Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014 by David Chen
Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow is out in theaters now and it’s one of my favorite films of the year (see Germain’s review here). But if you were like me and many other film critics, you might’ve found that ending to be a wee bit lacking on a variety of fronts.
Let’s talk about why Edge of Tomorrow had a terrible ending for an otherwise great film. SPOILERS follow.
First, a quick primer: The film ends as Rita and Cage crash into the Louvre, with Rita being killed by an Alpha and Cage swimming downwards to win the day by dropping grenades into the Omega. When the Omega is killed, all the other mimics perish along with it. However, underneath the water, some tentacles/alien blood thingies (???) reach up and latch onto Cage, and we see him re-animate for an instant before, all of a sudden…
Cage awakens in the past again, only this time, it’s even further back than he’s used to. However, he’s not just reset the day to an earlier point an time, but an earlier point in time at which the mimics are still dead. Cage finds Rita and the two meet, perhaps for the “first” time, as the film cuts to credits.
How did we get here? Edge of Tomorrow was based on a novel called All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sazurazaka. That book was turned into a script by Dante Harper that made it onto the 2010 edition of The Black List (I’ve read the Harper script and it ends on a considerably more somber note). After Warner Bros. acquired the script, massive rewrites ensued, first by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, then later by Simon Kinberg, and finally Christopher McQuarrie.
According to the LATimes, Edge of Tomorrow’s bumpy development may help explain why the ending feels random, tonally inconsistent, and tacked on: The film went into production without a finished script.
Here are my problems with the way this movie ends:
1) It makes no damn sense - The film plays it kind of fast and loose with its time travel mechanics. Why does Cage go back further in time with the final time jump? There’s a plausible explanation, in that since the Omega is killed before the beach battle, it would jump Cage back further back in time than we’ve seen it happen before.
Okay, but even if you’re willing to accept the fact that the Omega blood wants to mix with Cage’s, thus giving him time powers again and jumping him back in time earlier than previous instances, why would the aliens still be dead in the final timeline? The whole point of the Omega time-reset is to allow the subject to prevent the events of the original timeline. If that’s true, everything should be the same, except for Cage’s memory of events.
2) It destroys all the stakes that the film expertly built up - The most chilling moment in the film for me is when Cage awakens in the hospital, his blood replaced. “I can’t reset the day,” he explains to Rita. Instantly, the stakes are raised. Throughout the whole film, we’ve witnessed many characters die repeatedly, often with comedic results. Cage and Rita could mess up their day with reckless abandon, but we could always count on a reset if things got too messy — or even if they just got inconvenient, as Rita demonstrates by repeatedly executing Cage during training.
The final attack sequence on the Louvre thus has a special significance: any death will be permanent. I was riveted by this sequence and acutely felt the loss of every death. I even bought that romantic moment between Cage and Rita — after we’ve seen them endure so much together, I can buy that she would understand their profound connection.
[Side note, btw: Whatever happened with Rita’s middle name? That reveal happened in such a spectacular fashion that it felt like a missed opportunity for it not to come into play again in the end. Cage couldn’t drop it at a key moment to earn some trust?]
So it was disappointing that shortly after the movie had jacked the stakes up an almost unbearable amount, everything is reset, but with a convenient way to make all of Cage’s efforts still worth it in the end. It’s just plain cheap.
3) It strikes the wrong tone - One of the pleasures of the film is watching Cage’s struggle on his journey towards being a super-soldier. Cage begins the film as a weak-willed Major unwilling to face the horrors of battle. Over many repeated days, we see him not only become a skilled soldier, but one who is willing to sacrifice life and limb to save humanity. He goes from being a quasi-despicable character to a ridiculously noble one. I can’t help but feel like a more somber ending would have been more appropriate for Cage’s journey.
It feels like the filmmaker/studio just didn’t want to end on a down note, but in doing so, they negate some of the formidable character work that has already been achieved.
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