Monday, 20 October 2014

On "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014)

This was surprisingly watchable. Also referred to as "Live Die Repeat", an even more literal tag line would have been: Groundhog  D-day  Troopers. Of course, the slapstick death humour didn't match Bill Murry's demises, but the budget saw much more realistic mech suits than Marauder and the movie actually launched on the day of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings  (in the US, anyway).

With the aforementioned elements grafted onto Tom Cruise, it was a sure fire win. He has been the figurehead for a number of fairly decent (and half decent) sci-fi flicks: "Minority Report" (2002), "Oblivion" (2013) and "Vanilla Sky" (2001). Mr 'TECH SUPPORT!', from the latter (Noah Taylor) reappeared as a tech enabling plot device in this year's film.

This trove of elements was hung upon the frame of "All You Need Is Kill", a 2004 'light novel' in Japanese. Translated and later adapted to a graphic novel for the American market, released just before the film.
Obviously films, like all stories, are most effective when tweaked for their intended audience. It's not surprising that the (perhaps stereotypically) nihilistic ending was replace with Hollywood saccharine. But it's a little sad that this became a WW2 V2.0 tale with the eastern hemisphere of the world entirely ignored. (Is Japan a somewhat toxic topic in this context, for Americans?)

It probably doesn't bode too well for the preservation of Ghost in the Shell's cultural context in the upcoming remake. I mean, is it really likely that Scarlett Johansson will return to the setting of her break-out role in "Lost if Translation" (2003) with a Japanese name?

Computer games: cast a long shadow these days and there's a distinct similarity between the film's power assist exoskeleton suites and (the box art for) the upcoming 11th (!) installment of the top selling FPS franchise: "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" (perhaps Elysium led the trend here).

Less superficially, the plot embodies the try, fail, rinse & repeat mechanic inherent in pretty much all video gaming. The comic comments on this, referring to how Samurai were able to dispatch enemies so capably: they killed and lived. It explicitly rejects the similarity to (leveling up, via grind, in) computer gaming.

Indeed, the real world situation that Cage (Keiji Kiriya, originally) finds himself in would surely be equivalent to the most unforgivingly fiendish platformer imaginable; flawless split second timing to avoid losing an entire day's progress. The movie gives the impression of linear, purely tactical  progress. Parts are difficult to solve, but then they're in the bag.

In reality, top notch speedrun gurus perpetually make little mistakes, even during record breaking successes. For most casual players it can take several dozen re-tries just to reach a previous furthest progress a second time. "Super Meat Boy" (2010) actually made a rewarding feature of repeated failure by showing an epic replay (after you win a level) of all your myriad attempts simultaneously splatting to a halt like a firework display of blood. But in this game each play through is only a couple dozen second long, at most.
But then if I'm being critical, the plot is predicated on a mind body dualism where all his injury (and mental fatigue) is reset, while his episoding and 'muscle memory' is not...

Nitpicking (Spoilers)I've no idea why the film retained the name 'mimics' (for the aliens); it seemed totally out of place, given a lack of any explanation for it. But the aliens were genuinely scary and capable looking. In fact, when coupled with their ability to reset time on a whim, their need for subterfuge (tricking the human military into thinking they might win) seemed rather unnecessary. They could just have swarmed across the globe willy nilly, as when they attacked, en-mass, up the Thames, in one time loop.

A more glaring flaw is the clip of Major Cage announcing on TV that "Operation Downfall is going to be the largest mechanised invasion in the history of mankind."... and then they're shocked by the beach welcome party!

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