‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Ending & Time Travel Explained

Published 3 months ago by , Updated July 18th, 2014 at 9:56 am,

Edge of Tomorrow Ending Spoilers Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

Based on the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow tells the story of Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a man who is forced onto the front lines for a major military operation against invading aliens known as “Mimics.” Untrained and unprepared for combat, Cage is killed within minutes – only to wake up 24 hours earlier with no choice but to relive (and die) the same day over and over.

Like many time travel (or time loop) stories, Edge of Tomorrow relies on heady exposition and mind-bending sci-fi ideas which may confuse certain moviegoers. For that reason, we’re here to help breakdown the Major Cage’s ability to “reset” time, as well as explain the film’s ending. Our discussion is going to be full of SPOILERS from here on out – for both Edge of Tomorrow and the All You Need is Kill source material. READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up. You have been warned.

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MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW

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The Source of Time Looping

June Preview Edge of Tomorrow Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

In the opening moments of the film, we learn that Major Cage is a government-sponsored talking head who refuses to document the UDF campaign “Project Downfall” from the front lines. Branded a deserter, Cage is forced into military service (as part of J-squad) on the eve of a massive offensive, waking up at Heathrow airport in handcuffs (the starting point for the time loops he experiences throughout the film).

In spite of rigorous planning and secrecy, the Mimics see the attack coming and the offensive turns into a massacre – wiping out humanity’s last line of defense. On the ground, Cage watches as J-Squad and UDF war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) are mercilessly slaughtered by orange-tinted Mimic drones. During the fracas, Cage comes face to face with a blue colored “Alpha” Mimic, exterminating the creature as its acidic blood rains down on his face, killing him. That Alpha blood gives Cage the ability to “loop” (aka reset time by a day).

Edge of Tomorrow Aliens Rita Vrataski Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

Through countless trial and error attempts, Cage manages to befriend Vrataski and her physicist confidant Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor) who explain their theories on Mimic physiology. Carter asserts that the Mimics, named for their uncanny ability to adapt to human military strategies, are a highly-evolved hive mind capable of controlling time. At the center of the collective is the “Omega” Mimic, an extremely large and powerful creature that serves as the brain of the Mimic force but is hidden far away from the battlefield for its own protection.

Where the normal orange-colored Mimics are basic workers/pawns, sent into battle for the sole purpose of killing enemies, the Omega also employes the use of the blue-tinted Alphas, who serve as the eyes and ears of the Omega on the front lines. Unlike basic Mimics, Alphas are precious to the collective, and thanks to their direct link to the Omega, contain the head creature’s time-controlling essence in their blood. Should an Alpha die, the Omega resets time but retains the knowledge of everything that went wrong on the battlefield – allowing the creature to make tactical adjustments accordingly, and gain an upper hand in the new time cycle.

The highly-evolved power to wind back the clock is responsible for the extraterrestrial’s unrelenting adaptation to human military efforts, as well as the reason Mimics were able to see Cage’s invasion force coming: because the Omega had already watched it all happen in a previous timeline, and had mapped out a different strategy following one or many resets. In effect, the Omega is able to turn any fight that it experiences into an elaborate trap – until Cage inadvertently hijacks the time-loop ability.

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The Rules of Time Looping

edge of tomorrow tom cruise Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

At the time of his first death, Cage is drenched in the blood of a dying Mimic, essentially transferring the Omega’s time control ability to Cage. After saving her on the French battlefield, Vrataski reveals that she had experienced the same looping phenomenon during an assault at Verdun, but subsequently lost the ability after she was severely injured and bleeding out. During her time looping, she worked with Dr. Carter to understand how the time reset ability actually worked – attempting to find out if it could be transferred to others via physical contact, blood, or other bodily fluids.

The pair came to the conclusion that only one organism (Mimic or Man) could be in charge of the reset at any given time – meaning that when Rita acquired the ability, the Omega no longer had control, giving Vrataski (and later Cage) a temporary edge. The Alpha blood also caused Vrataski (and eventually Cage) to have visions of the Omega’s hidden location, and Dr. Carter surmised that if they could find the creature in time, before a reset, they could wipe out the entire Mimic invasion force – since the creatures were all extensions of the Omega. As it turns out, Vrataski and Cage’s “visions” were actually traps, planted by the Omega after it had figured out who was in control of the loop – by drawing Rita (and later Cage) to an isolated location, the Omega hoped to reclaim its looper blood, so that the Mimics could regain control of the time reset.

Edge of Tomorrow Alpha Mimic Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

Cage manages to survive the Omega’s trap (by drowning himself) and the encounter encourages him to revisit an abandoned piece of technology that Dr. Carter had built – based on the appearance of Vrataski’s original visions – to track the Omega by hijacking an Alpha’s connection to the Omega. After a number of resets, Cage and Vrataski successfully acquire the gadget, and Cage uses the device on himself (since his body contains Alpha blood), quickly locating the Omega. Yet, during their attempted escape with the device, UDF infantry destroy their getaway car, leaving Cage injured and bleeding out. He awakens hours later with an IV pumping fresh blood into his arm, having lost the ability to reset time – just like Vrataski had months earlier.

