Rebrand, Bomb, Repeat: Why titles matter

If you haven’t heard- the film released earlier this year called Edge of Tomorrow (quick plug, finger guns, cheeky wink 😉 ) will be renamed Live, Die, Repeat for its home media release. Logic being that since the film performed way below expected numbers, a rebranding is in order, presumably to start anew and give it a massive push for DVD/Blu-ray. They even went as far as changing the title on IMDB (UPDATE: it has now reverted back to “Edge of Tomorrow” but here’s a screenshot so I don’t look like a lying jerkbag). I have a problem with this. Now, I get the complete apathy you may have to this topic, but bear with me, ‘cos I think it speaks of bigger things than just a dumb name change.

…And it is a dumb name.  A lot of films don’t bother with taglines now for fear of not being taken super fucking seriously, but I’ve always liked them.”Live, Die, Repeat” is a great tagline. It’s to the point and snappy. What it isn’t is a good film name. Whilst the title “Edge of Tomorrow” does sound pretty generic, at least it rolls off the tongue better than “Live, Die, Repeat”, which forces you into a Shatnerian way…of… talking. Considering the film’s concept being a single repeating day, “Edge of Tomorrow” actually fits nicely and makes sense in the context of the film. Granted, the film should be called “All You Need is Kill” as that is the name of the source material, but I can see why they changed that one. It sounds like a parody of sorts.

The film underperformed but it got crazy good reviews. Several film sites I go to have had people excitedly talking about how much they enjoyed the film for months. I enjoyed it immensely. I suspect Edge of Tomorrow is a future cult classic. I’ve already seen far more people talking about over the past few months than I ever remember seeing when it came out in cinemas. It’s got word of mouth on its side here. It’s a legitimately decent film. Quality will out if you give it time. I just don’t see how a title change benefits anyone outside of the Warner Bros. execs and the marketing team. Let’s just count off the ways this may hurt the film.

1) Confusing: Yeah, the film didn’t rake in the cash they wanted, but a bunch of people saw this film. They saw a film called Edge of Tomorrow. It’s alienating those people who aren’t as fucking sad as I am and who don’t read film sites all the time and so may not know of the title change. What happens to the people who enjoyed the film and want to purchase it, unaware of the name switch? In general, consumers are like meerkats- one sense of something being off and they dash underground.

2) Negates some word of mouth: People have been reading about the “best film of the summer that they didn’t see”. Plenty of sites (including this one) sang its praises and urged people to watch it. I’m always trying to get people to watch stuff and it can be challenging. The name change alone invites this kind of possible scenario:

Gumbus: Hey, have you seen Edge of Tomorrow yet?

Merle: Nah, I looked for it on Amazon. It kept taking me to another Tom Cruise film called “Live, Die…something”.

Gumbus: Yeah, that’s the one. They just renamed it.

Merle: Oh, ok. I’ll get it later. *forgets*

3) Established name already: The film I and many other people saw in the cinema was called Edge of Tomorrow. There’s no way I can think of this film as anything else but that. Just can’t.

4) It’s a fucking shit name: It’s a fucking shit name

It doesn’t make sense. Surely they should be pushing it super-hard for the home release, with posters plastered with all the 4/5 star ratings it garnered. Box office bombs become famous for being just that. They appear on all sorts of end of year lists detailing the biggest box-office losers. The Lone Ranger suddenly became talked about because of how much it was costing Disney. Plus, here’s the thing- EoT didn’t do well, but isn’t a colossal financial failure. I could have possibly seen the logic if it had done so badly they wanted to distance themselves from the name, but even then I would have disagreed. Plus, box-office talk is mostly bollocks anyway. Eventually, most films make their money back via home sales, rentals, TV rights etc.

Ultimately, it shows a complete lack of confidence in the product. It’s like when Disney dropped the “…of Mars” off the end of John Carter because the film Mars Needs Moms had bombed the year before and their beep-boop logic told them that the “Mars” part of “Mars Needs Moms” was somehow something to do with the failure of Robert Zemeckis’ shitty-looking CGI nonsense that no-one wanted to see . I hate to bring up the phrase “artistic integrity” in a discussion about Hollywood, but it shows a lack of that too.

Titles matter. When I was in school, the practice of coming up with the title for your story before starting the actual writing was drilled into me. I get why now. It forces you to start shaping an idea. Titles are important and can change the meaning of a film entirely. Take Raiders of the Lost Ark. Since it hit DVD, the film officially became known as “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”. You see how that’s not quite the same and not quite as good? Indy is one of the titular raiders of the ark, he just happens to want it for a good purpose. Having the film’s title be Indiana Jones and the…blah blah blah is not as concise. I know it’s to bring it in line with the rest of the series, but I see it as a Rambo situation. First one establishes a famous character (Raiders/First Blood), then it becomes about chronicling the adventures of that character (...and the Temple of Doom/ Rambo III). Plus, the film’s title card just says “Raiders of the Lost Ark” whereas the others have the “Indy” prefix.

