It’s January, normally a cold and wet time for us in the southland, the opposite for those like the Scientist Gone Wordy who live in the southern hemisphere. The (nearly) last day in January means it’s time once more to restart the parallel post series of ours, the longest running series I’ve ever been involved with as a blogger.
Again taking on a pair of literary and cinema works that share an interconnection. Per our custom, my colleague Rachel will examine and review the pages of a book later adapted to film, which I will critique. Like last year, we’re kicking it off with one of the two reader selections introduced to this series by last month’s voting.
My partner will assess a superb work of military science fiction by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, titled オール・ユー・ニード・イズ・キル. AKA Ōru Yū Nīdo Izu Kiru, or All You Need Is Kill to westerners. Published in 2004, the small novel, with illustrations by Yoshitoshi ABe, was as weighty as the preferred battle axe its protagonists wield to mow down Mimics. The alien creatures invading our world. A breakthrough work that went on to be reproduced in English, as a Japanese Manga, an American graphic novel, and, of course, a film adaptation, which inglorious wouldn’t use the book’s moniker.
So strap on your mechanized jacket folks, you’ll need it. The wordy one’s book review can be found here:
A brief synopsis of the film: An extraterrestrial species has landed on Earth and proceeds to do what it does best. Conquer the planet. After a rare victory, the PR face of the war, one Major William Cage, is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission with the upcoming Normandy invasion planned. That he’s an officer who has never seen a day of combat matters not. Neither was it very surprising he’s killed mere minutes into the battle.
The shock was the enemy ambush waiting that annihilates everyone, but somehow Cage wakes to relive his worst day ever. Inexplicably, forced to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again…and again. Realizing he’s been thrown into a time loop. Alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski who’s already been down this road before him, they’re left to figure a way out of the loop and defeat an enemy who can reset the day and know the future.
[spoiler warning: some key elements of the film could be revealed in this review]
“Battle is the Great Redeemer. It is the fiery crucible in which true heroes are forged. The one place where all men truly share the same rank, regardless of what kind of parasitic scum they were going in.“
I don’t know what it is about time-travel. The idea of it has a magical property, like fairy dust, for science-fiction fans to throw themselves completely into. Get caught up in the minutiae of timelines and what ifs, and just get all giddy and persnickety about outcomes. Novelists and film or television screenwriters must know this for they’ve served it up for decades, and we’ve consumed and picked apart their plotting and logic equally. All for a subject none of us really know if we can ever do. I’m as guilty as the next person.
Every year summer movies come and go, what the U.S. film industry has sharpened itself to do (and let’s face it, does quite well at times) while stifling originality within the risk-averse studio system we moviegoers have come to anticipate…and somewhat revile. We know what we’ll get. Big explosions and dazzling computer effects, and likely dodgy storylines producers hope will be overlooked by patrons of such fare while they tabulate the box office numbers coming in. We are legion.
But sometimes, they deliver on that promise…even if the marketing isn’t any good1…as was the case for the mistitled sci-fi blockbuster, Edge of Tomorrow.
One more futuristic extravaganza fueling Tom Cruise’s mid-career resurgence — certainly worked for Charlton Heston during the ’60s and ’70s, now didn’t it — that was not totally derivative (yeah, I’m looking at you Oblivion). Actually, it was fun and kinda original. No doubt helped by a return to form for director Doug Liman helming the project, back following through with an actioner that has an indies’ beating heart for its characters (à la The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith).
Don’t get me wrong when I say “kinda original”. Edge of Tomorrow (something that reeks of a studio exec’s idea of clever) used the same storytelling method of 1993’s Groundhog’s Day2, even a bit of Duncan Jones’ more recent Source Code. Give screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie3, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth credit for maintaining the amount of humor this did, which lightened some of the darker aspects of Sakurazaka’s tale that envisioned the short lives of those Master Sgt. Farrell described as:
“Tip of the spear. Edge of the blade.”
The 1992 Star Trek TNG episode, Cause and Effect, also came to mind for its time looping rigmarole.
