Month: October 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

So,  I recently watched the movie, “The Edge of Tomorrow”.   It was excellent!  If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now.  Come back afterwards because there are SPOILERS ahead.

 

Ok, now that you’ve watched the movie, what did you think?  The obvious comparison is to to the movie, "Groundhog Day”, where the main character starts out as a self centered, jaded jerk, but gradually learns to appreciate other people. However, I think an interesting way to think about this movie is in terms of what makes a hero and what is courage.

Major William Cage seems to fit into the mold of the trickster hero. He starts out as a smooth operator who things that he will be able to talk his way out of anything—including an assignment to cover a major battle against the aliens—from the front lines. He learns that it is not possible and is knocked out and finds himself busted down to a new recruit thrown into battle with no training. He quickly dies, but is bathed in alien blood which somehow confers on him the ability to relive the same day over and over. During this episode, he meets the legendary warrior, Rita Vrataski, though it takes some time before he even learns her name.

In the beginning, he is clearly not a warrior. Master Sergeant Farrell tells him,

"You’re a coward and a liar putting your life above theirs. The good news is there’s hope for you, private. Hope in the form of glorious combat. Battle is the great redeemer. The fire and crucible in which the only true heroes are forged. The one place where all men truly share the same rank, regardless of what kind of parasitic scum their were going in. … I envy you, Cage. Tomorrow morning you will be baptized — born again.”

Initially, we take the Sergeant’s words as empty, but gradually, Cage begins to train himself as a warrior and after meeting up with Vrataski, he is trained by her. Dying time after time, he gradually learns to be a warrior. After he gains more proficiency, he at Vrataski set out to try to reach what they believe to be the location of the “Omega” which is the alien which apparently controls all of the others. If the Omega is destroyed, then the invasion will fail. However, I would argue that it isn’t until he stops fighting one time and escapes to London and watches it being invaded by the aliens that he finds something worth fighting for and truly starts walking along the path of the hero. There’s also a point where he hits a wall and in a very touching farm scene reveals that his mentor and friend Vrataski can’t make it any farther. That no matter what he tries, she dies (I would argue that she is a true hero where she puts the lives of others ahead of hers—even though she can’t get close to other people after watching someone she loves die over and over and over again, unable to save them…). Finally, he makes the conclusion that he has to proceed on his own (these two characters show an interesting variation of the American Lone Hero archetype) and discovers the whole mission was a trap.

Later, he finds that he needs to recover a device from the general in order to discover the true plans of the Omega. He succeeds, but loses his ability to loop through time and becomes mortal again. I would argue that this is when he truly becomes a hero. He gathers a team and they decide that they will try to destroy the alien Omega, even though it’s likely to be a one way mission. After their companions heroically sell their lives to help the others advance, Cage and Vrataski enter the alien stronghold. Finally, one of them has to face an “Alpha”, while the other detonates the Omega. Cage feels protective towards Vrataski, and offers to attack the Alpha, but she tells him that neither of them will survive…He realizes this and still proceeds.

Let’s stop here. At this point, Cage believes that he can kill the alien Omega and save humanity, but he will have to die to do it. So will Vrataski, who he has feelings for. Beyond that, he will never be recognized for his bravery. People may never know that it was his mission that led to the alien defeat—likely, he will simply be remembered as a coward and a deserter. Yet, despite this, he does the right thing and sacrifices himself and wins, destroying the Omega.

Afterwards, there are scenes showing that humanity is saved. I think this would have been a great place to stop. He became a hero—he faced his fears, found a cause worth dying for and protected humanity. It reminds me in some ways of Gladiator—a movie with the courage to allow the main character to succeed, but also to die. “Ghost Dog” was another excellent film in which the main character succeeds, but also dies. Instead, I think the movie decides to go with the typical hollywood feel good ending by resurrecting Cage one more time, but this time still in his role as a major, rather than in disgrace (which means that he is leapt back further in time than before—huh?) and to show him meeting Vrataski with the implication that he believes he has a chance to rekindle the possibility of a relationship with her in this version of the timeline that he wasn’t able to realize before.

I think it would have been far more powerful to have him die a forgotten hero, along with the rest of his team. It would have been tragic, but made the point that sometimes, success may mean that you don’t get a happy ending for yourself. That even if there is no personal reward, you still do the right thing—with your only reward being the knowledge that you succeeded and did the right thing—even if no one else will ever know about it.

Posted by william in movies, 0 comments