The Edge of Tomorrow (Live Die Repeat) Time Travel and Ending Explained
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00K2CHWYI]First and foremost, I have to say that this post is RIDDLED with spoilers. Just turn around and go if you have not seen the movie yet. This one paragraph is the single spoiler free paragraph in this entire post. I would love for you to come back though after you have watched the movie so that you can discuss the movie with us in the comments section because I’m certain it will blow up down there soon enough. It definitely is a gorgeous movie that is worth watching on the big screen for $12. Promise. This little primer will be worth waiting until after you’ve seen the movie, I promise. Also, this explanation is still in serious draft mode – whole sections are still missing, so watch out for potholes until I can flesh out the entirety of my thoughts. It has only been 8 hours since I walked out of the theater after all!
The Edge of Tomorrow Overview and refresher
When the movie kicks off we learn that Earth has been invaded by aliens called Mimics hellbent on taking over the planet. Quickly a war erupts throughout Europe reminiscent of World War I and II. The Mimics then suffer their first loss at the hands of a hero named Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). We don’t grasp why she was able to do this initially but it is guessed that it is because of her robotic, weaponized suit. Eventually we realize that wasn’t it at all, rather, it is caused by her ability to loop time and choreograph events perfectly until the day’s events turn in her favor. Eventually Vrataski loses her time-looping ability. At the Normandy crossing, Cage (Tom Cruise), receives the same capability when he kills an Alpha and the blood of the Mimic pours onto him and kills him. He awakens back at base camp in Heathrow at the beginning of the day ready to start over again. From there on Cage works to figure out what is going on and what he is expected to do. In time Cage realizes that he has to team up with Vrataski in order to make progress against the Omega that has already manipulated time in its own favor and will soon eradicate human-kind if Cage and Vrataski don’t do something to intervene.
The Edge of Tomorrow Time Travel System Rules:
If you have spent any time with me at all you understand that I dig systems and rules. Systems provide frameworks wherein we can understand and extrapolate and thereby understand whole swaths of previously unexplainable experiences. In the movie version, the Edge of Tomorrow deviates pretty significantly from the original ‘All You Need Is Kill’ version. So we don’t have a whole ton to go off of from the original source. But the movie itself gives us a pretty good primer on how the time traveling system works anyway. In the initial battle scene, we watch as the original war hero Vrataski and all of J-Company are decimated by an overwhelming horde of mimics. I mentioned this a moment ago, but it bears repeating. Cage encounters a mimic that is significantly different from the rest of the orange worker drones. Sure. The Mimic is blue. But that isn’t the most significant difference. This is an Alpha Mimic and he is a one in a 1.6 million mimic upper echelon leader. Every time an Alpha dies, the Omega rewinds time and starts the day over. But when Cage kills the Alpha and his blood pours onto Cage’s face it imbues him with the ability to manage time for the Allies instead. And then, from that moment forward, every time the day’s events go wrong, or irretrievably pear-shaped, all Cage has to do is die.
That is why everyone is so quick to make comparisons to Groundhog day. But what are the limitations? There are a number of limitations that we learn from Vrataski and her experience at Verdun where she originally had the power to manage time and thereby handed the Aliens their first decisive loss. If Cage is injured and given a transfusion, the Omega’s blood looping abilities will be lost. Like the movie Memento by Christopher Nolan, we begin watching as Cage fights through a completely disjointed timeline in order to learn how to find a weakness in the Mimic’s underbelly.
Over and over and over again we watch as Cage works at his near Sisyphean task. It is also soon realized that that the Omega has already used their previous time looping capabilities in order to set up a number of traps and contingencies in order to completely eradicate the humans on planet earth. It is these contingencies that a Cage’s biggest limitation, an enemy that has had the ability to see into the future is a formidable foe.
Mimic Time Travel Technology Explained
It all begins and ends with the Mimic time travel capabilities. Who has them? What are they for? How can they lose them? What have they already used time travel to do? Etc. etc. Yeah these are all great questions! But first lets get introduced to the Mimics so that we can speak coherently about their time travel technology.
