What if someone made a genuinely great, beautifully edited, and endlessly entertaining science fiction movie starring world famous movie star Tom Cruise and nobody came to see it? I ask that question rhetorically, of course, because it already happened. Just a few months ago, in fact. And there’s a good chance that you missed it, despite megastudio Warner Brothers pumping $100 million into marketing the film. How could this happen to a movie starring arguably the most recognizable actor on the planet? For starters, Tom Cruise pigeonholing himself into an ‘action star’ career has become slightly monotonous lately. Then there’s Tom’s fairly bizarre personal life, certain details of which turn some potential moviegoers off (*coughThetanscough*). Also, let’s not forget that Cruise’s last shouty, shooty, spaceshipy movie Oblivion kinda sucked.
Those are all valid excuses for the turbulent infancy of the movie that you PROBABLY know as Edge of Tomorrow. A hundred million dollars seems like an unfathomable amount of money for marketing a film, but marketing is often an opaque concept that is difficult to master. How many trailers and TV spots and pictures of your stars on bags of Doritos will finally convince someone to pay to see your creation? And how much of that money is ultimately wasted because you can’t settle on, of all things, a title for your movie? I can’t really say for sure, but whatever the number is, it’s a lot higher than zero. A snappy and recognizable title will reel a potential viewer in earlier than just about any other factor associated with an upcoming production. But in the case of this article’s subject, only strong word of mouth prevented a massively enjoyable film from being an utter box office disaster.
So without further ado, and in honor of its DVD release this week, I revisit and rank the three titles that Edge of Tomorrow test drove during the course of its production and marketing and offer my suggestion as to which one Warner Brothers should have settled on.
3. Live. Die. Repeat.
Go figure that the title choice that WB appears to have decided upon is the worst of the bunch. L.D.R. not only gives away a crucial plot device RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE, but also sounds indisputably lazy. It’d be like tossing out The Prestige and going with Twins. Clones. Magic. It sounds like a half-ass margin notation for the Back to the Future script. No subtlety, no cleverness, and little to no chance that anyone unfamiliar with the movie would be compelled to watch it.
Now, according to the studio, Live. Die. Repeat. is not actually the official title, but I just bought the Blu-Ray today and there it is in gigantic letters, overshadowing everything else. The only place that Edge of Tomorrow is mentioned at all on the cover is an odd little runner line on the bottom that says, in small red type, “Cruise/Blunt/Edge of Tomorrow”. Huh? Each successive poster release maximized Live. Die. Repeat while minimizing EoT to the point of invisibility. And in the most embarrassing affront to good taste of all, iTunes has it listed (hella-awkwardly) as Live. Die. Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, which may very well be the worst movie title since Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and would be a runaway choice for last on this list if I were to dignify it with a spot (which I won’t). It’s a shame that word of mouth has had to work so hard to overcome such a truly awful final result. I can only imagine how many conversations prompting someone to see the film will be (or has already been) prefaced with a “I know the title sucks, but…” disclaimer.
2. Edge of Tomorrow
The choice that WB had temporarily settled on by the time the film was rolled out to theaters in June, EoT is a solid title that evokes mystery and interest and doesn’t, y’know, give away the driving force behind the plot in the goddamn title. Sure, it’s borderline gibberish that doesn’t really mean anything, but it sounds pretty cool. EoT was ultimately scrapped/forgotten/moved to a subtitle (depending on who you talk to) due to panic on WB’s part that the film’s opening was “soft” and changed to the aforementioned Live. Die. Repeat. to shake things up or some such baloney.
1. All You Need is Kill
‘All You Need is Kill’ is the title of the film’s original source material: a graphic novel created by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and it is batshit. “Kill ain’t a noun, but we got no time for rules of syntax up in here woooooooo!” Not only does AYNiK sound like the result of a wonderfully mangled Japanese-English mis-translation of a Dirty Harry line, but it’s the title the author chose and that should be good enough for us. Spielberg didn’t take Benchley’s Jaws novel and make a shark movie called Shark. Boat. Shoot. for God’s sake.
Unfortunately, the producers decided that a movie with the word ‘kill’ in it would be box office poison for American audiences, simultaneously explaining why the whole title snafu began in the first place and not explaining why studios keep getting away with “… starring Adam Sandler”. All You Need is Kill is a strange title, strange enough to make me want to know more about the film and the choice I would most want to see displayed prominently on the cover of my DVD. Naturally, it was the only one that wasn’t included in any form in the movie’s marketing and merchandise.
It’s impossible to say exactly what effect the film’s chameleonic titling ultimately did to its bottom line, but a little more trust in what American audiences can handle would have probably avoided the public second guessing that dogged the film since its release.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Blu of All You Need is Kill to watch.