Episode 194: The Edge of Groundhog Day

July 9, 2014

194

Tom Cruise is back to join the Starship Troopers and help Incept Groundhog Day against Aliens in Edge of Tomorrow.

Okay, the above snarky, reductive synopsis makes Edge of Tomorrow sound like a crappy knock-off, it’s best bits cannibalized from of a handful of better films. Though you could argue that is technically accurate, it’s a description which doesn’t do the film justice—a film which is probably the last, best original science fiction film we’re going to get for a decade.

I do say “original” because though it borrows elements from other films, such as the rag-tag band of marines from Aliens, remember that the rag-tag band of marines from Aliens were an homage to classic war films like The Dirty Dozen. The seemingly unbeatable alien invaders in Starship Troopers weren’t a new concept when the book was written and absolutely old hat when the film was made. If there was an element of deja vu in Groundhog Day it was partially that the gimmick of time-loops was already an old standbyIf there are any wholly original concepts left in sci-fi, they haven’t cropped up in the past four or five decades so we shouldn’t criticize a film too harshly for not offering one up now.

And I say Edge of Tomorrow is the “last, best” sci-fi film we’ll see because, judging by the dismal box-office reports of Edge of Tomorrow‘s opening weekend, audiences have guaranteed we’ll only see reboots and superhero movies until people stop going to see those too. Eventually it will probably find a word-of-mouth audience on Netflix (which I imagine is of little interest to the studios) and in time will become a sort of sci-fi action classic alongside AliensThe Matrix, District 9 and Inception—but without making the studios the kind of bank those films did. For now it’s being painted as the biggest genre bomb since Waterworld.

Which is too bad since it’s the antithesis of Waterworld—a true turkey which bombed because it was an actively, aggressively, unapologetically terrible film. Something audiences don’t seem to care about as long as the words “Star Trek” or “Marvel” or “DC” are attached to the title.

So when I call it the last, best original science fiction film, it’s being measured by a bar set dishearteningly low.

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