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The Edge of Tomorrow is the best videogame film so far.

March 11, 2015

Having seen the Robocop remake in the past week, I finally got what some film critics mean when they say that films can descend into a videogame.  I thought I would repost a piece originally written for about The Edge of Tomorrow, an example of taking videogame story construction and using it the medium of film well.

edge-of-tomorrow cover imageIn the world at large, when people talk about how ‘a film turned into a videogame’ it tends to be a derogatory comment. The idea being, that videogames are flash and no substance, too busy throwing pixels at the screen to engage in any kind of plot. Yet Edge of Tomorrow, in which Tom Cruise has to save the day by dying enough to gain the experience needed to defeat an alien menace, seems to realise this idea is rubbish. It’s just that videogames themselves have different narrative structures than some critics are used to.

There’s a theory in the videogame world that I’ve heard called ‘context through the mechanics of play’. This idea establishes that the act of playing the game itself, with the retries, rage quits and different ways of approaching solutions to each puzzle, creates a separate narrative between the player and the character on screen to the one provided by the game itself.

It’s why, for protagonists such as Samus Aran (created before cutscenes and plot written by professional writers became an established part of the industry) there are wildly different interpretations of who the character is, both between the players and developers themselves.

Edge of Tomorrow recognises this and uses its non traditional narrative to weave the tale of Cruises’ character slowly becoming a better person (you could argue there’s a big theme of Hinduism here, with Cage slowly reaching a state of Nirvana through his many lives) and in the process humanises the normally superhuman Cruise. As we see his fuck ups, we begin to see all the small little quirks that make a character recognizably human and relatable.

In the same way that we get to know (or rather, imbue) many a silent protagonist with characteristics through perseverance on tricky parts of a game, we see Cage come alive as he replays the same day, forced to think up of new strategies to extend the time between this death and the next. Edge of Tomorrow even mimics the rote learning of many a harder game, as he and Emily Blunt memorise patterns across a battlefield that will ensure they avoid it’s dangers.

As we spend more time with him we slowly peel back the layers of the selfish, cowardly man we met at the beginning of the film, until, finally accepting death, he emerges as someone at peace with himself. We see a fully realised person and in doing so, we glimpse that winning smile that has made Cruises’ career.

It’s the films very own end game screen. Cue credits.

Cover image courtesy of Warner Brothers.


From → Film, Reviews

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