Every year brings a science fiction film that is not part of a franchise. District 9, Elysium and this year's Jupiter's Ascending are such films. Sometimes these films make big money and become critically acclaimed, but sometimes they fade into obscurity after a couple of weeks and then when they release on DVD is when the masses begin to realize how great of a movie they are. (DREDD, though a franchise film, comes to mind.) Director Doug Liman's EDGE OF TOMORROW was last year's sci fi feature. Based on Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill (more of a unique title definitely) the film is on the surface an alien invasion story. It introduces a unique concept, but sadly that quickly becomes old. Tom Cruise delivers a mixed performance as the lead star, and throughout you'll be wondering, "So, what exactly are these aliens?" While definitely not mediocre, one is better off watching the 2005 WAR OF THE WORLDS, another Tom Cruise alien invasion story.
Here's the official description from Warner Bros.:
The epic action of "Edge of Tomorrow" unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again...and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.
The last major alien invasion was 2012's Battleship, which was the opposite of quality. What was the last "great"one? Sadly, nothing comes to mind right away. Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline are the more recent ones, but they can't be called "great." Fun maybe, but they wouldn't be in anyone's top 100 films of all time. I doubt Edge of Tomorrow would be there either. While better than Skyline and perhaps LA, this movie suffers from a thing known as wasted potential. The big selling point as seen prominently in the trailers is the concept of reliving a day. While definitely intriguing for an invasion story, it becomes more of a running gag during the middle, descending almost into being a comedy. The most exciting part is the battle in France against the aliens (called 'Mimics') but the film spends a great deal of time showcasing Cruise dying and coming back. Since the film's concept is based around that, it should be a focus; but it just isn't as engaging as the overall idea is.
Tom Cruise portrays William Cage, a public affairs officer who is sent into combat. His beginning appearance was very mediocre; instead of playing a character it appeared he was just playing himself in an army uniform. (Akin to almost every single Nicolas Cage movie.) He becomes more likable as the film progresses, but it's Emily Blunt's character, Rita Vrataski, who proves to be more interesting. (Though overall the writing could have been better for both.) For awhile there I was going to applaud the film for not shoehorning in a romance, since there's virtually no time for it in an end of the world scenario, but like most summer blockbusters, it appears, thankfully briefly. Besides these two, there are no other major characters worth mentioning. Most of the side characters act like this is part comedy or a parody of the military.
Most aliens sadly in these type of movies are very weak one-shots. There's some justification to call them that here, but at least they have a genuinely cool design and are very threatening. (Though since they move so fast it can be often hard to get a good look at them and appreciate their unique look.) The opening montage nicely establishes the terror of an invasion. Though, it must be said that if you hadn't seen the trailer, you wouldn't know it was an alien invasion until someone actually used the word alien. Still, one cannot deny the effectiveness of the intro. The problem is that these 'Mimics' are never truly explored. They only are explored in a little piece of dialogue by Dr. Carter, (who is also pretty underdeveloped) but it just isn't enough. Their goal isn't touched on, and they have virtually no personality to speak of. Basically, they're cool enemies to shoot at in a video game, but for a movie they remain vastly unexplored. If the main characters had been better written, maybe this would have been less of a problem. The film's soundtrack is pretty solid. Nothing great where you'll remember any of the themes afterward, but just about every theme works.
Overall, EDGE OF TOMORROW is not bad enough to be called mediocre, but isn't good enough be called very good. The two main characters aren't terrible, but Cage would have benefited from either another actor or better writing. The concept of "Live. Die. Repeat." might be interesting on paper, but it quickly becomes jarring since the more interesting thing, the battle against the aliens, keeps getting interrupted. The Mimics have a cool design and are genuinely threatening, but are vastly unexplored for being the film's antagonist. This is probably a movie that will fade away like Wrath of the Titans. (Though to be fair, this film is much better than that one.)