22 June 2014

"Edge of Tomorrow" Stuck in Yesterday


In Edge of Tomorrow, a video game character's ability to reset or "respawn" is a very apparent metaphor (and intentional, according to this Hollywood Reporter interview with director Doug Liman). It occurred to me that the movie's central question could be "What if you had to keep playing a video game until you won?", which at first sounds intriguing. But on second thought, wouldn't it be more poignant and memorable a movie if it made me think about things like reincarnation, resurrection, or succeeding in life? The metaphor inside a metaphor is a bit convoluted. More interesting to me is the premise of a villain that can respawn and learn from its mistakes, sort of like the robots in The Incredibles or maybe the artificial intelligence of the xenomorph in the upcoming game Alien: Isolation.

It was Incredibles director Brad Bird who first piqued my interest in this movie when he tweeted the following:

Sure, he may be biased, being a sci-fi aficionado and having directed EoT star Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol. Then again, he is also the writer/director of some of my favorite movies, including those mentioned, The Iron Giant, and Ratatouille. That, and I was intrigued by his calling EoT "original." He made a similar pitch for Gravity, another movie that won me over and that inspired the amateur film study on this blog.

While EoT is not a sequel or a reboot, it is an adaptation of a Japanese book called All You Need Is Kill, and therefore not original in the sense of a "new idea." Bird suffered a lot of Twitter backlash on this point and so clarified two days later that he knew it was a book adaptation and simply meant "original" as "first film."

Now having seen it, I have to call "foul" on interpreting originality so loosely. As a fan of retellings, I have no complaints about recycling old ideas; however, I personally felt a little betrayed by his and critics' praise for the film as something unexpected and fresh. I did enjoy it, but I kept waiting for the originality I'd paid for, wishing I could reset my expectations. Like Tom Cruise's character in the movie, it's only on the edge of tomorrow because it's still stuck in yesterday.

To demonstrate, the following are plot points or other elements from the movie that draw from existing films (spoilers follow):

31 May 2014

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" Review

I don't worry much about film adaptations staying loyal to their literary origins. Resemblance is one thing, but too literal translations strike me as boring and somewhat pointless. However, I do have a strange obsession with internal continuity.

Last November I reacted to a Days of Future Past announcement by listing ten (or X -- get it?) X-Men film franchise continuity problems and how they might try to fix them. My anticipation continued to build until the movie's release, and all the positive reviews that came out last week led me to believe my expectations would be fulfilled. Was I right? See the updated tables below (which contain spoilers).

But in the spirit of not obsessing over little things like continuity, here are the things I really liked about Days of Future Past (again, beware of spoilers):
  1. Singer's signature style (opening and closing monologues, Magneto prison break, Mystique being awesome, etc.).
  2. Quicksilver.
  3. The joke implying Magneto is Quicksilver's father (per the comics).
  4. The homage to Magneto ripping out Wolverine's adamantium in the comics.
  5. The futuristic frame story as a "ticking clock" device for conflict and tension.
  6. Blink. Well, pretty much all the future team members who die twice. But especially Blink.
  7. The fact that Anna Paquin's Rogue has only a very small cameo. (She was my favorite character as a kid but the movie version doesn't do her justice.)
  8. The return of James Marsden's Cyclops! (I'll admit I like the actor more than the character.)
A few things I didn't like:
  1. No return of Moira from First Class.
  2. We wait seven films for an actual fight with the Sentinels (the homage in Last Stand doesn't count) and Wolverine is stuck with lousy bone claws!
  3. The strange ending with Mystique as Stryker. What in the world was that about?
  4. The disappointingly cryptic post-credits Apocalypse teaser.
  5. And, of course, the continuity stuff...