[SPOILERS AHEAD for Edge of Tomorrow!]
The conclusion to last month's Tom Cruise-led sci-fi blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow has been pretty heavily scrutinized and examined by the collective film geek community; we even devoted an entire article to explaining the film's ending and determining whether or not it does, in fact, violate the rules of time-travel established earlier on by the movie.
Co-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (who shall next direct Cruise in Mission: Impossible 5) has weighed in on the matter, explaining why Edge of Tomorrow ends the way it does - also revealing that the third act could've been even more complicated (or convoluted, depending on how you look at it) than it wound up being. Indeed, the scripted third act was, at one point, quite different than the version we eventually got - a topic that was broached on the related episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast (you can listen to the discussion here).
The short of it: there was an early Edge of Tomorrow script draft (possibly, multiple ones) that was more low-key and better paid off plot threads introduced earlier in the film. At the very least, it didn't involve Bill Cage (Cruise), Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), and the members of J Squad killing the Omega - only for a seemingly dead Bill to absorb its blood, regain his "resetting" ability, and wake back up on his helicopter ride from the day before, now the only person who knows how the Mimics were defeated. Here is what McQuarrie told Film School Rejects, with regard to why Edge of Tomorrow ends that way:
“I was always arguing it has to end on the helicopter. You have to be thrown back to wondering, ‘Did the movie even happen? Did any of this really happen?’ To that end, there were a million things you had to do with the writing and visually, to serve that ending. That presented a lot of challenges and debate for us. We really struggled to deliver what the movie needed to be emotionally. I know the ending was somewhat controversial, with some people who didn’t like it. I think the only way to make those people happy would to end the movie in a way that wasn’t happy. We weren’t interested in doing that. It needed to end in a way that wasn’t harsh.”
The FSR article clarifies that McQuarrie wasn't necessarily thinking of a "happy ending" for Edge of Tomorrow from the beginning; it was only after Cruise continually stressed the humorous elements of the story that McQuarrie decided the story ought to do what all domestic comedies narratives do in the end - restore the status quo. As such, the decision was thereafter made to bypass any version of the ending where Cage didn't wind up... well, right back where he started, albeit having secretly been responsible for saving the day (and him becoming a changed man in the process).
Of course for many people, their problem with Edge of Tomorrow's ending doesn't have so much to do with Cage avoiding a permanent death as it does with how he is able to survive - thus raising even more questions about how time-travel and the "resetting" reality actually works in this film's universe. (Because the ending as presented introduces some major plot holes, is the argument in a nutshell). Well, it turns out that the movie's third act could've been even more complex than it is, had the script included the plot twist that McQuarie describes below:
“When Tom loses the power, and they go to Paris, and Tom is preparing the team as they go into Paris where he’s telling them the rules of the movie, he tells the team everything the audience knows. Basically, he told them: ‘Kill as many Mimics as you want, but do not kill an Alpha. If you kill an alpha we’ll be right back here having this conversation, and we won’t even know it. The enemy will know we’re coming and they’ll kill us all.’ When they get to Paris there’s the classic horror movie scene where one of them gets separated from the group, and he gets attacked by an Alpha and kills it. As he kills it, you see the Omega reset the day and you see the point-of-view of the villain. We cut to the plane and hear the same speech all over again. This time when he gets to the line, ‘You can bet they’ll have a plan to kill us all,’ the ship gets hit. As the audience, you realize the enemy knows they’re coming. The problem was you were so exhausted by the time you got to that point.”
This particular twist was cut out to avoid bogging down the Edge of Tomorrow script in even more expositional dialogue - apparently, even Blunt and director Doug Liman had started to complain about the sheer amount of expository material in the screenplay, once production got underway.
Admittedly, the inclusion of the plot point described by McQuarrie probably wouldn't have done much, as far as helping to clear up the movie's final moments. At the same time, though, this may be a proper illustration of why the filmmakers decided to just skip on incorporating more time-twisting turns and/or explanatory plot material in the third act - instead deciding to bring the story full circle and leave it to the audience to figure out just how it got there.
Indeed, as McQuarrie has pointed out, Edge of Tomorrow ultimately does restore things to the way they were - which is precisely what a well-structured "comedy" is supposed to do, technically speaking. Still, be sure and let us know if you think the ending to Edge of Tomorrow is perfectly fine as is, if it left you confused by what happened and/or you would have preferred a completely different third act altogether.
Edge of Tomorrow is now playing in theaters.
Source: Film School Rejects