What’s in a name? – On the subject of re-titling films

What comes to mind when you hear the title Edge of Tomorrow? Immediately I think of an action film but the ‘tomorrow’ part certainly speaks of something just a tad futuristic, perhaps even science-fiction. That’s all very well but my views have been nothing if not a little aggressively informed by the film that until recently, bore this title. The more important question is whether I would see a film based solely on how the title sounded, without prior knowledge. I know this seems a bit like a stupid question, given that the marketing for any film encompasses advertisements in all shapes and sizes as well as trailers all designed to whet my appetite for an upcoming cinema release, but clearly a lot of stock is put in the name of a film. It’s quite often the first thing you hear about a film.

Naming films is an interesting task, and depending on the film itself, you’ll want to get across quite different ideas. It has to be done with some skill and flair though because the average audience member can spot a sloppy title a mile away – I’m looking at you sequels, you can’t just slap a ‘2’ on the end and be done with it! Unless you’re Toy Story…or Spider-man…or Evil Dead…or Shrek. Hmmm. Regardless, the title of a film is important and gets you thinking. It can entice you, or it can worry you or put you off entirely. For example…

In recent news, the third Hobbit film was given a new title. Gone was ‘There and Back Again’ and in its place came ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’. Peter Jackson has stated that the nature of the film he has put together did not fit with the original title but this does conjure up some worrying thoughts. Are we going to see a 3+ hour film with nothing but build-up and then a colossal hour-long battle scene? If so, has Jackson completely lost the plot by focusing on a battle that Tolkien hardly dwells on in his book? Is this just silly Rings-fanboy fretting? I sincerely hope so. Still not a great title though. Moving on to another franchise, no one asked for another Die Hard film after Die Hard 4.0/Live Free or Die Hard (another bizarre change for different regions) but we got one anyway, in the form of A Good Day To Die Hard, a film with a title so ridiculous that even Bruce Willis didn’t know what it meant. By adding a fifth (unwanted) entry into the franchise and therefore continuing to ram repetitious clichéd action down the throats of viewers, they should have at least called it…Old Habits Die Hard. I might have wanted to watch that.

Live Die Repeat DVD

As I mentioned at the start, the film Edge of Tomorrow is the reason for this little ramble, since it no longer goes by this name. At least not entirely. Recent reports and checks on Amazon reveal that it can now be found under the title of Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. What is surprising about this is its timing, occurring slap-bang between the theatrical release and the home video release dates. Films often make their way through scripting and production under various guises, sometimes used to throw nosey reporters off the scent and sometimes because there isn’t a better title yet, but rarely does a film change its identity after it appears in cinemas.

So why the name change you ask?

Well, to get things started lets reiterate a fact that I’m sure everyone knows – the film industry is run on money. Money money money. It makes the cinematic world go round. Production companies and distributors need films to make money and it appears that Edge of Tomorrow did not make enough on the big screen. What was the cause of this? The cast list? I hardly think so. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are two of the best actors working in the business today and I for one would line-up to see any movie that the latter was in. Cruise ain’t too bad neither. Reviews were generally quite positive and the marketing was fine, so it can’t be those. It did have some heavyweight competition at the box office in the form of X-Men: Days of Future Past and Transformers: Age of Extinction, so it could be that, but apparently not. The blame has been attributed to the title, and an attempt has been made to fix this before the DVD and Blu-ray hits shelves, but is the new title better?

On the face of it, I have to agree that Edge of Tomorrow isn’t the catchiest or most memorable title I have come across. It’s quite generic for a summer blockbuster, and while it might cause you to ask the question I opened with, it’s too vague to stick. Live Die Repeat is much snappier and really drives home the main plot point without spoiling too much; you get the picture because its simplicity practically bludgeons you. It’s not necessarily better on its own, but attaching the old title makes it far worse. If it were up to me I would have tried to go with the title of the original novel, All You Need Is Kill, which has an eyebrow-raising strangeness to it that gets my mind cogs a-whirring.

