Why Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Need a Romance?

Edge of Tomorrow is one of the best blockbusters of the summer so far, but why did it have to have a fake love story grafted onto its plot? (Beware spoiler-phobes)

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Edge of Tomorrow is one of the best blockbusters of the summer so far, but why did it have to have a fake love story grafted onto its plot? (Beware spoiler-phobes)

The Tom Cruise-starring movie, about a man forced to relive the same day over and over again in order to save humans from an alien threat, was beat out in the box office by a true romance, The Fault in Our Stars. Clearly, Doug Liman’s movie wasn’t attempting to pull at the heartstrings, so it feels wholly unncessary that—just before the movie’s climax—Emily Blunt’s warrior Rita Vrataski plants one on Cruise’s William Cage.

Now, Edge of Tomorrow does not pass the Bechdel Test—there simply aren't really enough substantive female characters in the film for it to do so—but the best thing about the film is Blunt's character, which is progress on some level. Rita is a woman with one goal—winning the war against the Mimics—and a unique connection to Cage. She knows why he is repeating days, because she has been through the same thing, having also been infected with the enemy alien's blood. Being able to live out the same day multiple times allowed her to win the battle that turned her into a propaganda piece, and it makes her the only person who understands what Cage is going through. She is much better at combat and strategy than Cage, and is the clear leader in the situation. Her main weakness, as the movie goes on, is that she doesn't know what's coming whereas Cage does. He can develop an attachment to her, but she can't develop one to him. The movie wants to give her an inner life—she lies to Cage to keep her distance, clearly knows the sting of death, is feared and taunted as "Full Metal Bitch" by other soldiers—but no one really gets much of a backstory here. 

Rita and Cage's relationship is, from the beginning, not about romance. It's about saving the world. In fact, when Cage (semi-)jokingly asks whether or not the Mimic infection can be transferred via sex, the script treats the moment as a gag. There's almost a wink at the audience: yeah, you expect these character to hook up, but that's not what this movie is. That is, until the very end, when they embrace before fighting to the death. There's a case to be made that the kiss is simply an acceptance of their fate, but everything we know about Rita up until this point implies that she's a dedicated soldier, and making her a sudden romantic betrays her character. That's not to say she can't soften up a bit as humans do, but the moment reads less like she's accepting her humanity and more like the filmmakers had to acknowledge two attractive leads (one of which is Tom Cruise) who should lock lips because that's what men and women do in movies. (One online reviewer called the kiss "cinematically obligatory rather than fulfilling.")

Now, the finale of the film—in which, after destroying the alien threat and dying in the process, Cage's interaction with the big bad sends him back to the beginning of the story—has been widely debated. One critique of the conclusion is that for a film that is notable for its cleverness, the ending is frustratingly crowd-pleasing, and the kiss is a part of that audience pandering. The kiss was traditional for a movie that in many ways seemed to defy convention, at least when it came to its female lead. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.