Review: Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman, 2014)

Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as a soldier who gets caught in a time loop and finds himself living the same day over and over again. This gives much of the film a feeling of déjà vu, which is only fitting, since many elements in this film are reminiscent of other movies, from the battle scenes of Saving Private Ryan and Starship Troopers to the mechanical suits of Iron Man and Aliens and the endless time loops in Groundhog Day and Source Code. You might spend much of this new film thinking that you’ve seen it all before.

Indeed, Tom Cruise has been in the movie-star business for so long that his latest film feels at times like a callback to earlier Tom Cruise movies. Even the fact that it’s a bit of a pastiche seems like a replay of earlier pastiches, not least because Edge of Tomorrow is the second consecutive film of his — following last year’s Oblivion, which borrowed from many other films itself — in which the Earth is attacked by aliens and Cruise becomes the only man who can do anything about it.

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After Earth isn’t great, but it’s not that bad, honestly.

The performances in M. Night Shyamalan’s films have often had a stilted, solemn quality, and Will Smith’s performance in After Earth is no exception. There are a couple reasons for the woodenness this time, though.

First, the story is set in the distant future, a thousand years after humanity has fled the Earth — more on that in a moment — and it stands to reason that speech patterns might have changed in the interim. Indeed, according to co-writer Gary Whitta, the filmmakers “worked with a dialect coach to come up with an original accent, because the idea of the characters speaking with an American accent or a British accent one thousand years in the future, after you’ve left Earth, would seem kind of preposterous.”

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Gods from outer space: the good, the bad and the silly

“He’ll be a god to them.” So says Jor-El, the father of Superman, as he sends his son to Earth in the latest trailer for Man of Steel.

In the immediate context, Jor-El seems to be referring primarily to the fact that his son will have powers that the other residents of Earth will not. But his voice-over, later in the trailer, goes on to speak in even more elevated terms of Superman as someone who will give humanity “an ideal to strive towards,” thereby allowing humans to “join [him] in the sun.” Lois Lane adds to the mythology, as it were, by noting that some people think of Superman as a “guardian angel”.

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Some of the many sci-fi films that Oblivion borrows from.

It’s difficult to review a movie like Oblivion. The film is such a wide-ranging pastiche of existing science-fiction movies that you spend most of your time thinking not about what’s actually in the film, nor about what any of it might “mean”, but of all the other movies that this movie reminds you of.

So, here are the movies that came to my mind during or immediately after my first viewing of Oblivion. Maybe, if I see the film a second time, I will find all the inter-textual references less distracting and will be able to focus on the movie for its own sake. Oh, and be warned: there are lots and lots of spoilers below.

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