[Weekend] Watch or Watch Not
There is no try. Entertaining our summers, science fiction movies have become a fundamental part of our hottest season. This summer was no expectation. The KAIST Herald invites reader to sci-fi movies.
Time loops have always been a topic of interest for the science film genre; Looper, Frequency, even Harry Potter, the list goes on. But Edge of Tomorrow is not your average time loop sci-fi blockbuster; this film is a great example of a sci-fi movie that did its job profoundly. Not only does it have a satisfactory amount of science fiction lore in the movie itself, but it also clings onto the philosophy of mortality of the human being, with a touch of comedy giving the movie just the right amount of relief it needs for it to become an enjoyable film.
Edge of Tomorrow starts with the war against the Mimics who invades Central Europe. For 5 years, the United Defense Force (UDF), a coalition of nations formed to repel back the invading aliens, have steadily lost ground. Then, after 5 years of constant retreat, victory was achieved in Verdun, with the help of a remarkable, Joan de Arc-like warrior, Rita Vrataski, played by Emily Blunt. After the victory, the UDF planned to launch the largest amphibious assault in the history of mankind over the English Channel to coastal France.
This is where we meet Major William Cage, played by Tom Cruise, who is a public relations officer who influenced thousands of men and women to enlist for the UDF. He's like the modern Uncle Sam recruitment poster, appearing in TV interviews to encourage more manpower for the war effort. In fact, he is a cowardly non-combatant officer who will do anything to avoid combat, but after his attempt to blackmail a higher officer who gives him orders to film the assault on site ultimately fails, he is denounced as a deserter and sent to Heathrow to prepare for the assault on the French beaches as an ordinary private.
The paragraphs above may seem like a bit of a spoiler, but the background of the film will help the reader understand my point. Now, as any other contemporary science fiction blockbuster would have, Edge of Tomorrow has its own share of impressive technology and machinery portrayed by stunning visual effects. Starting with the battle suit every soldier wears for combat, each soldier can now really pack a punch with the help of the heavily armed exoskeleton. One interesting thing to point out is that these power suits are not very far-fetched; in fact we might see them as being the norm in the battlefields of the near future. The coastal assault is the film's most visually stunning scene, with hundreds of helicopter-like dropships landing troops. They are soon 'baptized' by pyrotechnics and explosions, which helps illustrate the chaos of the landings.
And of course, there is the science fiction. The main 'fiction' is the time loop, which is explained in the film rather extensively, but I won't spoil the details for you. Just know that every time Cruise's character dies, he wakes up with a (rather comical) gasp at Heathrow, and lives the same day again until his next death. Some critics found it rather like a video game, where you go back to a checkpoint (in this case, Heathrow) to restart your progress (the landings) if your playable character (Cage) dies. This way, he is able to make through the landings by carefully reviewing exactly what happens when it happens, and avoiding or dealing with it like a step-by-step rehearsal.
But with only these elements, Edge of Tomorrow would be an okay, time-killing sci-fi film. What makes it a successful one is that not only is the time loop the driving force for the film, but the theme of mortality and death is incorporated in it. One thing to remember is that Cage knows that even if he dies, he will return to the day before the invasion. Having said that, there is a scene where he trains to become a soldier, but every time he gets a broken bone, he still hates the fact that he has to reset the day by dying. It's because for every human being, death is the ultimate 'final step' one wants to avoid, even if one knew he or she would come back. The very idea of death is something none of us will ever feel comfortable with. And that is portrayed vividly in the film. Another interesting aspect of this film is that for a sci-fi movie, I don't remember seeing one without snickering or right out laughing that much before. The viewer can have a good laugh whenever Cage gets crushed by a truck and in the next life, he remembers to stop first and let the truck pass him.
If you haven't watched Edge of Tomorrow yet, I strongly suggest you get a DVD or Blu-ray copy of it simply because it's a movie that I can assure you will enjoy. If you just want to have a good laugh, or if you want some quality science fiction, there's plenty of both to go around in the film. Just remember, we're not Cage, so live, try not to die, and repeat.