Still, both the novel and adaptation proved remarkable, though obviously a bit repetitive. The author picked up on facets more in tune with video gamers4 dying regularly on virtual battlefields (don’t look at me, I’ve only Donkey Kong worldliness to fall back on). Growing ever sharper and proficient at each level they reach. Juxtaposed with the time loop yarns mentioned furthered his story into an altogether different encounter by the tale’s grunts. All while lamenting the grimness of warfare by their ever wasteful deaths.
Filmmakers retasked their version of “All You Need Is Kill” away from Japan, giving it an otherworldly homage coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the WWII D-Day landing for its “Operation Downfall”. That sequence, which the audience experiences in multiple variants tragic and uproarious, was rather overlooked, I think. As technically accomplished with that of Steven Spielberg’s unforgettable one for Saving Private Ryan, but without a similar degree of carnage5. We’re talking a PG-13 rated summer movie, here.
Not often are movie viewers greeted to a less than heroic character for our man Tom, at least, to start with. Even so, that was indeed more “…of a feature than a bug” for this unexpected outing. So, too, having the likes of Emily Blunt gracing the battleground as the
“Angel of Verdun” Full Metal Bitch went well beyond the call of duty. Like J-squad, you’d march into Hell with her. No question, going against gender stereotype more than a blessing here. Never bad to have British support when it comes to war, either.
“…two minutes to drop, it’s alright to be scared. Remember, there is no courage without fear.”
The mix of American, Brit-Irish, and Aussie cast members paid dividends. Unlike most U.S. blockbusters, side characters got a chance to bloom, albeit briefly. Brendan Gleeson (buttressing Cruise again after his MI2, Far and Away collaborations), Jonas Armstrong, Lara Pulver, Tony Way, and the great Bill Paxton. Here channeling Sgt. Apone rather than his Pvt. Hudson from Aliens. Repeatedly fulfilling their grist-for-the-mill roles with a verve more in sync with an “indie” perspective for those in support.
All while building a world…Hell, a take-no-prisoners scenario amid the mind-boggling time-travel rules everyone expects for this sub-genre of sci-fi, to pull in viewers tired of the same old thing studios have heaped on us damn near every summer.
Yeah, once more we’re given a chance to see Cruise do his “Tom Cat” antics of performing his own stunts that belie his age, or conventional thinking. You just have to go with it…no matter what my wife thinks. Besides, a decade has passed since his couch-jumping days. Moreover, Edge of Tomorrow‘s action pieces and special effects were for once exemplary without drawing too much attention away from a storyline more interesting than they (though significantly altered from its source6).
Something which also distinguished it from others that season.
“What I am about to tell you sounds crazy but the longer I talk the more rational it’s going to appear.”
Perhaps, this an offhand indictment of what the public has been primed for by Hollywood studios. From those who only learned from the ’70s to grind out template blockbusters instead of clever and authentic cinema the era was really known for. Luckily for us, Edge of Tomorrow was one of the strongest sci-fi films to come down the pike in many a year. Not prototypical like too many of today’s offerings, with some humor and sympathy amidst its intense spectacle, and an underrated performance by Cruise, Blunt and cast.
Ironically, mimicking the best aspects of the film that started our Duo Post series in the first place, Minority Report, and no one had to rescue Matt Damon…again.
Parallel Post Series
- Early box office was lukewarm in the U.S., however good word-of-mouth in the coming weeks and success overseas eventually brought good returns for distributor Warner Bros. and the film’s backers. ↩
- Some even marketed this as a cross between Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers. ↩
- Perhaps McQuarrie’s ideas here parlayed into getting the directorship of MI: Rogue Nation, and its future MI 6 sequel, with Tom Cruise. ↩
- Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s early career in IT comes through in the novel with references to the Mimics’ “Antennas and Servers”, which screenwriters dropped for their “Alpha and an Omega” scheme with the film’s aliens. ↩
- Cruise’s face for his first death as Bill Cage, care of the Alpha’s blood, the graphic exception. ↩
- The novel’s ending is drastically different than that of the movie, but this wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood sought a more triumphant finale, one that involved both lead characters surviving, now would it? ↩