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The book is always better than the movie. That's what they say anyway. I'm sure we could make a good argument about certain feature adaptations managing to surpass their source material in quality -- or at the very least, viewers varying and obviously subjective levels of satisfaction -- but it does seem to be true, more often than not. Maybe it's because the movie had to abridge the story to fit it into a comfortable length, or simply because the picture painted in our minds by the author surpasses anything that could be brought to the screen. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the right words can paint even more images in our minds, and a movie isn't always going to be able to measure up to that.
With that in mind, I'm not here to pick apart Edge of Tomorrow as it relates to its source material, Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill. To say that the film takes liberties with the original story would be an understatement and that's ok, because in the end, while Edge of Tomorrow is by no means a page-for-page adaptation, it holds up nicely as its own movie. Basically, what Doug Liman's film has done is take the concept and characters from the book, change some of the rules and a lot of other major details (character specifics, locations, etc) and made its own similar story, with a very different ending. And it's the ending we want to talk about here, mainly as it compares to All You Need Is Kill.
We will be discussing All You Need Is Kill here with spoilers, especially as it relates to the book's ending, so if you haven't read the book but plan to and don't want the ending spoiled, read no further. Also, this might be obvious but MAJOR EDGE OF TOMORROW SPOILERS AHEAD!
Opinions seem to be mixed over the ending of Edge of Tomorrow. We ran a very basic poll on Friday, asking people to vote whether or not they liked the ending. As you can see, so far, the poll has viewers more or less split, with a little more than half voting that the ending was perfect, while others either didn't like the ending or aren't sure...
We didn't even get into whether people preferred the book's ending to the movie, but that's well worth discussing, especially for those of us who hadn't read the book before we saw the movie.
Once again, last-chance spoiler warning for both Edge of Tomorrow and All You Need is Kill!
Edge of Tomorrow ends with Rita (Emily Blunt) and Cage (Tom Cruise) diving head first toward their own deaths as they attempt to destroy the "Omega," which is the being that's at the center of everything, particularly as it relates to resetting the day. Because Cage lost his ability to reset the day, due to a blood transfusion, he and Rita know that there's no way they are going to walk away from this. They have one chance to kill the Omega, and they will most certainly die trying. There will be no new reset.
Rita and Cage get the job done, as Rita holds off the mimics while Cage blows up the Omega, but as Cage is drowning, he re-inherits the Omega's day-resetting powers and a new reset happens. Cage wakes up at an earlier point than the previous reset -- the popular theory going around to explain this is that Cage came into contact with the mimic blood much earlier in the timeline this time around, so his new reset was also earlier as a result -- to find that the war has shifted drastically in humanity's favor (the Omega remained destroyed through the reset). Cage is alive and so is Rita, though she technically hasn't met Cage yet, but they're last seen looking at each other. The only happier ending would have been if Cage and Rita could have earned any credit for their efforts. Same for J-Squad. Those people have no idea they helped save the world, which is a shame. But Cage and Rita are alive, and it's kind of implied by Cage's smile that he'll try to win Rita over again. Maybe they'll live happily ever after together. Who knows?
In the book, there's a different set of rules involving the aliens. While they're still called mimics, instead of the Omegas and Alphas, there are Servers and Backups and Antennas, and if a person inherits the day-resetting power, they can't lose it with a blood transfusion. Without going into the complicated specifics about how looping works in All You Need is Kill, we'll just skip to the ending, which reveals that Rita has become an "Antenna," which means the Mimics are still able to loop. After Keiji kills the Server, Rita lures him into a fight and reveals that Keiji has to kill her in order to end the loop. If he dies, it's forever. If she dies, the loop will end and so will the war eventually. Only one of them can escape either way. Keiji reluctantly fights back, beats her and kills her.
The book takes a much more tragic approach to the ending, which has Keiji emerging as a hero of the war. It's drastically different from Edge of Tomorrow in both respects, as the film's version allows Rita to keep her life but takes away Cage's glory. I get the impression Keiji would have been very willing to give up the medal he received when the war was over for a chance to have Rita back, so there is a trade-off, but it's definitely an uneven one.
Even before I knew the ending of All You Need Is Kill, I couldn't help but feel like Edge of Tomorrow's ending was a little too sweet. I didn't hate it, but I did wonder if any alternate endings had been seriously considered, and whether or not I would have liked a slightly more tragic conclusion, especially when we consider how affected Rita was by the war and the loss she'd experienced. The thought of Cage emerging from his never-ending day victoriously while Rita remained a casualty might have worked as a bittersweet but ultimately more satisfying conclusion to an extremely entertaining movie. At the very least, I don't think it would have hurt the film, but more than half of our poll voters may disagree with me there.
Just to emphasize my own personal take on the adaptation and the ending of Edge of Tomorrow by comparison to All You Need is Kill, here's a true story that dates back to a chilly December evening in 2007...
When I saw I Am Legend, I left the theater thinking it was "pretty good." Some fun moments, some suspenseful ones, I liked post-apocalyptic New York City and Will Smith's performance. I was pretty torn up about the dog, but over all it was an entertaining 100 minutes or so. Not at the top of my list of big sci-fi blockbusters, but on a scale ranking my level of satisfaction after seeing a Will Smith blockbuster movie, it ranked a bit closer to my first viewings of Independence Day and Men in Black than it did the other side of the scale (After Earth). And then on the drive home from the theater, my husband told me how the original story -- Richard Matheson's 1954 horror fiction novel I Am Legend -- really went, and my level of satisfaction for Francis Lawrence's adaptation plummeted. From the sound of it, the concept of the book was just fantastic, and the movie -- the third adaptation of this book, it's worth noting -- went with a more traditional story that, while fine, paled by comparison, pushing for a more hopeful, less twisty ending.
I Am Legend was just one of those situations where knowing how the story could have gone had a noticeable effect on how I viewed the adaptation.
The above said, Edge of Tomorrow isn't an I Am Legend situation. My level of satisfaction in Edge of Tomorrow remains more or less intact even after familiarizing myself with the book. I get why Liman's adaptation made the changes it did, and I kind of like that it took an alternate approach to the original story. It allows the movie to stand a bit more on its own. But I would also understand if book fans were disappointed that this movie veered in its own direction, not only as it relates to the ending, but also to the aliens, the locations and background history of its lead characters. With that in mind, just as I Am Legend has been remade numerous times over the years, it wouldn't be surprising if All You Need Is Kill was re-adapted sometime in the future. A big budget miniseries would be kind of cool...
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