Doug Liman, who directed Edge of Tomorrow, says that Warner Bros. asked him to remove the time loop aspect in favor of a more traditional film.
Doug Liman, who directed Edge of Tomorrow, says that Warner Bros. asked him to remove the time travel in favor of a more traditional story. Blending sci-fi together with action, Edge of Tomorrow was distributed by WB and released in 2014. Adapted from the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the film unfolds in a future where most of Europe is invaded by an alien race. Bill Cage (Tom Cruise), a public relations officer with no prior battle experience, is forced to join an operation against the invaders. Along the way, Cruise gets some help from Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). He’s also assisted, of course, by a time loop that gradually helps him to learn from his mistakes.
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Although it performed under expectations at the box office, audiences and critics were charmed by the film. Fans particularly enjoyed how the time loops, and the repeated deaths, livened up a tale which might’ve otherwise felt familiar. There were even number of arguments, when it initially premiered, that the movie ranked among Cruise’s best work. If WB had its way though, the sci-fi elements in Edge of Tomorrow might not have been nearly as impactful.
Liman’s remarks came during a conversation with Collider, in which the director also offered an update on Edge of Tomorrow 2. At one point, while discussing the challenges of the first film’s screenplay, Liman confesses that WB were only really sold on the more familiar parts of the sci-fi action film. When it came to the time loop aspect of the story, however, WB were quick to suggest changes. You can read Liman’s quote below.
“When you try and develop a movie with a world that involves time travel, you quickly realize that humans are never going to travel through time because there are so many paradoxes. You can hardly get through a screenplay. At some point during the development of the screenplay of the first film, Warner Bros said to me, ‘Does he need to travel through time? Maybe he could just battle aliens.’ I was like, ‘Well if you want me to make this movie, he does. I’m not interested in aliens, I’m interested in the repeating the day part.’”
The director’s recollections unfortunately affirm one of the most widely-held beliefs about big Hollywood movies. Regardless of genre, these features are often safely familiar and predictable. Going by what Liman said, WB wanted to keep the aliens and Tom Cruise while removing everything that ultimately made Edge of Tomorrow unique. The film utilizes the audience’s familiarity with Cruise, built over decades, as this infinitely capable action hero. Then, through the loops, it subverts that expectation. Cruise’s character proves to be an arrogant showboat who is woefully out of his league, in general, and that’s even more true when compared to Blunt’s protagonist. It’s only due to the forced repetition that Bill Cage learns some humility and ultimately succeeds . If Liman had agreed to WB’s suggestion, Edge of Tomorrow would have likely been a far more traditional narrative.
Interestingly, in the years since Edge of Tomorrow debuted, it has become quite common to apply the time loop conceit to a variety of genres on both the big and small screen. And, with several popular examples, it’s hardly considered a risky method of storytelling anymore. Happy Death Day is a slasher flick, with a loopy twist. Palm Springs is a romantic comedy unfolding over the course of the same day, seemingly endlessly. Russian Doll, on Netflix, utilizes the time loop trope to deliver an intimate and often hilarious character study. While the formula popularized by Groundhog Day is experiencing a resurgence which shows no signs of slowing down, Edge of Tomorrow was ahead of the trend by a few years.
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