Let’s retire the genre of movies that repeat scenes or plotlines over and over again with slight variations.
That’s right, Edge of Tomorrow (2014). You don’t get props from me.
I blame Rashomon (1950) for this. It’s never been my favourite Kurosawa film – despite its vaunted status – owing to its repetition. And I think it sparked a whole crop of flicks using the same tack.
We need more movies that stick to one tale without duplicating it. It seems like some filmmakers see the opposite idea as a kind of gimmick sure to reel in eyeballs. Problem is, the only thing it does, in my opinion, is draw yawns. Even when used properly, like in the case of Rashomon, it wears more than other films of similar quality. Show the same scene many times with even major differences, and the novelty fades after just a few instances. Once that happens, the effects can be deadly.
That was the case with About Time (2013), Richard Curtis’ horrid, temporally skewed rom-com that suggested doing everything twice while enjoying the ride can make all the difference in a person’s life. As an individual with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I can safely say that performing the same behaviours multiple times doesn’t always lead to satisfaction; in fact, it can make the opposite occur. So it was with AT, which took dreariness to a whole new level in its effort to convey the comic possibilities of repeated action.
Without having seen Edge of Tomorrow, I can guess that its storyline – which has something to do with Tom Cruise’s character dying in a futuristic battle multiple times while being stuck in a lifecycle holding pattern – will have the same cinematic results: boredom.
Heck, I don’t even think Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day (1993) makes the cut in this regard, though it certainly uses the device in a creative way … as well as it could be used, I guess. I just don’t adore the idea of watching it over and over again like I do with some of cinema’s greatest comedies.
Recently, I had the opportunity to view Hitchcock’s classic thriller The 39 Steps (1935) on TV, and I was surprised that I didn’t mind his use of flashbacks to cue viewers in on the nastiness of the villains toward the beginning of the film. That’s certainly repetitious. Why don’t I dislike it in this context?
Perhaps it’s because Hitchcock used the device sparingly, without beating you over the head with it. It remains seminal, memorable, without becoming tiresome. Not enough is repeated to make it tedious.
I only wish this could be the benchmark people examine before crafting a tell-the-same-story-multiple-times movie. Not Run Lola Run (1998). Not Groundhog Day. Not even Rashomon. I doubt that’ll happen, but it’s a hope. And I can’t let go of that.
Surely, Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t follow this judicious formula. I can tell just by looking at the ads. Still, we can find salvation in the idea that it might be so bad, its device ultimately may be discarded by most directors in favor of more traditional storytelling options.
Of course, that may be just a dream. If that’s the case, let it not be a recurring one.