For many movie goers out there, the summer movie season kicked off in the spring with Captain America: the Winter Soldier in April. Followed by other films such as Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent, the summer season has been hitting audiences hard with thrills, chills, and spills. But like a prize pugilist in peak condition, the hits just keep coming with Edge of Tomorrow debuting in America this week.
For some, this movie appears to be nothing more than a sci-fi action buffer (ala Battle of Los Angeles) for Tom Cruise (Minority Report, Mission Impossible, Oblivion) and his collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (Valkyrie, Jack Reacher) while they wait for the next Mission Impossible sequel on the horizon. However, just as Godzilla successfully came out of left field, Japan gives us another interesting story in the form of Edge of Tomorrow.
Edge of Tomorrow is actually based on a light novel published in 2004 called All You Need is Kill written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and co-creator/illustrator Yoshihito Abe. The book garnered praise and became Sakurazaka’s breakaway hit by clenching Japan’s equivalent of the Nebula Award (The Seinun). The literary success in Japan soon got the attention of mangaka (comic book creators) who yearned to adapt the book into a comic for others to enjoy. Since the original light novel was published by Shueisha, it put the book right within grasp of its manga division known for publishing many hits like Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball, and One Piece among others. Due to the content of All You Need is Kill, it was published in Weekly Young Jump where it would cement itself in history among many other seinen (mature) titles that at one point headlined the magazine such as Gantz, B Gata H Kei, Mad Bull 34, and Zetman. The manga adaptation was handled by the team of Ryosuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata (Death Note and Bakuman). As the manga and the light novel attracted more fans in Japan, two entities realized there was an opportunity for this story to gain traction outside of Japan: Viz Media, the well known U.S. Distributor of Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, and Sailor Moon, and Warner Bros., a premiere movie conglomerate that is no stranger to success. While Viz Media began distributing All You Need is Kill in its light novel and manga forms (even allowing an American graphic novel adaptation by Lee Ferguson, Fajaa Burna, and Zack Turner to be released), Warner Bros. purchased the rights to the novel as early as 2009 and worked on the production since 2012 (The initial name of the film was All You Need is Kill until corporate concern over the negative connotations of the name led to renaming the film Edge of Tomorrow).
The original story (All of You Need is Kill) is about Keiji Kiriya, a young military recruit who just joined the United Defense Force in the epic fight for humanity against the mysterious Mimics, alien creatures who managed to annihilate the earth within mere minutes of their arrival. As the battle takes his life, he finds himself back in his barracks twenty-four hours before his demise. This phenomenon begins to occur repeatedly, causing concern and confusion for Keiji as he finds himself in a time loop of death and resurrection at each turn against the monstrous Mimics. Aided by a U.S. Special Forces soldier who knows his suffering, Rita Vrataski, and a host of others, Keiji must find a way to save the earth before it’s too late. Edge of Tommorrow retains Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt) and Ferrell Bartolome (Bill Paxton) from the original source material, but Keiji is given an American counterpart for the protagonist role in the form of William Cage (Cruise). He is not the only character given that particular treatment.
Despite the casting (which has been labeled as white washing), this production bolsters a relatively good budget ($178 million) and the team of Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper) as its director and Christopher McQuarrie on script duty. Some are hoping that Edge of Tomorrow stays fairly true to its source material despite the casting while detractors want to see it die in a fire for not being faithful in every aspect, including casting. Tom Cruise coming into a military sci-fi action movie after Oblivion is perfect for him given the similar grim setting and tone. The action in Edge of Tomorrow (taken from the pages of All of You Need is Kill) features the battle suits helmed by the heroes in a very solid manner, but whether the action scenes stand out compared to films like Elysium, Oblivion, Robocop (2014) or the Marvel movies remains a big question that will be answered soon. Edge of Tomorrow has an excellent foundation with high caliber source material and a very keen collection of talented actors, but whether Liman and McQuarrie can find a balance between Sakurazaka’s original work and their own will have to be answered by the box office, the critics, and most importantly, the fans.