Orange Mimics: Orange Mimics are the workers bees in the mimic world. Soldiers and drones that are told to carry out orders and they do it. Fierce and intense warriors, but grunts all the same.
Blue Alpha Mimics: Alpha Mimics are the King Muphasa Mimics of the battle field. But they have such special abilities and powers that generally they stay further back from the battle field. Blue Mimics are capable of traveling in time in order to evaluate the best militaristic response to their opponents.
Omega Mimic: the Omega Mimic is the ACTUAL king mufasa a of the Mimic universe. It is the Omega that learns from both the Orange, but particularly the Alpha, Mimics in order to orchestrate the strategies on the battle field. For example. It was the Orange and Blue Mimics that beat the Europeans back across Europe to Verdun. But it was the Blues and the Omega that sent false visions to Vrataski, telling her that the Omega was at a Dam in Germany. We later learn this was trickery and subterfuge solely setup to keep the Omega safe. Right? Not only did the Omega use these false visions to its own benefit, but it also enticed the Britons and Allied forces to attack by convincing them that Verdun was just the beginning. These new armored suits were the reason for Vrataski’s win in Verdun. By enticing the humans to fight the Mimics foresaw that they would be more capable of winning for conclusively and faster. And so the Mimics lied in wait for the storming of Normandy and then they tore the humans to shreds, including the war hero Vrataski.
The 7 Main Time Forks in The Edge of Tomorrow
1. Time fork alpha precedes the movie’s explicit timeline and centers on Vrataski as opposed to Cage. This is the battle for Verdun in which Vrataski comes out as the tide turner for the war, and the Allies come to believe that winning may actually be possible.
2. Cage’s first major time fork is his befriending Vrataski and Dr. Carter. When Cage meets Vrataski on the battle field he realizes that Vrataski is the key to everything somehow and that she needs to be saved. Once Cage saves her she says to him “Find me after you wake up.” Doing so proves harder than Cage could have ever imagined, but he does. But even once Cage has found Vrataski, he still needs to befriend the two and convince them he is worth entrusting.
3. The second major fork in The Edge of Tomorrow is Cage’s training. This is probably the most significant factor of time dedicated to re-looping, or a sheer repetition count. Tom Cruise battles the bots over and over and over again until he is fully trained on the suit as well as on battle tactics. Vrataski is a brutal teacher.
4. The third critical juncture for our hero is when he begins to see visions of the Omega Mimic deep behind enemy lines under a German Dam. Cage and Vrataski move heaven and earth to figure out how to get to the dam together. But when Cage realizes its impossible to get to the dam with her help he chooses to leave her behind.
5. The fourth important time hill to take for Cage was the Omega Repeater… a piece of technology built by Dr. Carter. The repeater would allow them to intercept a connection between an Alpha and the Omega and ultimately learn of the Omega’s location. After a number of false starts Cage and Vrataski finally convince the General to hand over the device.
6. The fifth and final battle time fork is the attack on the Louvre with J-Company. Without the ability to restart time after receiving a transfusion, Cage, Vrataski and J-Company attack the Omega which is hidden under the Louvre.
7. The final seventh time fork within the Edge of Tomorrow is definitely the simplest and the most complex to understand simultaneously. This is the time splice wherein Cage wakes at the beginning of the timeline where he was flying in a helicopter to London. The war has been one and Vrataski managed to not only beat the aliens in Verdun but also in Paris as well, defeating the Omega and thus saving the world.
Without a doubt the hardest part about The Edge of Tomorrow is understanding and unraveling its ending. I have read many reviews that have stated they do not like the ending. That it makes a hash of the film’s otherwise good logic. As I have mentioned before, The Edge of Tomorrow is based on a novel called All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sazurazaka. Well, apparently, that book was turned into a script by Dante Harper that made it onto the 2010 edition of The Black List which ends on a much more somber note. Then after Warner Bros. purchased the script, massive rewrites ensued, first by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, then later by Simon Kinberg, and finally Christopher McQuarrie.
