Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The reincarnative powers acquired by Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow have their limits — after death, he is always "reborn" on the same day, in the same place, surrounded by the same oblivious galoots, forced over and over to make it past the same obstacles in order to do whatever it is the movie never really gets around to explaining he's supposed to do. Save the world, yeah, but the specifics are muddled beyond that. We get the feeling, though, that if Cruise himself could choose his point of rebirth, it'd be smack dab back in the middle of the '80s. And we're right along with him. Because one of Edge of Tomorrow's great victories is its ability to remind us of the Cruise we fell in love with way back when. The Cruise that could get away with being funny, kooky, smarmy, and kind of a douchebag. In this latest outing, that's exactly what he's going for.
Edge of Tomorrow is more than happy to return to the Cruise we met and loved in the era of Risky Business and Top Gun, accessing the sort of colossal camp that he, as a good-looking charmer, could sell as high grade entertainment. Well before Rain Man established him as an actor of true merit and the decade to follow slowly expelled him of this very reputation. As soldier-in-name-only William Cage, Cruise masters the art of playing too big for his britches. His swagger is unfounded, his double talk ineffective. Finally, that Tom Cruise smile (you know the one) is used for its rightful purpose: to highlight just how much of a cocky son of a bitch this guy can be. But this version of Cruise might stumble to a point of utter detestability if Edge of Tomorrow wasn't so eager to laugh at the classic Hollywood-caliber blowhard he puts on display.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The film's sense of humor and personability are what cart us through the science fiction premise with such grace: Cage is thrust into his first go at warfare against a race of malicious alien invaders, taunted and ostracized by his disapproving fellow grunts, killed almost instantly in the field of battle, and then reborn moments later (make that a day and a half earlier) right back at the military base where this whole mixup began. Never mind why — the movie does its share of explaining the science fiction behind Cruise's character's newfound abilities... with no dearth of logic holes, but you shouldn't get too strung up on that either — or even the specifics of the ultimate mission that he and a soldier sympathetic to his cause (Emily Blunt, who is sharp enough as an impatient war hero) adopt in order to save the human race from their extraterrestrial assailants. The only element to really strap into here is the fun: Cage struggling with the confusion, terror, monotony, psychological trauma, existential quandaries, and humors of living the same few days and scenes over and over and over, with the added bonus of an alien war comprising the backdrop to keep things quirky.
When the novelty of both the idea and all the plausible avenues of exploring it wear away, we're left with a far less riveting third act... not one entirely devoid of life, though one notably lacking in the spark and color that ignited Cruise's initial forays into this strange set of circumstances. The movie trades its earlier brand of innovation for the tropes of your standard action/sci-fi, though never entirely devolves all the way down to standard summer fare. In the end, Edge of Tomorrow doesn't wind up proving itself to be as tremendous a leap from the norm of today, but it's at least a few big steps. And that's largely because it seems to know what we've all been forgetting since 1985: science fiction can be funny, blockbusters can be kooky, and Tom Cruise can, and should, be a jackass.
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Giraud, who was also known by the name Moebius, passed away in Paris, France on Friday night (09Mar12) after a battle with cancer.
He began his career as an illustrator in the advertising industry, but went on to create a number of famous comic book characters, including French creation Lieutenant Blueberry and a collaboration with Marvel boss Stan Lee on the Silver Surfer.
Giraud also worked on storyboards for a number of science fiction films and helped create the look of Sir Ridley Scott's Alien and 1982's Tron, as well as The Abyss, The Fifth Element, Willow and Masters of the Universe.
Today, an otherwise mundane Tuesday in September, is a momentous day for fans of science fiction. Why? Because The Twilight Zone: Season 1 is now available on Blu-ray. And it is a glorious set to behold.
I could ramble on about how pristine the new high-definition transfer is (recordings that are over 40 years old should not look this good, yet somehow each episode has been immaculately conserved and eased into HD) or how the meticulous folks at Image Entertainment packed this set with a sinful amount of special features (it has some 19 new commentaries, a host of period-specific footage about the success of the show, the unaired pilot, and a whole lot more), but instead of just reviewing the Blu-ray, I'd rather take a closer look at what I feel is the lasting legacy of The Twilight Zone: the writing.
Sure, The Twilight Zone's anthology format (which it popularized but certainly didn't pioneer) influenced a host of similar shows, the most obvious being The Outer Limits, and eventually films as well, but the format would have been nothing without its outstanding staff of writers. Series creator Rod Serling wrote the bulk of the show's episodes, but he's never had any qualms about giving credit to the people who most influenced him. Old science fiction masters along the lines of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury all had their hand - some more directly than others - in cultivating the kind of stories that Serling liked to tell. And it's those specific kind of stories that would go on to define the series.
We've all heard the phrase "It's like a Twilight Zone episode," but what does that really mean? Because the show's more memorable episodes - ones like "Time Enough at Last," about a man who only wants to spend his life reading books, and "The Eye of the Beholder," about a freak-of-nature woman who is undergoing plastic surgery to look more like everyone else around her - all featured a last-minute surprise, the comparison is often made whenever something even vaguely sci-fi has a twist ending. Such a comparison is selling the show short, though. The Twilight Zone wasn't about writing for a twist; it was about exploring how mankind's latent nature will inherently always get it in trouble.
Unlike a number of science fiction properties, be them books or movies, The Twilight Zone didn't have a grudge against actual science. Its stories weren't about how investigating new frontiers or pushing the limits of human knowledge will bring about the end of the human race. No, Serling's goal was always to tell stories about man becoming undone as a result of his own insecurities - not because he was meddling in things he shouldn't have - which is why he always turned to source material that was more speculation than condemnation.
Obviously there are a variety of science fiction stories, but the most common to film and television is the foreboding warning to mankind that its ignorance about that which it experiments on will get it killed. That's not the most common species to The Twilight Zone, however. The Twilight Zone was predominantly about mankind's own lack of restraint, about the toxicity of the me-first mindset. And that particular strain of sci-fi is sadly becoming extinct.
Doom-and-gloom scenarios are all the rage these days, which is a natural reflection of our nation falling out of love with science. It's no longer valued and revered the same way it was when The Twilight Zone was still alive, and that is due in no small part to the fact that the literary science fiction masters are no longer the rock stars they used to be. People like Matheson, Bradbury and Serling are no longer welcome in our fiction. And it's not just TV or movies but magazines as well - one would be amazed how many Twilight Zone episodes were adapted from short stories that were initially published in Playboy. Sure, every now and then Hollywood reaches back to its collected works to pull out something for modernization, but the modernization always ends up being a complete cannibalization of the soul of the original story.
Big-budget films like I Am Legend and The Day the Earth Stood Still have become all about the spectacle. All studios care about now are scenarios, not stories. They want to reanimate the skeleton, not the body and mind, and the result is invariably a pale wraith of what once was. Hey! Man's greed getting in the way of the goal? That sounds like the end of a Twilight Zone episode...