last point is with a few caveats, as it eventually seems to descend into a rehash of a Matrix movie by the end).
Its a weird film though. The basic premise is just plain daft. Aliens have invaded Earth and have taken over Europe and its up to the Brits to save the day. Its World War Two and the Normandy invasion all over again. Only in the near future. I admit that whole thing bugged me a bit; if this thing had been a kind of Steampunk alternate World War Two with advanced tech then that would have been fine, albeit too high-brow for the general film-going public (the irony is not lost on me considering how the film’s box-office turned out). As it is, it just feels wrong, the central proposition (even before we get to the time travel stuff) already on shaky ground. It may have worked against the Germans in the 1940s, but how do you keep a huge invasion force secret in the Information Age, particularly against space-faring aliens who can surely see what you are up to across the Channel? How do us Brits, with our cut-down military and debt-ridden economy even marshal those invasion forces? How come the Yanks don’t just run the show? That said, while the central ideas may have been dubious, the presentation is quite convincing and impressive. The battle scenes are very good indeed, with some excellent action choreography, and it looks very cool- Saving Private Ryan in Exo-skeletons!
I have to admit I enjoyed the proposition that Tom Cruise is a coward more intent on selling this war than actually fighting in it. Reluctant heroes are much more interesting and it gives Cruise something a bit left-field for him. Once the action sets in he’s as capable as ever, but its certainly his quieter moments that I enjoyed the most. Meanwhile, Emily Blunt is something of a revelation. If this film doesn’t serve as some kind of audition for her eventual starring role in a Marvel Studios movie, well, there is no justice. She is just great as an action heroine, which somehow came as quite a surprise. She and Cruise also share some chemistry too. Its great casting.
The funny thing about Edge of Tomorrow is that it has the structure of a video-game. Its really weird. Cruise re-lives the same day (the same video-game level) and changes his actions to get further and further into that level, each death causing a reset to that same checkpoint… it even looks like a FPS. Its like an alternate Tron or something. In some ways its the most authentic movie based on a video-game ever (except that, far as I know, it isn’t based on any video-game). Damned thing is, you’d think that would sell well. Go figure.
Its certainly a good movie and one I very much enjoyed. When it finished, my first thought was that I’d like to watch it again (rather ironic considering its own repetitive structure), which is not something I often think when watching new films these days.Sure its not perfect, and in truth its box-office wasn’t really all that bad (it was perceived as performing below expectations but it was certainly no Lone Ranger/John Carter failure). I think some longer character beats, and perhaps some examination on the impact reliving all those events so many times would have on Cruise’s character psychologically… but maybe that would have been a different movie.
5 thoughts on “Edge of Tomorrow (2014)”
I think the film had a number of problems trying to make money, none of them to do with the actual film itself!
1) The marketing was clearly bungled. Not being able to tell what a film is called hampers word of mouth, and in an era when things like trending topics a vital to marketing, everyone needs to know a name (or hashtag!))
2) Tom Cruise is definitely on the wane, especially in the US. I believe the film got much more attention (and better box office) overseas because he’s still a draw in much of the rest of the world.
3) However often we observe “audiences mainly go for films based on something else”, the problem just seems to get worse! I reckon this only got made because it was based on a novel — the fact it’s not a sequel or remake is enough for everyone to call it “an original” now.
4) Perception — as you said, it didn’t actually do that badly at all. $100 million in the US, just under $370 million worldwide — even with today’s hyper-ridiculous budgets (which studios could definitely reign in without most people noticing), that’s good money.
Plus, it does seem to have good word of mouth, which means more money going forward. I bothered to buy it because of all the “most underrated film of the summer”-type tweets and articles. Much like you, I enjoyed it but didn’t quite think it was great — which does make me concerned for the quality of 2014’s other films that I’ve not seen yet, actually…
Regards your last point, I share your concern. I think I’ve got the latest attempt at GODZILLA next… (can’t be as bad as TRANSFORMERS 4 must have been, surely…).
The film I’m most looking forward to is Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, it just looks right up my street. Its a funny thing how all those summer movies come out in such a rush in Autumn on retail. Its like my own summer blockbuster season behind everyone else’s, and its fast become an annual routine. Daft thing is, buying the films on disc is cheaper than me and the Mrs going to the cinema to see them. There’s something wrong about that.
That said, I’m off to the Imax in Brum to see INTERSTELLAR on Tuesday with some of the lads at work. They are the same bunch who’d never heard of CE3K so that might be interesting for all sorts of reasons.
I’d be very interested to hear your views on GODZILLA. Mine were not pleasant.
“Its like my own summer blockbuster season behind everyone else’s, and its fast become an annual routine.” – Ain’t that the truth! It means avoiding spoilers online (only semi-successfully in many cases I find, which is largely my own fault), but there are definite financial benefits, as well as dodging all the ups-and-downs of the modern cinema experience.
They do rather rush them out for Christmas, though. I’ve skipped stuff I might well have picked up (Godzilla is a prime example, actually) because there’s so much coming that I’ve had to be choosy.
I really enjoyed the humor in this film – which was not at all evident in the trailer. Perhaps if they showed it doesn’t take itself too seriously – and is fun – more people would have gone to see it. Nice review!