Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow opens with what is essentially D-Day on Normandy beach, except with Aliens and Mechs.  If you read that and didn’t immediately decide you’d like to see this movie, you can probably just move along to another review now, or go watch a romantic comedy or something.

The premise behind Edge of Tomorrow is that a fairly cowardly man got drafted into the military and managed to slip out of having to do any of that icky combat stuff by using his marketing skills to aid the recruiting efforts.  He’s finally drafted for a big push against the enemy, attempts to weasel out of it, and gets branded as a deserter and busted down to a private on the front line.  He’s pretty much instantly killed, but not before he gets soaked in the blood of one of the aliens. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up at the start of the same day, unscathed, and has to live it all over again.  It turns out the aliens have the ability to reset time in order to perfect their tactics, and now that he’s absorbed some of their blood, he can too.

That actually sounds pretty corny, but it’s done really well.  Cage is a character full of flaws that he irons out with (lots and lots of) practice.  The day repetition isn’t tedious or annoying – I was pretty worried it would be too repetitive but they mix it up enough to keep it fresh.  There’s also a lot of really well placed humour, particularly when portraying some of the trial and error processes that go into his character development.  Some of the other characters could have stood for a bit more developing, but they’re written serviceably enough that it still passes.  The backstory/worldbuilding is good without overstaying its welcome, and they did a good job of establishing an appropriate character and then dropping him into an environment where the viewer can “learn” along with him as a means of exposition.

I have to say this: The CGI was distractingly good.  We kept interrupting scenes to ask each other “So how do you think they did that?  Is that pure CGI or some practical effects or…?”  The aliens look awesome, the mech suits are seamless, it’s all wonderful.

If you hate fun I’m sure you could nitpick all sorts of flaws out of the plot (like how everyone who is “cool” somehow manages to discard their helmets, which is where all the aiming apparatus is supposedly housed…), but it was coherent enough (even WITH time-travel elements!) that it was enjoyable.  Thumbs up.

Bonus review:  the new WordPress editor interface is awful and I hate it.  It doesn’t solve any problems and the oversimplification results in bunches of new problems.  Thumbs down :P

Aftermath (2012)

Upon looking for information about this movie, I discovered there is another movie by the same name from 2013, which has a MUCH MUCH better rating on IMDB.  Now I’m interested in watching that one instead…  But anyway.  We watched this one.  It’s the one with Ed Furlong in it, which may or may not be the only actor name you recognize.  (IMDB lists a couple of actors who I don’t think are actually in it, so even THEY are confused…)

I love post apocalyptic stuff.  I don’t care what the apocalypse is, I will watch/read/play it.  I usually enjoy them, except when they’re really fucking stupid and don’t bother to explain their shit because they’re in too much of a hurry to make some sort of statement which may or may not be actually poignant (looking at you, Perfect Sense).

If I had to sum this movie up into a sentence, it would probably be “Tries way too fucking hard.” The setting was great and I’m glad to see nuclear war creeping back into the media scene.  Zombies are getting old, man, let’s get some good old fashioned bombing back up in here!  I’ve read all the “the world just exploded” classics like On the Beach and Canticle for Leibowitz and so on, and this really reminded me of those, so it got the tone right.

The writing was kind of meh in that it didn’t do anything impressive and was kind of predictable, but not out of place for the genre.  It was really fucking stupid that the desperate people suffering from radiation sickness literally acted like zombies, to the point where they address the fact that they are not actually zombies in the dialogue (which is your cue that you’re writing it wrong.  Did I mention zombies are getting really old and stale?  Pseudo-zombies do not breathe new life into the genre.  Sorry). But otherwise the only major writing crimes were predictability and unlikable, unsympathetic characters (I’m not sure that I could tell you a single difference between the women in this movie). Also possibly a bit of gary-stu-itis with Mr mysterious-background Doctor who knows everything about everything… but that could at least be explained by having enough of a build-up to the war that he spent some time googling everything he could possibly need to know to survive. There are so many little niggling details in the plot to be nitpicked that I won’t even bother (they cover the doors to the cellar with dirt, but leave the windows exposed… /facepalm. Doors everyone can shoot cleanly through like cardboard, but which no one can manage to break down… /facepalm), other than to say if you have OCD you may want to avoid this movie.  They didn’t detract from the overall story other than to annoy, though.

What actually bothered me the most was the way the movie itself was presented.  Understand – I am saying this as someone who has not gone to film school, or any sort of film composition class, and has absolutely no interest whatsoever in doing so:  It did a lot of things that felt like they should get a low grade in film school classes because ugh.  Low budget is one thing (the whole movie is shot in a single room so low budget is probably implied), but this was almost insultingly amateur in places.  It felt like youtube was leaking.

A lot of the angles are off-kilter, probably to do the “dutch angle” thing and try to portray that whole “something is wrong here” feeling.  But I’m not actually certain if it was because of that, or because they really needed to buy the camera guy something to set his camera on. Because god damn it was bobbling all over the fucking place in most scenes, which made it really obviously hand-held.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they set the camera on the ground, noticed it was crooked, then went “Hey, that works!” 

Okay whatever, I can deal with shaky cam when it isn’t bad enough to make me physically ill… but then at the end there’s this incredibly dragged out series of scenes that are just chains of dramatic “zoom frame” shots where it’s all “OH NO GUYS SOMETHING DRAMATIC IS HAPPENING AAAANNNNDDD FREEZEZOOM ON THE FACE.  Okay sweet we just showed everyone how dramatic this is and that the characters are feeling emotions right now.  Wait, we better do this for all of the characters.  Multiple times.  Because it’s really emotional, guys, we don’t want the emotions to be lost.”

No.  Stop that.  Bad.  uggghhh.  This is like this video editing equivalent of telling instead of showing.  Have a little faith in your audience and/or actors to not need to spoon feed the scene.  Christ.  Normally I use this blog to bitch about writing, but nothing in the writing really jumped out at me as something that could tank the movie.  It’s cliche, unoriginal, and a bit meh, but none of that made me fly to my keyboard in anger.  The scene composition totally did.  The movie was sort of hovering in the “This isn’t really good but it’s still pretty okay” zone and that whole sequence just tanked it.  :/

So I guess that’s my review.  “It’s not really good but it’s sort of okay, except for the amateur scene composition especially at the end.”  Now I am in the mood to read some post-apoc nuclear fiction again, though…