Edge of Tomorrow was a good film. I would dare to say that it was a great film. A blend of Groundhog Day and sci-fi action fare like Aliens and Starship Troopers, it features strong performances from its two leads. It has a brisk pace, stunning visuals, and a good balance of thrills, drama and comedy. Oh yes, and it is currently dying at the box office.
It should come as no surprise by now to anyone who has been keeping up with it, that the latest Tom Cruise vehicle has flopped domestically. Despite overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, the adaptation of the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill was trounced this past weekend, unable to stand up to the power of YA romance The Fault in our Stars, or Disney's holdover from the week before, Maleficent. It is only just now crossing the $40 million mark, and while internationally it is fairing much better, grossing about $111 million, the film is still hard pressed to make back its budget, let alone double it.
So what happened? Why did the movie fail? Well there are a number of factors. For one, Tom Cruise just isn't the box office draw he once was. This is his third flop in a row, preceded by Jack Reacher in 2012, and Oblivion last year. Despite his appearance, Cruise is over 50, and the younger demographics would apparently rather have their heartstrings strummed like a guitar by Shailene Woodley than see Cruise and costar Emily Blunt relive the same day for two hours. It doesn't help that audiences tend to have a knee jerk reaction to Cruise's name as a result of his controversy ridden personal life.
There's also the marketing, which failed to differentiate the film from the scores of other bombastic blockbuster fare that has been released in the past, many of which were letdowns of varying scale. Combine that with the fatigue that comes from watching city annihilating carnage time and again, the reluctance to pay inflated ticket prices, and the reluctance to sit in a theater between the loud mouth cracking jokes and the jerk texting the whole time, all to see a movie that hasn't been marketed to look any different from what you've already seen before, and you have a recipe for poor box office returns.
There's another factor that comes into play, one that I find the most troubling. The reality is that science fiction is a genre that struggles in North America. In the last decade only two original sci-fi films were able to break $200 million at the box office, not counting franchise movies like Star Wars: Episode III, Star Trek, or Star Trek: Into Darkness. One was a Pixar film (WALL-E), and the other was James Cameron's brilliantly marketed money making titan (Avatar). We have all heard people cry out for more originality from Hollywood, yet it seems that at least where science fiction is concerned, that cry is more of a whisper.
In fact even brand recognized properties are ultimately saved by their international gross. The previously mentioned Star Trek had a budget of $150 million, meaning to be considered a success it would have needed to make $300 million at the least. At the end of its North American run, the movie grossed $257 million. Were it not for the $157 million made overseas, it would have been considered a failure. The sequel had a higher budget and brought in even less. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the few films in the genre to make less than $200 million and be considered a financial success domestically, but that is owed in no small part to its more modest budget when compared to others in the genre. Edge of Tomorrow, it is sad to say, looks to be just another in a long line of fresh science fiction pictures that's quality is overshadowed by whatever stigma it is that comes with the genre.
This weekend sees the release of both 22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon 2, sequels to two widely loved films, both of which are highly anticipated and have received exceptional early reviews. While I still recommend to any who haven't seen it yet to check out Edge of Tomorrow at their earliest convenience, it looks like a strong case of too little, too late. Perhaps it will fare better in DVD sales.