Edge of Tomorrow – Explain that Ending?

EOT one sheet

EOT one sheet

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?

  • Teresa Allen

    No. I think your theory sounds pretty sound to me. Did like the movie.

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  • blenky

    At the end when Cage wakes up on the helicopter it appears the power surge has already happened and does not tie in to the exact moment he became conscious. Maybe dying while digesting AlphaOmega blood sends Cage 24 hours back from the point of death. So the first time it was to Heathrow and the second to the helicopter. Also is there any significance as to both time loops starting at a point where he wakes up from sleep – or just a cinematic device?

    • I did think about that and decided that it was probably just a cinematic device. It can also easily be explained away by saying that the day restarted while he was sleeping both times (a bit convenient), he just didn’t become aware of it until he woke up, of course.

  • Kyle Beumeler

    I’m so tired of hearing everyone complaining about the ending. It isn’t confusing at all, and you don’t need a diagram with different colors representing different planes of existence, or other crap. I’ve heard people mention Omega blood being more potent so Cage jumps back further. I’ve heard people saying ridiculousness about them existing in different times or something. I’ve even heard people saying it was all a dream that Cage had while he was in the helicopter. There are many other ideas out there, and I disagree with all of them. Yes, I even disagree that the studio changed the ending from the books ending so they can make sequels, or just quickly finished it without thought. This angers
    me the most. I LOVED this movie, and after I watched it last night I spent the whole drive home explaining the ending to my wife and she finally gets it….SO here it goes, for your reading pleasure:

    There are 2 things that you need to understand before I write this:
    person is tased they are not unconscious for 24 hours…They are only unconscious for 2-3 hours at best. REMEMBER THIS, it’s common sense!!!
    #2. When an Alpha/Omega is killed and their blood is transferred to a human that Alpha/Omega ceases to exist because the human takes that beings place. This is why the Alpha that Cage killed never returns to the battlefield, AND why the Omega never returns…But I’ll get to that later. Cage is now that Alpha and when he dies the Omega resets time 24 hours (1 day) FROM WHEN THE ALPHA WAS ORIGINALLY KILLED.

    I will now give you a timeline of events. This will make it much easier for everyone to understand. Please note that exact times are not mentioned in the movie, so I will be giving the times listed:

    7:00AM (Day 1) – Cage wakes up in the helicopter on the way to meet the General
    8:00AM (Day 1) – Cage is tased and labeled a deserter following his meeting with the General
    10:00AM (Day 1) – Cage is awoken on the base by being kicked and called a maggot (PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THIS IS STILL THE SAME DAY)
    9:00AM (Day 2) – THIS IS THE NEXT DAY. Cage is dropped from the plane and lands on the beach
    9:05AM (Day 2) – Cage stated “I die within 5 minutes of landing on that beach” so this is when he kills the Alpha, and dies in the process

    Now every time Cage dies time is reset 24 hours FROM WHEN THE ALPHA ORIGINALLY DIED. This is why when he dies during PT by being ran over he is reset to 9:05AM (DAY 1) AND when he dies much later at the German Dam due to drowning himself he is still reset to 9:05AM (DAY 1). Also notice that 9:05AM is while he is unconscious due to being tased, and rather than the movie showing us Cage sleeping for 55 minutes they just skip to where he is awoken by being kicked and called a maggot.

    Now I will explain the ending for all of you:
    10:00AM (DAY 1) – Cage is awoken on the base by being kicked and called a maggot
    2:00PM (Day 1) – Cage and Rita meet with the General and get the device that Cage shoves into his leg
    5:00PM (Day 1) – Cage wakes up after receiving a blood transfusion and losing his ability to reset time
    10:00PM (DAY 1) – Cage and Rita convince J-Squad to help them
    6:00AM (DAY 2) – Cage kills the Omega, and all of the Mimics die along with it. The Omega’s blood is transferred to him and he becomes the Omega, resetting time 24 hours because the Alphas died
    6:00AM (DAY 1) – Cage is now sleeping on the helicopter but just like before, rather than the movie show us 1 hour of him sleeping they just skip to where he wakes up on the helicopter. NOTE that at this time the Omega ceases to exist because its blood was transferred to Cage
    7:00AM (Day 1) – Cage wakes up. When the helicopter lands he realizes everything has been reset and his friends are all alive once again. Instead of meeting with the General at 8:00AM he sees on the television that the General no longer requires his assistance because all of the Mimics are being easily handled. The “Disturbance” that the General is referring to that happened under the Louvre in Paris is the Omega ceasing to exist because Cage now has his blood.

    Once you understand that the end is NOT resetting time 2 days, and it’s actually only resetting it a few hours prior to when it was previously resetting, AND when Cage resets the Alpha/Omega that he got his ability from ceases to exist it’s pretty easy to wrap your head around everything.

    They can now easily do a sequel (Cage is the Omega/There is more than one Omega/Another asteroid brings more aliens/Whatever), or easily not do a sequel (They live happily ever after)

    • That actually makes a lot of sense to me – thanks so much for sharing!

