Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Respawn

Just saw "Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow" starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. I'm a sci-fi buff and if its got aliens and explosions (and isn't something made by Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, McG or others on my no-watch-list), then I'm most likely watching it. So the fact that this was about  time-travel and had humans battling aliens in a War of the Worlds slug-fest had me ponying up the required time to watch this. Plus there was Emily Blunt. 

So how would I rate the movie? Entertaining. 

Does the plot make perfect sense? No. 

Is it enjoyable? Yep. 

Are there interesting bits about it? Sure. 

Are there niggles? Aplenty. 

Would I recommend others to watch this movie? 
Given the plot-less insipid pabulum that we are often subject to, to me, this one's refreshingly different. So yes, I would recommend watching this. If you like aliens, time-travel and humans-in-exoskeletons battling off-world monstrosities for the future of humanity.


The story revolves around Major Cage, an American soldier played by Tom Cruise. Major Cage is the face of the united earth's resistance against the invading aliens. He's the one the military junta uses to drum up support for their ultimate offensive plan against the invading aliens. He's the one promoting the "solution" to human volunteers, to raise a million human army against the entrenched aliens. 

What's the "solution", you ask? A mechanized exoskeleton. Others may recognize this as the Mecca of the Japanese humanoid robot anime genre, a.k.a the "Mecha": a suit that fits around one human and gives them strength and ability to take a few hits, but requires actuation using the actual limbs of the "pilot". American movie goers saw a version of this beast in the third part of the Matrix trilogy, "Matrix: Revolutions" (Yes, there was a third part to the Matrix. No, I'm not taking that back. It happened). 

And who are the aliens? They can only be best described as super-fast dog-octopuses that prefer subterranean ambushes. The do seem to posses some projectile plasma-like weapons, but their main attack mode is a close-in puncture wound with one of their several tentacles. They bear a fleeting resemblances to the "squids" aka "Sentinels" seen in the  Matrix Trilogy. Just so we're clear, I mean "fleeting" literally because they seem to move so fast you barely can focus on them.

Major Cage is not a combat seeking die-hard. On the contrary, he's a self-admitted media personality with an intense desire to avoid any action whatsoever. Through an odd series of events and machinations, he winds up being compelled, literally, to take arms against the invading aliens.

He gets killed in the first 5 minutes of landing on the beach-head. And each time he dies, he gets to relive that same experience over and over again. This should ring a bell: think Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.

If you think the resemblance is uncanny, consider that Tom Cruise's character is name Major *Bill* Cage.

And just like Bill Murray's character, Major Cage remembers each time he respawns and gets better and better at surviving a little longer. He eventually uses this to save the planet, kill the aliens, end the cycle and get the girl. Yay, six more weeks of winter! Go Punxsutawney Phil!

Given that I've seen this before, why then do I still call it entertaining? Because it's got:
a) aliens fighting against humans for the planet
b) time-travel
c) action
d) Emily Blunt
BUT, equally more importantly, this movie is so "Meta". 

What's with Emily Blunt you say? You ask because there's no mention of her in the foregoing plot-description, correct? Well, she's the bad-ass female warrior, nicknamed "Full metal bitch" in the movie, who's going to help save the planet. And she looks pretty great-ass in her jumpsuit. Reminds one of Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment", though without the obvious focus on derrière.

What's "Meta"? 

A lot of things, which is what made me appreciate the movie. 

The name of the movie alludes to "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" or the constant reuse or recycling of things. Which given the plot, is very apposite. The meta part is that this plot is being recycled too, think Groundhog Day, War of the Worlds, The Matrix (humans against machines), and several such. 

The meta-recycling goes a level deeper: the aliens have essentially conquered Europe. They came on an asteroid that hit Germany first and they then conquered pretty much the rest of Europe. England is next in line, but survived thus far because of the natural separation offered by the English Sea. The United Defense Front is lead by the British and involves American troops and involves an attach starting in France. Does this sound familiar? The part about the evil emanating from Germany, the US helping the UK launch an offensive against a hostile Europe from French coast should. It's reminiscent of the D-Day, aka Battle of Normandy aka Operation Overlord during the Second World War. It marked the first united response to Nazi Germany and involved an amphibious response.

They also mention the Battle of Verdun, which has its own interesting history! In 1916, during the First World War, the Germans fought against the French for nearly a year and lost.

The dings I have against the movie are some obvious Hollywood Sci-Fi assumptions it makes about "tapping in" to a "network", advanced civilizations' network security be damned (I'm excusing the whole time-warp / broken arrow of time premise because that's what the movie is about), obvious questions one could ask. I've always found the Hollywood penchant for romantic scenes in the midst of peril, while destruction is merely seconds and a couple feet away, head-scratchingly odd. But I guess the audiences respond to it?

But all in all, it made for an entertaining take on Ground Hog Day. Have watched again.