Sunday, June 8, 2014

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow

So there is no confusion, this is not a review: it is a postmortem.

It's not uncommon for a movie to falter at the domestic box office. What makes Edge of Tomorrow notable is that it was a great movie. But it was a great movie passed its time; a film released too late. It offers a product that no longer interests the American public, and the results were quite brutal.

Thanks to the film's time-loop gimmick, Tom Cruise was able to die dozens of times in Edge of Tomorrow. But that's make-believe: in reality, summer movies are only given a single life. And Edge of Tomorrow died at the box office in less than three days.

Having seen the movie, it's not difficult to understand why. Edge of Tomorrow was very good, but it wasn't summer blockbuster material. The movie was exciting, funny, clever, and entertaining. It was, in fact, more exciting, funnier, more clever, and more entertaining than anything I've seen since Winter Soldier. But it wasn't really anything new, nor was it particularly big. I'm using "big" in its most literal sense, by the way - the aliens were physically small compared to the monstrous creatures we're used to. If these distinctions seem superficial, it is only because you're paying attention. There's nothing this movie lacks that successful summer movies have that isn't superficial in nature.

Compare Edge of Tomorrow with Godzilla. Edge of Tomorrow was a better movie in almost every respect. It was better written, more suspenseful, and far funnier. As an action movie - ignoring everything else - the prize still goes to Edge of Tomorrow.

And yet, if you were come to me and tell me you were going to see one of these movies in the theater and one on DVD, I'd tell you to go watch Godzilla. While Edge of Tomorrow was a far better movie, it's less relevant. Godzilla offers some novel effects and design work. The aliens in Edge of Tomorrow were extremely cool, but we've seen things like them dozens of times.

That doesn't mean Edge of Tomorrow isn't worth seeing in the theaters. The action was great, and only some of that will translate to the small screen. If you have the opportunity to see this before it leaves the theaters, you should do so. But it's certainly not mandatory.

Also, you'll want to go soon.

For better or worse, this wasn't a summer movie. Which begs the question, why release it in June? This would have made a lot more money in spring or fall. The simple fact is Tom Cruise can't compete with giant monsters, superheroes, or dark fairies. This time of the year, audience expectations are dictated by spectacle, not strong structures and witty dialogue.

This was a great science fiction action/comedy. It's a lot of fun and is absolutely worth seeing. But if anyone at Warner Bros. still thought Cruise's name was sufficient to sell tickets in June, they just got a much-needed reality check. This isn't 1996, and this kind of film - no matter how good - can't compete in the summer.