Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Edge of Tomorrow" Explained -- with Infographics

This latest sci-fi offering from Tom Cruise is a rare gem. It has all the ingredients of a great summer blockbuster and then more. Sure it’s got cool exoskeleton suit, lots of explosion and exotic aliens. But it also has interesting characters with good character development and surprisingly intelligent narrative. I've always been a sucker for movies involving time travel, especially time loops. So I usually end up over-analyzing the plots to see whether they make sense based on their own logic and premises. 

It’s the same case with "Edge of Tomorrow". With the premise of "Groundhog Day" meets "Starship Troopers", the plot can get quite convoluted. Throughout most of the movie, the plot is pretty air-tight. However, the ending left some viewers a bit disappointed. While I personally enjoy the ending, I can see why many people think it does not make much sense. In the first glance it does feel like it is breaking its own rule. Some say it's just lazy scriptwriting and yielding to pressures to come up with a happy ending. 

However, after long contemplation and being immersed in deep thought, I think I have found an explanation that may – well – explain how the ending came to be. What I am about to tell you may sound crazy. But the longer I talk, the more rational it gets. *wink*

In case it's not clear already, this article will be full of spoilers and even more expositions that only true geek could care. 

The First Loop
Let’s start with the “fact” mentioned in the movie:
  • ·         If you kill an Alpha, time will be reset to a certain point in the past.
This is how the Mimics are always able to stay one step ahead of the humans. They learn from their mistakes and adapt accordingly in the next iteration. It seems that the only one aware of the loop is the organism that gets killed, while the rest of the universe is oblivious to it. Since all the Mimics are somehow telepathically controlled by the Omega, this could explain how the Omega is also aware of the loop. 

Expanding from this, I'm guessing that they cannot jump back to any arbitrary point in the past. It seems that the starting point cannot go further than 24 hours (give or take). My conjecture is that the Alphas (and the Omega) are continuously “recording” reality as it progress through time. However they have limitation. They only have enough “memory” for recording the last 24 hours of reality. Think of it like a Digital Video Recording that continuously records TV broadcast but only have enough space for 24-hour video. Thus older content are automatically purged.

When Cage kills the Alpha and absorbs its power, he is then thrown into the beginning of the recording, which is the moment when he wakes up on Heathrow tarmac. (It could be that the exact starting point is actually some time earlier while he is still unconscious).

Intermediate Loops
It appears that Cage only inherits the power to return to the starting point, but he doesn’t have the power to continue recording.  This would explain why he keeps starting at the same point in time even though he eventually manages to stay alive longer and longer.  Another curious thing is that the Alpha killed by Cage no longer appears in any subsequent loops.  It could be that the movie simply doesn’t show it again, but I’d like to think that this is deliberate and part of the rule of this time-looping mechanism. Hence, this is my postulate:
  • Under a particular condition (perhaps when it's time manipulating organ is blown to pieces and its blood all scattered around) an Alpha would cease to exist from any timeline.
So, under normal circumstances, when an Alpha gets killed, it will be back alive at the beginning of the loop. However, something particular happens when Cage (and Vrataski) kills the Alpha. Not only they absorb the time-looping ability, but the Alpha from which they got the power is completely removed from existence.

The Ending

After the blood transfusion, Cage no longer has looping ability from the Alpha. However, when he kills the Omega, he was once again soaked in that time-manipulating goo. Thus Cage is thrown back to the starting point of the Omega’s recording. Notice that the event happens few hours before the beach assault. Therefore the starting point is also few hours earlier. It’s the time when Cage wakes up in the helicopter just before he arrives in UDF headquarter.  

Just like before, because the time-looping power is somehow transferred to Cage, the Omega ceases to exist. That is why the death of the Omega becomes effective also in the past.Without a central mind to govern them, all other Mimics cannot survive and die on their own. 

Final Note:

I personally don't like the use of alien blood as the mechanism for time travel. I think it's too ... physical. If it were me I'd visualize the transfer of the power with some kind of energy wave or bubble that is released when the Alpha is blown up. Being engulfed in that energy causes someone to absorb the ability. As for the mechanism for losing the ability, I prefer something like electric shock, such as getting tasered or through the use of defibrillator.