by Brenda W. Clough
Oh, the pleasures of a summer action movie! There is nothing like checking your brain at the door and just letting it rip. Edge of Tomorrow touches all the necessary bases for success. Bloodless violence! Combat armor! Alien invasion! Enough of an intellectually challenging premise to keep the high foreheads distracted, while all the explosions and blazing guns distract the children! Time travel is a classic hardy perennial device for this, and Edge of Tomorrow stands in excellent company with Looper and Source Code . It is distinctly more enjoyable (at least for me — YMMV) than last year’s attempt at this, Pacific Rim — fewer insults to my intelligence.
But now, tomorrow morning, I can pick up my brain again from the coat check and analyze what this kind of movie has to have and what it has to omit, in 2014. We are now well settled into the trope of the powerful female co-star. The hero doesn’t rescue the blonde any more — she blows him away with her shoulder cannon instead. However, she is always the co-star. Look at the movie poster, up there in the corner of this post. Who is bigger and to the front? Not her. In this Gravity was excitingly unusual. In line with this, although you do get tank tops and snug garments, you no longer get the gratuitous T&A of the past. The sexuality of the heroine is now subtle instead of overt. And I assure you that Tom Cruise’s hunky star power is quite notable in this film and is of equivalent attractiveness — he can still do that charming roguish twinkle a treat, and we should enjoy it. We progress!
You remember movies like The Dirty Dozen or Ocean’s Eleven? Where the group of criminals, or the platoon, or whatever, always has its token black guy, its token geek, its token big dumb lug, its token red-headed Irishman? I note, with mild pleasure, that now you have to have your token chick, too! Cruise’s platoon looks like my daughter’s — the women are just part of the force. And this one is not the cute mascot or coffee fetcher, any more than they are in the US Army. Very good, Hollywood!
The other thing that seems to be essential these days is aliens. The days are gone, when we could fight Ulysses Grant or Nazis or Japs on the screen. The antagonist has to be faceless or not human — even purely mechanical and physical forces, as in Gravity. I am sorry to report that in Edge of Tomorrow these are your usual spidery scary extraterrestrials that do not stand up to common sense. (Why do spacefaring aliens need to fight a ground war in the north of France? Kaiser Wilhelm is running their strategy?) However, this is a perpetual fail and nobody seems to be able to crack this nut, so we must accept it as a blind spot in the film industry. All in all this is a thoroughly enjoyable film!
The ebook version of my novel How Like a God is now available from Book View Cafe.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out from Book View Café.