SpeculativeFiction


The Edge of Tomorrow


The Edge of Tomorrow is a Tom Cruise military sci-fi vehicle, and it's a bundle of contradictions that actually work out to a pretty good movie. Let me start by hitting you with what is obvious from the trailer: alien invasion, near-future powered armor. Those aspects are mostly handled well. The power armor is much more realistic than, say, Tony Stark's Iron Man armor; it's basically strength-enhancing and load-carrying with some token "armor" and a few mounted weapons. Cruise even gets a chance to lampshade the fact that he isn't wearing a helmet. (The real reason is that he is getting paid millions for his face to be visible, of course). The aliens are alien aliens and not very comprehensible to humanity.

I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that there's a military focus to the movie, and I was skeptical about how Hollywood would handle a movie about military heroics in an alien invasion. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't. The stereotype of the military being dumb misfits was there in spades. On the other hand, clearly that wasn't everyone; the main character was thrown in with the misfits on account of an act of utter cowardice early in the movie when he is told that he will actually be expected to fight.

The other thing I can say without spoiling too much is that the movie is a transparent ... homage? Reference? Tribute? I'm not sure.. to D-Day. Aside from releasing the movie on the literal anniversary of the invasion, the aliens invade Europe, are apparently based in Germany, and kill everyone. They are opposed by a US and UK lead counter invasion from the West and a simultaneous invasion from Russia to the East. A good chunk of the movie concerns events on the beach at Normandy. We're left to imagine whether they herded people into camps and made them wear yellow stars first, I guess.

I will say more with spoilers below, but the short summary is, it's a good movie, both as general entertainment, as a sci-fi experience, and as a military war movie. Just recite "These are individuals, not stereotypes" occasionally when the condescension gets too thick.

The trailers sort of hint at the third sci-fi concept in the movie, which is where the main character goes roughly 24 hours back in time each time he gets killed. (Never mind why, that really would be a spoiler). This was pretty well handled, and adds a very interesting intellectual feel to the movie. The characters abuse it mercilessly in a way that actually adds another layer to the whole; it's basically what video gamers do to beat a game. Get killed, go back to your last save game and try again until you get it right.
OK, major spoilers ahead. If you think you'll enjoy the movie, go see it now, come back to read the rest later and see if you agree with me.

Problem #1: The movie is arguing that D-Day and the invasion of Western Europe to defeat Hitler and the Germans was a mistake. We should have just sent a team of special-ops people to assassinate Hitler and that would have fixed everything. That argument falls apart pretty quickly when you realize that 1) we tried and failed; 2) it's very difficult to assassinate a head of state and you need an option for when you fail; 3) Hitler ran the government, and his National Socialist party (the Nazis) were in control. Maybe you could get Hitler, but you'd need to get Hitler and his line of succession all the way down to the little dog too before you would end up with someone sane in charge of the government and willing to make peace. Humans are not hive-mind aliens.
Forgiven, because it would take a lot longer to conquer the whole of Europe, even in a movie.

Problem #2: In order to get to the alien Hitler, the solution the main character comes up with -- after trying god only knows how many different approaches -- is to steal a military gunship the day before the invasion and ... leave early, at night. Which is apparently sufficient to get them well past the fortified coast and into the interior of the country, where only the occasional alien is waiting for them rather than the whole army. Completely unrealistic, but easily forgiven, except for the point above about D-Day being a mistake. If only our troops had flown over the beaches at night... Well, newsflash Hollywood, they did; we landed paratroopers behind enemy lines the night before to take key bridges and disrupt reinforcements. That part worked wonderfully, thank you.

Problem #3: The princess is in another castle. This isn't really a problem until you start thinking about whether the film is trying to say that Hitler wasn't really to blame for WWII, it was really all France's fault. My advice: I doubt the filmmakers actually thought their analogy through this far, so why should you?

Problem #4: Cruise needs to argue with the general who had him arrested as a deserter and tossed into the invasion force in order to obtain a technological McGuffin locked in the general's safe. After hundreds or thousands of tries the winning argument is "Face it, General. You aren't intellectually equipped to fight this war." On the other hand, there was an ambush waiting for them outside the building, so either he was really that stupid, or he wasn't, depending on whether you think giving up the device was the right thing to do or not. The general was certainly smart enough to get them out of his office. But the backhanded insult to the intelligence of the military was frankly ugly.

Problem #5: During the conversation with the general mentioned above, Cruise asks what the general would do if he knew the location of the alien hive-mind. The general says he would blow it up, of course, which leads to that oh-so-convincing argument I just discussed. How does Cruise beat the alien hive mind? He blows it up.

None of those problems significantly detracted from my enjoyment of the movie, but they annoyed me in retrospect.

This entry was published Mon Jun 09 13:46:14 CDT 2014 by Matthew and last updated 2018-06-13 03:24:29.0.

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