    • Victor

      I agree. But it doesn’t really make sense without the idea that the Omega’s existence is somewhat stretched out on a time-line, presumably 24 hours back in time. Otherwise it wouldn’t be comprehensible that the general reports of the Omega’s death just before sunrise on day 1.

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  • iblser67

    Here’s my thoughts on the ending
    On the Omega dying and the reset loop:
    I like the idea that Cage absorbs the powers that the omega uses to initiate another reset but he doesn’t retain that ability like he did with the dead alpha because the Omega died and Cage can’t produce any more tachyon particles to keep the reset going like the omega would do when Cage would die with the alpha blood. Also its conceivable as mentioned above with the “state of quantum shift” existing in “multiple times at once” that the omega has to exist at the same plan as before and after the reset occurs so if the omega is dead before the reset its dead after the reset as well. This would explain the “energy Surge” that takes place at the same time as the actual reset, when Cage is asleep on the plane, more on that below. Its also conceivable that there wouldn’t even be an energy surge, because it happened before he reset.

    I’ll try to explain why he’s in the plane after the last reset:
    I assume 1st that the original rest is a fixed 45-48 hr shift from the time the alpha is killed and this creates a loop back to the original reset point each time he is killed not a new reset point. I’m also assuming that after tasering Cage is unconscious no more than 2-3 hours as Kyle points out below. 3rd the reset point occurs some time after he’s been tasered but still unconscious. We are seeing this from Cage’s perspective so it would make sense that cinematically we too see the reset point occurring at the point when Cage regains consciousness because that’s how he experiences it. Further evidence of the reset point being before he’s awaken is when he has the vision, clearly after dying but before he is “awaken” by the sergeant. So reset must take place before the sergeant awakens him. Next the original reset point is not that far removed from his waking on the plane before meeting the general, maybe 1-2 hrs. This helps setup where he should be when the last reset happens at the end. First Cage looses the blood so the loop is gone, he no longer will awaken on the duffel bags as he previously does. 2nd remember, Rita says they have 3 hrs before the invasion starts to stop the omega (Cage is killed 5 minutes into the invasion in the original reset/loop point) so when he resets at the end after killing the omega its before the invasion and before he original killed the alpha. Assuming that the first reset point is shortly after he is tasered, which is between 30min to an hr after landing from the plane, when he kills the omega it has to be earlier than the original alpha, I’m guessing at the least 1 hr because its still dark. So this would put him on the plane if this reset is at least an hr or more ahead of the first one.

    Further evidence that the reset is while he’s unconscious and not when he awakens, is when he lands the general is already giving his press conference about the “surge”. If the reset was to happen right when he awakens, the surge would have just happened and there wouldn’t be enough time between his awakening and landing to get the facts together (which part of this coming from the Russians and Chinese) to be able to hold a press conference about it.

    A side thought:
    When the plane lands at the end we don’t see him meeting the general again but I’m assuming he will after the press conference and the general still wants him to be in the invasion (more on that below), which he doesn’t say no to this time b/c he knows the mimcs are destroyed. Then he’s free to walk around, having retained his rank and is able to see Rita again. Or he could even be seeing the general later after he sees Rita, having his schedule shifted because he’s giving the press conference.

    2nd, on the mimics after the final reset:
    The general merely says there is no resistance from Russia and China’s advancing. He doesn’t say if there are mimic or not, just “no” resistance, implying that the mimics aren’t there. They still have to go in and secure their front and advance across Europe because they can’t say for sure if the mimics are all dead. They will have not evidence for sure until they get boots on the ground. That is why the invasion is still happening.

    3rd, you see J squard training as they normally would, regardless of if they were going to invade or not. Which they probably were, they have no reason to believe there aren’t any more mimics yet. That’s also why you see rita in the training area as well at the end.

    My final thoughts:
    After the credits, I see Cage writing his memoir, which ironically Cage talks about the general doing in the beginning. Published anonymously of course and as fiction, but Cage will be able to give so much detail in the book, changing the names of course but the details will be so specific that Rita, and the members of J squad will definitely question if it actually happened or not, details like the ones that Cage was able to use to convince J squad to go with him to Paris. I think that would give J squad and Rita at least some satisfaction that they saved the world (the same satisfaction that only Cage had at the end of the movie), even if the rest of the world doesn’t know it.

    • iblser67

      Also, Rita has already had her loop back, this doesn’t erase that timeline, so she would be easy to convince of this happening. Also i like the answer that Cage will not retain the omega’s power of resetting so that if/when he dies he’s not stuck in some forever loop.

      • iblser67

        i can concede that the rest might not be a loop and is fixed but it must be possible then that Cage is unconscious for a long period after being tasered so that the reset occurs some time along that unconscious period becuase he’s killed anywhere between a few hours to a good 36+ hrs since awakening.

  • bEn Dub

    The only problem I have is, Cage did go back 24 hours after he killed the Omega. They assaulted the museum at the break of dawn, just a few hours before the invasion, that’s why he woke up on the plane instead of at the base.