Early in June, a sci-fi blockbuster was released under the title Edge of Tomorrow. It stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as futuristic soldiers defending Earth from an alien invasion. By some twist of fate, William Cage (Cruise) is killed in the battle, and awakens to find himself repeating the same day with the option to allow things to play out differently. Think Groundhog Day with more exosuits. The film twas well met by critics, but even the star power of the lead cast wasn’t enough to launch this title into the box office stratosphere. While I’m sure many of you remember it being released, I’m sure there are plenty for whom the mundane title Edge of Tomorrow has faded from memory. Warner Bros. is counting on it, at least.
As the film is prepared to release on home media, there has been this strange effort to re-brand the film. Check out this photo of how the film will appear on store shelves:
It doesn’t catch your eye, but although the words “Edge of Tomorrow,” do appear on the cover, they are eclipsed by the movie’s tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat.” A quick review of the movie posters reveals that this has always been a prominent phrase in the advertising, but not to the point where it overshadows the movie title. While there was muttering on film forums about whether or not this indicated a title change, confirmation came later when the official title of Edge of Tomorrow’s IMDB page was changed per request of Warner Bros. The hope here is that moviegoers who had little interest in seeing Edge of Tomorrow in theaters will be intrigued by Live, Die, Repeat when they see it on store shelves. Somehow I don’t buy it.
What strikes me as really odd is the fact that this film has already had another alternate name, and in my opinion, it is the most striking of the three. The story is an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s light novel All You Need Is Kill, and the film was also titled this up until a late stage of production. Grammarians may cluck their tongues at the title, and it is probably due to poor Japanese-to-English translation more than anything, but you can’t deny that it sticks in your mind. It highlights the single-mindedness of a soldier whose determination is to cause as much destruction as he can with each living breath, especially as he plays the same scenarios out over and over again. Kill is not merely the verb the soldier is doing, it has become a noun, a state of being. Move over Fab Four; in the alien-infested future, all you need is kill.
Are title changes like this unprecedented? Yes and no. Smaller films will often change titles in order to rebrand themselves in an attempt to get picked up and distributed to a wider audience, or other times because a bigger studio is now in charge of marketing. For example, you might have caught the musical drama Begin Again in theaters this summer, but the very first festival audiences got to see it as Can a Song Save Your Life? Depending on which title you walked into, you might have very different expectations. A favorite film of mine, Kings of Summer, initially played as Toy’s House, a somewhat confusing reference to the main character’s last name. Sometimes the titles of films are simplified, such as Don Jon’s Addiction that was renamed Don Jon upon wide release or What’s Wrong with Virginia which was shortened to Virginia. Even the wildly popular French film Amélie made its festival rounds under the title Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain).
Major films also will go through name changes as the scripts are developed and changes are made from the original screenplay. Pretty Woman was originally going to be called 3000 after a plot point from a much darker script in which Julia Roberts character agrees to stay off heroin for a week in order to earn the $3,000 she needs for a trip to Disneyland. Hancock, a film where Will Smith plays a selfish alcoholic with superhuman abilities was originally titled Tonight, He Comes, a much more ominous title. Some titles manage to get picked up later, such as with the infamous slasher film Scream; the original title was going to be Scary Movie, which was later picked up by the series of spoof films which parody the tropes of many horror flicks, Scream among them. The big difference between each of these examples and the Edge of Tomorrow situation is that they were changed prior to the film’s release, often after the original title had been thoroughly tested to see how the American public perceived it.
Perhaps Warner Bros.’ gamble will pay off, but after investing over $100 million into the initial advertising budget, it comes off more as a studio just not knowing how to position its big film. All of this is a shame because it is a film worth watching, and the feedback from this kerfuffle can only tell Warner Bros. that gambling with a big budget on a project that isn’t part of an established franchise just isn’t smart. This can only come as a disappointment when other summer films like Transformers: Age of Extinction and Guardians of the Galaxy are shattering box office records. We are left to ponder if audiences decades from now will watch Live, Die, Repeat without having ever heard the title Edge of Tomorrow, or if they will even bother to watch it at all.
What do you think of retitling films that have already made it to theaters? Did you see Edge of Tomorrow on the big screen? Are you more likely to see it now? Let us know in the comments below, and please share this with your friends if you enjoyed reading!