'Edge of Tomorrow' is movie-making as collage

By Jeff Wattrick, Managing Editor, jwattrick@wdiv.com
Published On: Jun 04 2014 08:43:13 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 06 2014 11:05:06 AM EDT

Truly, everything has been done before.

Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” is really just “The Odyssey,” with Dean Moriarty standing in for Odysseus and his father -- "Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found” -- being the proverbial home sought by our wandering hero.

It is with that reality in mind that we must consider Tom Cruise’s new action-adventure movie “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Yes, this movie really is “Groundhog Day” meets “Independence Day.” 

Everything has been done before.

For those who haven’t checked out the synopsis on IMDB.com, Cruise plans a military PR officer who pisses off the wrong general, gets busted down to private, and sent to join a D Day-like invasion of France, which is occupied by an alien invader. Cruise's character is repeatedly killed in battle only to begin the day again, a little wiser about the enemy.

So, in reality, it is “Groundhog Day” meets “Independence Day” meets “Saving Private Ryan.”

Well, except the good guys storming the beach are wearing bio-armor attack suits and the aliens, called "Mimics" are these weird arachnid-looking creatures that can tunnel underground.

It's really “Groundhog Day” meets “Independence Day” meets “Saving Private Ryan” meets “Robocop” meets “Tremors” -- with some “A Few Good Men” for good measure. Seriously.

In "Edge," Cruise plays a military bureaucrat just going through the motions until he’s pressed into real service by a tough, earnest female sidekick (Emily Blunt). Just like he did in "A Few Good Men."All that's missing is Lt. Weinberg.

Anyway, if I’m portraying “Edge of Tomorrow” as ridiculous, that’s because it is. In the hands of Zucker Brothers (Airplane!) or Will Ferrell, this script could have evolved into the greatest meta-parody ever.

“Edge of Tomorrow” isn’t a terrible movie, really. But when you combine so many obvious elements from some of the most cherished films of the last 25 years (“Tremors,” also) you better make a masterpiece.

This movie certainly was not a masterpiece.

The biggest flaw with "Edge" is the absolute lack of back story about the alien invasion. They don’t even try.

We don’t know what the Mimics want, how or when they arrived, or why they’ve chosen France as their base of operations. It occurs to me as I write this that I’m not entirely sure the Mimics were from outer space or underground or created by some freak nuclear experiment on spiders.

In one scene, old Brits in a London pub are speculating why these creatures, called “Mimics” for some reason, are attacking Earth. Cruise shouts them down, claiming such details don’t matter. One imagines a temperamental screenwriter having this exact conversation with frustrated Hollywood execs demanding back story.

“Independence Day” offered the aliens-as-parasites motive for the invasion. Even Powers Boothe kind of explained why the Russians attacked that hick Colorado town in “Red Dawn.” Knowing why we have to fight the bad guys is kind of important to story structure.

And, whereas the variety of action made the repetition of the day compelling in “Groundhog Day,” it became tedious rather quickly here. Bill Murray surprised us with his daily re-adventures. Cruise does not. We’ve seen training-for-battle montages before and the deju vu gimmick added little.

That said, the hows and the whys of Cruise’s repeated reincarnations are explained in a way plausible in the context of a summer flick about alien invasion. The battle scenes were compelling, as is acting. Say what you will about Cruise's seemingly odd personal life, the man can act.

"Edge of Tomorrow's" saving grace is its humor. Even when the story dragged, the film made the audience laugh. For an action movie, the comedic dialogue was clever.

The filmmakers avoided any temptation to give us yet another summer-blockbuster catch phrase. There were plenty of opportunities here for a “diplomatic immunity … has just been revoked” moments in this movie, but thankfully, they were all left on the table in favor of more natural humor. 

In the end, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a perfectly serviceable summer flick if you just want to sit in a theater with an $11 tub of popcorn and watch, like, 72 sci-fi battle scenes.

If that isn’t your bag, well, you still might enjoy "Edge" as a basic cable film some lazy Sunday afternoon between next year's Super Bowl and March Madness.

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