What kind of title is Edge of Tomorrow? If I told you two movies, one called Edge of Tomorrow and one called The Fault in Our Stars, were both released the same day, and you didn’t know the plots or cast or crew or anything other than the titles, would you even be able to tell which one’s a romantic melodrama and which one’s a sci-fi action film? Now if Edge of Tomorrow were called All You Need is Kill, the significantly more awesome title of the Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka on which it’s based, THEN you could probably guess.
Yet on some level, I can understand the desire to have a different title from the book, because it’s a very loose adaptation, keeping the basic premise but going in a different direction in terms of character and theme. It might be one of the rare cases where the film adaptation manages to surpass the source material. The biggest difference is in the main character. In the book, it’s a Japanese teenager. In the movie, it’s… Tom Cruise. It’d be stupid to try to fit Tom Cruise into the Japanese teenager role, so Christopher McQuarrie’s script and Doug Liman’s film doesn’t. Cruise isn’t some amazing actor, but he has a lot of energy and a skill for comedy, both of which this movie takes great advantage of.
Where the book was the sort of child soldier ironic tragedy common to sci-fi manga, the movie goes for a more Hollywood (but not in a bad way!) redemption arc. Cruise’s William Cage is a pathetic coward at the start of the film, forced by circumstance and the training of Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski to become a hero. Refreshingly, his path to heroism doesn’t require Rita to ever be put into the damsel in distress role. He doesn’t surpass her, but rather rises to her standards as a team.
The action-Groundhog Day premise might seem similar to Duncan Jones’ Source Code on paper, but the two films are very different. Source Code is to Edge of Tomorrow as Dark City is to The Matrix: both pairs of films deal with similar themes but in different modes, hard twisty sci-fi versus light video game-like escapism. Edge joins The Matrix, Scott Pilgrim, Inception, and Wreck-It Ralph in the genre of clever video game-inspired movies that just aren’t based on actual games. It’s easy to see where it’s going once the plot’s in motion, but it gets there with a lot of humor and panache.