As a result, control of the loop reverts to the Omega - but, unless an Alpha is killed, Cage and Vrataski still have time to travel to the creature’s location and destroy it. The pair enlist the help of J-Squad, who Cage manages to convince of the time loop (thanks to the countless hours he’s spent with each of them in prior loops), and the soldiers set out for Paris – where the Omega is concealed underneath the Louvre. No longer able to reset time, Cage and his team only have one shot to kill the Omega, and are tasked with the added challenge of not killing an Alpha. As mentioned, should the team kill inadvertently kill an Alpha, the Omega would reset time, and Cage would not retain any of the memories of his previous exploits.

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The Ending Explained

edge tomorrow tom cruise emily blunt1 Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

J-Squad is killed-off one at a time while escorting Cage and Vrataski to the Lourve - where entry to the Omega’s lair is guarded by an Alpha. Vrataski sacrifices herself in order to distract (without killing) the Alpha, while Cage tries to destroy the Omega, which is hiding in a flooded portion of the parking garage. As Cage swims downward, he is impaled (and mortally wounded) by the Alpha, who spears him through the chest with a tentacle; in spite of his injury, Cage manages to release a cluster of grenades. The explosion kills the Omega, and since it is the brain of the Mimic collective, its death causes the remainder of its kind on Earth to wither and die, putting an abrupt end to the alien invasion.

Even though Cage survives the detonation, he is doomed to die – that is, until the Omega’s blood, rising through the water, seeps into his wound. As Cage dies he regains control of the Mimic’s ability to reset time – this time waking up hours before he was ever arrested (his usual start point in the loop). Furthermore, certain actions from the previous loop are retained – while others are not. The Mimics are dead following an unknown event (unknown to everyone but Cage) below the Louvre. Yet, J-Squad and Vrataski have all been resurrected, with no knowledge of their role in eliminating the Mimics during the prior time cycle.

NEXT PAGE: Time Loop Paradox Explanation >

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  1. First of all, I seriously cannot understand why some people consider that the ending sucked… It is the perfect ending! It provides a conclusion to the story being told (the Omega controlling the currently invading Mimics is destroyed or disabled… at least this one), while it leaves room open for a sequel in countless ways possible, many of them already explained here by other commentators. It’s a fine ending, both if there is a sequel or not. And that’s because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT RULES ARE BEYOND THE OMEGA, SINCE IT’S THE FIRST IT GETS DESTROYED! If it’s only a part of a bigger loop or there is another Omega resetting further, we don’t know, it is not explicitly shown in the movie and it really makes sense that it doesn’t, because from the characters’ point of view, all they knew was restricted to the Alpha, and even that was “just a theory”, as Cage pointed out. Until they get to kill the Omega, the maximum extent of the time loop they could experience (Rita and Cage) is limited to the Alpha. And the rules established for the Alpha are perfectly consistent: Cage killing an Alpha and receiving its blood gave him an equal property of connection with the Omega while losing that blood made the property disappear. Independently of the time of his death, he always returned to the same checkpoint, which was a day before killing an Alpha on the French beach. He came in contact with the Omega’s property a couple hours before the French invasion, which made him return to the point before meeting with the general.

    Nobody knows what rules lie beyond the Omega death because the Omega hadn’t been killed before, it’s the first time this Omega is being destroyed in the current line of events. You can’t simply imply that the rules have been cheated because you don’t even get to know those rules from the characters’ point of view. Saying that the entirety of the rules of time resetting established in the movie have been cheated it’s like trying to figure out what’s like life after death. You simply can’t know how the timeline works if you kill the Omega until after you kill it.

    Did people actually paid attention to dialogues? It was said that there could be thousands of asteroids containing these species and also Cage actually pointed out that what Rita and the physicist were working on was just a theory, no one knew for sure how the Omega actually operates. So see, we are presented with the characters’ knowledge of the Mimics, which may not be, of course, complete! Now this leaves more than enough space for a sequel and I seriously hope there is a sequel. With both characters alive and not fully disclosure of the rules, there’s more than enough space for one.

    Besides, I don’t feel like they have destroyed the stakes built up in the movie by bringing the characters to life. Remember, Rita died luring the Alpha! She had absolutely no clue that Cage would come in contact with the Omega’s blood and being able to go back further in time. And Cage didn’t know too. They both gave their lives in a selfless way. Remember the dialog line from Rita? “Cage, none of us is getting out of here”. They both performed their actions in a selfless way, thinking they would die, as given by the fact that Cage had lost the ability to reset time since the blood transfusion. They earned going back to life. It’s just so happens that Cage got lucky in the way he got in contact with the Omega’s substance right before drowning. It almost reminds me of how lucky Neo was in the original Matrix in deciding to delete Agent Smith, which allowed him to be unplugged from the system and copy himself, becoming a virus that threatened the survival of the machines, which ultimately allowed Neo to forge a truce with the God Ex Machina and prevent the destruction of Zion. What I imply is that perhaps this “lucky” moment from Cage coming in contact with the Omega’s property has deeper implications to the story. As far as we know, maybe he even replaced the Omega and has now full control over the timeline. Who knows?

