Despite being a fantastically fun science fiction film with a kick of originality (full review), Edge of Tomorrow hasn’t been doing all that great at the box office. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and visit the theater this weekend and give its numbers a boost. If you have seen it, you probably left the theater trying to bend the ending around in your head to make sense of it. I’ve done that bending for you, coming up with what I think is a reasonable explanation. Massive spoilers follow, obviously, so come back after you’ve already seen the film if you haven’t done so already.
Most of the film makes sense. For a movie involving time travel, I think you will agree that it follows a sense of logic and plays by its established rules. Then the ending happens. The ending requires either some suspension of disbelief as you just go with it, knowing Hollywood wants a feel good ending whether or not it makes sense, or you have to really think about it and come up with a way it makes sense.
After having a discussion with some fellow film critics, some of whom were not convinced the ending made any sort of reasonable sense, I came up with an explanation that works for me. I don’t have any magical access to the screenwriters’ brains so I don’t know if this is how they thought of the ending. I also haven’t read the source material novel or manga, but from my research, it seems like the film takes a lot of liberties with the conclusion, so this theory probably only applies to the film, regardless of what explanations the original may have given.
First off, the brain of the Mimic invasion, the Omega, has the ability to reset the day – that is a given and basically is the whole point of the film. It appears to transmit this ability through the blood of the Alphas, whose deaths trigger the reset. It also seems likely that this ability is linked to the Omega’s bloodstream as well if their biology is consistent. The first question we need to answer in order to explain the ending is how does the Omega’s ability work?
The Omega, or at least its blood/elements within it’s blood exists in a state of quantum shift. That is, it exists in multiple times at once. Now let’s assume that resetting to a 24 hour day, as seen in the film, is somewhat arbitrary – it’s an easy way for the Mimics to keep track of things relative to the planet they are on, but it seems reasonable that they would be able to manipulate time at other levels than that. Let’s say the ability stretches to a length of time roughly equaling 48 hours. My reasoning behind that will be clear later.
In order to jump the day back to whatever reset point has been chosen, the Omega must simultaneously exist in all points of time within the buffer zone. Think about it like an ongoing computer backup. If something goes wrong, you can restore your computer to any point along the way, all the way back to whenever the furthest active backup exists. In this case, that 48ish hour mark. The reset ability obviously functions like an immune system response, automatically. I don’t believe the Omega has any specific control over time other than allowing it to start again at the preselected backup – 24 hours prior to the initial incident. (Obviously, or Cage would jump earlier back in time each time he was killed before the end of the day). The exact mechanics are not as important other than the established facts that it is an automatic response, and the reset point is also automatic and unchanging.
The fact that the Omega simultaneously exists, at least to some degree, in all of these time periods is proved at the end of the film. When Cage killed the Omega, it ceased to exist in all points of time that it was currently inhabiting – the furthest back, apparently about two days prior (the 48ish hours I mentioned). This is evident given the reports of an energy surge in Paris occurring days before the events at the end (the explosion) would have taken place, yet it was observed, in some degree, in the past. Essentially, it ceased to exist before it was attacked. The good rules of time travel would tell us that the timeline would change, none of the events in the film happened, and Cage and company would go about their lives not knowing what happened (was going to happen). Of course that potentially introduces a paradox since this is now a timeline where Cage doesn’t destroy the Omega because it was already destroyed by him, but we can accept that because of the fact that the Omega was in a state of temporal flux, ceasing to exist at all points of time, regardless.
Cage, however, obviously remembers everything that happened, in the same way he did when originally given the reset ability, despite having lost it. In the process of destroying the Omega, Cage was exposed to high concentrations of the creature’s blood. This time it was different than when he essentially took the place of the Alpha. He didn’t jump back either 24 hours or to the previous checkpoint. Rather, he jumps back all the way to what I am assuming is the beginning of the “backup period.” The earliest time in which the Omega was currently existing. Having absorbed the Omega’s blood, he also absorbed the elements that were in temporal flux – we’ll call them tachyon particles. As the Omega ceased to exist, in all times, the tachyon particles snapped back to their last starting state – the earliest point at which they stopped existing, pulling the consciousness of their new host with them. Cage wakes up with all the memories of the future timelines what will not happen intact, despite being at the earlier start time. The Omega and the tachyon particles have all ceased to exist at this point, leaving him “normal” and ready to continue on with the rest of his life.
The one question I still had was why the army was still preparing for battle when the Mimic’s all presumably had dropped dead. The best I can come up with was that they didn’t, they were just more or less mindless and disabled, ready to be swept up now that they had no Omega directing them. That and also the army may not have had any way of knowing for sure what the situation was until they got out on the field and so were preparing for battle anyway.
Did I miss anything?