Finally, we move to our last question – will the renaming bring success in the home media market? To be blunt (pun intended), probably not. The new title is far from a massive improvement over the old and the whole process seems to have been a messy one. Case in point, to try to retain the original cinema audience and hopefully pull in a large home viewing audience, the chosen title is an amalgamation – Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow – which is clumsy at best. The likely scenario is that Edge of Tomorrow will live or die on the opinions of those who have already seen it. As someone who has I hope more people discover it and enjoy it because it is a good film. Good enough to heartily recommend. Even if it were called Bang Bang Alien Invasion: I Love Mech Suits.

Click here for my review of Edge of Tomorrow.

Cruising for a Bruising – Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Review

Edge of Tomorrow Poster

Tom Cruise is well known for playing heroes, the kind that are unphased by the desperate circumstances they find themselves in and who always walk away from explosions. It’s all just steely expressions and thrilling antics. I have enjoyed much of his acting in the past (“show me the money” anyone?) but recently it appears that he’s been doing the same action role over and over – Jack in Oblivion, Jack in Jack Reacher etc. It doesn’t help that his physical appearance remains the same from film to film, and I felt like I was watching Tom Cruise and not his character. Whomever he was meant to be was dwarfed by his enormous celebrity presence. All this left me jaded and when I saw his casting in Edge of Tomorrow, I didn’t hold out much hope for his acting talents to resurface. It is however, pleasantly enjoyable to be wrong on this one.

Edge of Tomorrow is based on the novel entitled All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and the set-up is as follows. In the near future, the forces of humanity are in a desperate struggle to repel an alien invasion of Earth. Major William Cage (Cruise) is part of the military but works only in public affairs, being a self-confessed coward. He is summoned by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) and is stripped of his rank and placed in the front lines of the next big attack – which is likely to be humanity’s last. Through circumstances that I won’t spoil he ends up repeating the same day every time he is killed and with the help of Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) must find a way out and a way to win the war. The elements of the story can feel quite familiar when viewed individually – the near future, alien invasion, mech battle-suits, and the time looping – but it is the combination of these that make Edge of Tomorrow into a fun slice of sci-fi action.

The concept of time looping is not new and many people have likened to Groundhog Day, which has given rise to many witty alternative titles e.g. Saving Private Groundhog or Groundhog D-Day. Wish I could take credit for those. Whilst the comparison is almost inevitable, I was pleased to see that there were no karmic elements, and the reasons for Cage being trapped in the loop are instead tied to the greater plot of the invasion. Despite this, predictability does threaten to rear its ugly head towards the climax of the plot but it manages to avoid straying into genre clichés.

Edge of Tomorrow Blunt Cruise

“I’ll be blunt, this won’t be anything like a pleasure cruise”.

In the overall grimness of the threat of human extinction, it’s impressive that the film-makers manage to include plenty of levity revolving around Cruise’s quivering yellow-belly, and I’m taking quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. It’s great to see a stalwart of action cinema bumble along like a fish-out-of-water and Cruise does this superbly. It’s not only these light touches to the character and his predicament that make Cruise’s performance quite possibly one of his best in a while. He brings a certain pathos to his hapless everyman, caught in a situation that couldn’t be more opposed to his instinctive self-preservation and you understand the struggles he goes through, be they with the battle itself or the growing relationships with the soldiers around him. Emily Blunt is also terrific, as is to be expected of one of the finest actresses currently working, and similar to Cruise as a coward it’s a joy to see her getting tough as a battle-scarred veteran.

There are a few more things that deserve a mention. Doug Liman’s direction is very assured and the way he handles the balance of action and drama is to be applauded, although I shouldn’t be too surprised at that, he did direct The Bourne Identity after all. It may not be to everyone’s tastes but I thought the design of the world was suitably sci-fi, in particular the mech-suits which are industrial and flat out awesome. Slightly at odds with the whole mechanized look is Rita’s weapon of choice – an unfeasibly large sword – but let’s just call that a nod to Japanese gaming and move on.

In a summer filled with sequels, it’s always exciting to see a film that amalgamates some ideas into a fresh viewing experience. You may have seen these elements before, but together with Cruise and Blunt leading the charge, they certainly have the edge over their cinematic opposition.