    And for those who don’t like happy cheesy endings, well it wasn’t a perfectly happy ending. Rita doesn’t remember Cage or anything they have been through in previews respawns and now with the war over, maybe they will never have the opportunity to establish that close connection they had. It’s not completely fullfilling.

    I’m surprised to see such a great movie, wasn’t expecting at all, I saw Godzilla and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes before Edge of Tomorrow, thinking they were obviously better but I got surprised. It’s actually very consistent, which makes me think the directors reviewed the script over and over, we just don’t know how much they actually wanted to be revealed in this movie. A great movie with great characters played by great actors, a refreshing breeze of fresh air. I sincerely didn’t have this feeling of “wow what a great movie” in a very long time. And all the discussion around it is just typical of how great the movie really is. A fresh breeze from all the comic heroes and bayformers and teen werewolves. Really looking forward for DVD release and, oh yeah, Tom Cruise is still kicking ass. Simply the best.

    • Question: would Rita still have memory of when she was living each day over and over again? And if so all cage would have I ask, is about those days she Iived over and over, therefore they are all good to go right?

  2. Um, he was sent farther back in time because the omega blood is more ‘powerful’ than an alphas. It seems like the implied intent of the movie. And the mimics were reset just like everyone else. If you actually pay attention to the movie. Cage has the helicopter take him to the omega and he kills it off screen. Hence all the mimics die and then he goes to find the girl.

    • He went back further because he died after killing the Omega which was hours before he originally died on the beach.

      • That is the simplest, best explanation yet. Is there an Occam’s razor award of some sort?

  3. “From the Omega’s perspective, Cage is another Alpha – the Alpha whose blood entered him. So, whenever Cage dies, the Omega resets time back to the 24-hour point previous to the first instance of the original Alpha’s death. Since the Omega considers Cage to be this original Alpha, each time he dies, the Omega resets”

    Now, as Cage was able to predict the Mimics moves and plans that he’d encountered before, that would mean it never really knew his attempts or thoughts.

    The theory was that he was now in control of the time travel after getting the Alpha’s blood on him while dying. He must have been in control as when he died/reset, the aliens never changed their previous attacks unless he did something different. (i.e. Go into a different vehicle.)

    I’m off to bed, but maybe this will help someone further think into what was fully going on in the movie. Many things were left to discussion. I feel I could gather theories and maybe a light will turn on as this one I’d found. (Everything in the “” is not my doing.)

  4. The first was not a bad explanation… but I’m bothered by the line “As mentioned, should the team kill inadvertently kill an Alpha, the Omega would reset time, and Cage would not retain any of the memories of his previous exploits.”

    But the Vrataski and the Professor remembered their prior experiences through multiple Timeloops… Why would Cage not have retained his memory?

    Doesn’t make sense to me…

    • Vrataski remembered her own loops. The professor did not remember them. He had to be retold about them every time. The same happened when Cage looped, he had to re-explain to Rita and the professor every time he met them.

      Only the one actually looping gets to remember. And if an Alpha gets killed, that Alpha will loop and remember, and neither Rita, Cage or the professor will remember.

  5. He woke up earlier in the ending because he regained the time looping ability, earlier than he did the first time. When he first killed the alpha is was on the beach during the invasion. 1 day earlier he was at heathrow unconscious so that was his start point. But they left the night before the invasion to kill the omega, so when he regained the looping ability it took him 1 day earlier from that point in time, which was when he was in the helicopter en route to his meeting.

    • The issue I have with it is if the omega is dead how did the day reset? Does Cage now have the Omega’s ability? Or was the omega not completely dead?

      • Since we do not know what mechanism was used for time travel (and no, it was not the same as in the novel; that had a different mechanism) we can at best speculate. Two main possibilities are apparent from what the movie tells us;

        1. The Omega is the owner of the time travel ability, and when it is killed it tries to use it, but since Cage gets infused with its blood he does the same kind of involuntary hijack he did with the Alpha and gets reset instead, and the Omega gets destroyed.

        2. The Omega is one step up in the chain from the Alpha, but there is a “meta-Omega” somewhere else granting the time reset for the Omega. And just like Cage hijacked the Alpha reset loop using its blood, he now hijacked the Omega reset loop using its blood.

        Not that option 2 only has indirect support from the events in the movie, and seems contrived from what we learn along the story. Option 1 is consistent with the rest of the movie and explains all that happened neatly.

        I just re-watched the movie again. It’s out on iTunes. It’s one heck of a ride.

  6. Well, he’d only keep it until his blood was swapped out.

    That doesnt only happen through transfusions though. After a certain amount of time, the blood in his veins would be replaced by new cells, essentially purging him of the power. So even if he did keep it, he wouldn’t keep it for the rest of his life.

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