According to the LATimes, The Edge of Tomorrow’s bumpy development may help explain why the ending feels random, tonally inconsistent, and tacked on: The film went into production without a finished script. But I maintain that the ending could logically work. There are actually a number of ways in which the internal logic can be maintained while also supporting the mind job of a right turn ending. I really see several completely different theories of how the ending could logically follow.
The first and strongest in my opinion is The Broken Timeline Restored theory. But all three work, and could possibly explain the ending quite nicely. I have even included infographics explaining each of the different theories below which may help you understand them more clearly than my simple explanation.
Theory #1 – Broken Timeline Restored Basically here’s how this theory goes down. Cage blows up the Omega… and is given the blue blood of the Alpha again. He now has the ability to alter time. But not only that, he has the blood of the Omega as well. This is much different than the first time he was given the ability to travel in time. In the Revisionist Theory, Cage is given the ability to not only go to his Previous starting point, but he could choose to go even further back. He visits Vrataski before the battle for Verdun and the two of them work together and instead of going to Germany to find the Omega under the Dam, they go to the Louvre where they have learned it really is. See? Then from there, the Omega is killed and the entire chaos of dealing with J-Company, etcetera, isn’t necessary. Voila!
Theory #2 – Revisionist Theory Another possible theory, if you don’t like the Omega extra jump idea… is that Cage realizes that all he needs is to go just a little further back in the timeline to sort everything out once and for all. And while juiced on the Blue blood, all he would need to go further back would be a little more Alpha love. No? So by hunting and killing a Blue he would then be able to bounce even further back and then be able to give Vrataski the information she needs to rectify the situation that ultimately defeated her the first time. This theory assumes that Cage carried forward on his own linear timeline and therefore was the prime mover of the ending… but willingly gave the credit to Vrataski.
Theory #3 – The God in the Machine And even more disjointed theory than the previous two… The Deus Ex Machina theory assumes that even greater power was given to Cage than the rules explain. With this power, Cage was able to run roughshod on history and eloquently put a bow on the battle exactly like he wanted, which ends with Vrataski the hero and with him not being handcuffed as a mutinous traitor. This one is the most dissatisfying by a long shot because it plays fast and loose with the rules setup earlier in the movie. The Edge of Tomorrow Time Travel INFOGRAPHIC
These two infographics are variations on a theme. The first one shows that Cage is given the ability jump backwards beyond his original day… thus giving him the ability to right the original Vrataski timeline. Right?
This seems like only a minor adjustment to the flow, but actually is very significant. Cage takes over control starting back at when he arrives in London on the Helicopter and he works collaboratively from Verdun on, in order to correct the timeline so that Vrataski wins the war. This is possible two ways… just by the power of the blood of the Alpha and the Omega – or by working ahead of what we see to give Vrataski the information she needs to win the war on her own and reconcile the past with the best outcome of the war.
The Key – Regardless of your preferred theory, the key to resolving the ending that some do not like is as easy as two simple steps. The first is that Cage was empowered to go a little further back in history than his normal start time. The second is that Cage needs 3 minutes with Vrataski. During those three minutes he would have to impart two details to her that she didn’t know before. The first was what she told him – do not get a blood transfusion for any reason. Once she knows this she will be able to avoid losing her looping ability. The second thing Cage would need to tell Vrataski is that the visions of the Omega she is seeing under the dam in Germany is a lie and that the Omega is actually under the Louvre. With those two pieces of information Vrataski could continue on and take Verdun as well as kill the Omega. I’m not saying that is exactly what happened. But I am saying that its simple enough to envision a pretty simple solution to the problem.
Summary – Hopefully my blog post The Edge of Tomorrow Time Travel and Ending Explained will help shed some light on how the movie’s key systems work and maybe open your eyes to how the movie’s mechanics work. The theories explained here are still evolving and adjusting to the best thinking possible as time goes on. Do you have a theory as to how the ending can be reconciled with the rest of the movie and the rules explained? I would love hearing about them in the comments. If you’d like to see an example of a fantastic discussion gone correctly here at Taylorholmes.com – take a peek at a few of these enormously discussed movies, Memento, Prestige, Inception, etc etc. So jump in and make yourself heard.
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