I know all of this isn’t the worst thing ever and it doesn’t even come close to some of the completely dumb shit studios pull on a regular basis, but it is irritating. I can only see it being a needless complication to the marketing of a film that didn’t get its due, especially when it had the potential to enjoy the success that Dredd did when it came to DVD. I liked Edge of Tomorrow and want it to do well. Not only because I believe in quality being rewarded, but because Hollywood needs to pay attention to films like Edge of Tomorrow/Live, Die, Repeat/Whatever the Fuck and the only way they do that is if a film makes mad bank. If you can’t tell my position on it already, if you haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow yet, you should get on that.

Edge of Tomorrow

 

Groundhogs of War

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

I like Tom Cruise. I barely hear a positive word about him when talking to people and it’s unfair. The guy’s a decent actor and always brings a certain passion to his roles. His recent output has been solid too, with Oblivion being a cracker of a sci-fi and one of my favourite films of last year. Plus, Emily Blunt.  Anyway, just explaining why I was chomping at the bit to see Edge of Tomorrow.

“What I am about to tell you sounds crazy- but you have to listen to me. Your very lives depend on it. You see, this isn’t the first time. “

Edge of Tomorrow takes place in the near future. Humanity is at war with fast, deadly and tentacle-y aliens known as Mimics. Cruise plays Major William Cage, a military P.R. guy used to appear on various news outlets talking up the war and the allies’ need for new recruits. Cage is called in by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) and it soon transpires he’s being whisked away from comfy greenrooms and plonked straight on the front line. After trying to Blackadder his way out of danger, Cage unwisely tries to blackmail Brigham, ensuring his place with the grunts. Predictably, it all goes a bit D-Day landings and carnage ensues. However, during the hellish battle something happens which causes the day to reset, with only Cage aware of the change. He soon learns he’ll have to seek out badass and military posterwoman Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) aka “Full Metal Bitch” to try and make sense of his temporal troubles and possibly a way to finally end the war.

So yeah, it’s basically Groundhog Day with a dash of Aliens. This is in no way a bad thing though. It has its own identity and crucially, knows what made both those films work beyond the superficial. Edge of Tomorrow knows this and spends a lot of time focusing on the evolving relationships between Cage and everyone else. Cruise is on form here. Cage is a smarmy coward and having him thrown headfirst into a terrifying combat situation with fuck-all training is great. I haven’t seen Cruise play a vulnerable character for a long time and it’s fantastic to see here. Emily Blunt is predictably great, being one of the most reliably decent actors around. Rita isn’t the cliched female arse-kicker character usually trotted out in misguided attempts at avoiding cries of sexism. She’s legit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get more action roles after this. Perhaps they could remake Domino with her instead of Keira Knightley. Also Brendan Gleeson is awesome. Take that as read for any film I review with him in it. Despite the competition from the aforementioned people and the game Bill Paxton, this is definitely Cruise’s film and, in my opinion at least, he goddamn nails it.

Edge of Tomorrow may just be the best video game film ever. Unfortunately, there is no Edge of Tomorrow game (what the fuck stopped them? The premise is crying out for a tie-in) but it takes the same kind of mechanic and runs with it. It reminded me of the punishing trial-and-error Dark Souls, where you often find yourself getting brutally killed only to respawn humbled, slightly wiser and ready to try a new strategy that doesn’t involve being run through by a massive broadsword. Same thing here. We see Cage slowly learning events and enemy patterns and it’s genuinely fun stuff. Cage’s transformation from quaking piss puddle to genocide distributor is extremely well done, with some legitimately funny moments. The script actually seems to be quite subversive, probably thanks to Christopher McQuarrie who likes to tweak conventions and remix tropes, such as in the hugely underrated The Way of the Gun. William Cage, at least initially, is practically a send-up of the standard Cruise role. Plus, I consider this Doug Liman’s redemption for the fucking terrible Jumper. This is the smart director who kicked off the Bourne franchise. I’ve missed him.

So, the Groundhog Day thing. Like with last year’s Oblivion, I’ve heard several cries of unoriginality. OK, the basic gimmick’s similar but you can’t just rip-off the “time-repeating” schtick and hope it has the same impact. Director Doug Liman and McQuarrie know this and preserve exactly what made it work in Groundhog Day. They take full advantage of the premise. There is insane dramatic potential in having only one character aware of time looping, something which bypassed the “creative” team behind 50 First Dates. We see a one-sided relationship being built. The brunt of this falls on Cruise and he carries it admirable. I honestly think some non-Cruise fans may be won round. If not, you will get the pleasure of seeing Cruise die over and over again. Talk about your win-win situations. HAHA I BET I AM THE FIRST TO MAKE THAT JOKE.

“Come find me when you wake up!”

So yeah, Edge of Tomorrow. Good stuff. It’s a smart sci-fi with heart and humour with a surprisingly subversive turn from Tom Cruise. Highly recommended.