In any event, All You Need is Live Die Tomorrow is actually based on a Japanese manga titled All You Need Is Kill, penned by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and illustrated by Yoshitoshi ABe. Hollywood has had cold feet when it comes to adapting manga properties ever since the horrendous Dragonball: Evolution stumbled into and out of theaters. That particularly steamy pile severely underperformed at the box-office, leading studio execs to think that American audiences were uninterested in manga-based films. But Edge of Tomorrow is far-removed from the failure that was Dragonball: Evolution. In fact, to the surprise of many (after a truly botched marketing campaign), Edge of Tomorrow is unequivocally the best, and most entertaining sci-fi action film in years.
Director Doug Liman has described the movie as "Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers" and that's about the most apt description one can muster for the film. Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a public relations officer for the US military who is forced to join a D-Day style landing operation against an alien force. After being killed in combat, Cage finds himself caught in a continuous time loop, reliving the day - and his death - over and over again. Soon, however, he learns to harness this mysterious gift to improve his fighting skills and, along with the much-lauded Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), mount a counterattack on their alien foes. Aside from the endlessly charismatic Tom Cruise, who is in top form here, the film boasts stunning visuals, thrilling action set pieces, a surprising wit, and the strongest female character to grace a science fiction film in awhile. Originally attached to score the project was Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi, whose recent success on Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim suggested that this kind of project could be right up his alley. Due to the good ole' "creative differences," though, Djawadi was soon replaced by composer Christophe Beck, best known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, recently, the smash-hit Frozen.
This is the first big action film for composer Christophe Beck, and his initial approach was a very traditional one: big, heroic themes for a full orchestra, perhaps embracing the "super soldier" side of the film's premise. But it soon became clear to Liman and Beck that a more abstract, "modern" approach was warranted, in the vein of the score that initially temp-tracked the film, Steve Jablonsky's Battleship. Beck's final product, which relies heavily on electronics and a noticeably distorted orchestra, shows some signs of innovation but more often falls back on numerous, tired cliches of "modern" action scoring. As expected, there are chopping strings galore, ballsy horn blasts, thunderous drums, heavy pulsating electronics, and a surprising lack of memorable themes. With such a statement, it might appear that I really dislike Beck's Edge of Tomorrow, but I don't. For much of the score's runtime, it is challenging, even abrasive stuff, but there is a decent amount of satisfying, though fairly anonymous, material packed in there as well.
Beck employs a simple horn motif for Sergeant Rita Vrataski, hailed as the super soldier "Angel of Verdun" in the film. Heard in "No Courage Without Fear", the motif features pairs of brass notes rising and falling over racing strings and, yes, Hans Zimmer's now infamous "horn of doom." It recurs in "D-Day", "Combat Training", and its underlying ostinato pattern provides the momentum for "Winning the War". You'll hear it again in "Find Me When You Wake Up", but the motif is dwarfed in that cue by an over-the-top action idea heard at 0:22, as crashing drums and distorted electronic wailings suggest Cage's newfound super soldier status. In the most guilty pleasure of ways, it's actually a decent bit of fun. Another theme that dominates the score is a simple but decently effective string-led march, heard most prominently in "Live Die Repeat (End Titles)", but also cropping up in "Navigating the Beach" and "Solo Flight". Layered on a base of relentlessly chopping strings, the march builds in intensity with the addition of electronics and weary brass notes. Indeed, it is odd that so lifeless a motif serves as the main theme for such a fun, exciting action spectacle, but it works surprisingly well in context. As Cage relives the beach invasion for the umpteenth time, the presence of the march in "Navigating the Beach" lends the proceedings an almost detached, apathetic quality.
One of the few ideas in the score that feels like it could be a leftover from Beck's original approach comes in "Angel of Verdun (Main Titles)" and "Welcome to London Major", an extremely muted bit of heroism on noble horns, merged in the latter cue with a variation on the aforementioned string march. This motif marks the only time in the score when Beck seems to play the characters' heroism straight, as the rest of the score wholly (and likely intentionally) neglects this. The action material, of which there is much, is largely forgettable, but a few cues do manage to stand out. "Again" and "Uncharted Territory" generate a bit of excitement, while pieces such as "Mimics and Alphas" and "The Omega" come across as little more than abrasive, sonic wallpapering.
Christophe Beck's Edge of Tomorrow is a harsh score that wears its influences on its sleeve. For all of the "originality" stressed in the production process, its approach is surprisingly conventional and, for many, will be completely dismissible. And yet, the score works well in context, its apathetic main theme providing some effective juxtaposition with the visuals, and the renditions of Rita Vrataski's theme lending a decent amount of ballsy energy to the film. It's not a score that really strives to be anything more than anonymous - and the film is good enough to allow for that - but it's in no way wholly awful. A few tracks from this one is really all you need.
A Few Recommended Tracks: "No Courage Without Fear", "Find Me When You Wake Up", "Combat Training", "Live, Die, Repeat"
Label: WaterTower Music
Availability: 22 track edition