It is no secret that Edge of Tomorrow‘s performance has been less than stellar domestically, with a current box office earning of around $56.5 million as of its second weekend. As a film with leads like Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, a production budget of $175 million, and mostly positive responses from critics, one would expect it to do a whole lot better. As we wrote in a previous article, there is a silver lining in the fact that the film did seem to find an audience overseas (with a current earning of $181 million), but I wonder how much that will matter when a similar intellectual property (IP) gets pitched to a studio. In the grand scheme of things, what does Edge of Tomorrow‘s domestic failure mean for the future of movies based on Japanese properties?
Had things turned out different for the movie, one could have argued that Edge of Tomorrow was the X-Men of Japanese properties. Bold words, yes. But what does it mean? For those of you who don’t know, Edge of Tomorrow is based on the Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill by author Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Light novels in Japan could be considered the equivalent of YA novels in the United States. They are fast-paced books with simple writing style, meant to be consumed quickly, and a large percentage of these light novels become anime and manga (Japanese comic) series. Ironically enough, these light novels are considered to be more in the same vein as anime and manga than as standard novels, with its tone and styles more closely matching the former. All You Need Is Kill is no exception to this, and eventually the series made its debut in Weekly Shonen Jump, a weekly anthology for manga aimed towards boys.
What does all this Edge of Tomorrow talk have to do with X-Men, you may ask? X-Men is considered by many to be the first truly successful comic book movie. Sure, before that, there were Batman and Superman, movies, but X-Men was the first film that seemed to be able to connect with a fully mainstream audience. And like comic books in the 90s, anime and manga have been going through their own ups and downs — mostly downs. From unique films like Speed Racer, to the utterly horrendous films like Dragonball Evolution, movies based on anime and manga never seemed to be able to catch a break. But unlike X-Men, these films did not try to ground the stories in order to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience.
Edge of Tomorrow seemed to be the only anime and manga-type property that had that going for it. It was a high concept title with killer premise, and a tone fit for the American audience. With its success, it could have very well paved the way for many other high concept Japanese stories with a tone an feel that could be adapted for the American audience. A film based on the manga Death Note — a story about a high schooler who can kill anyone by writing their name in a notebook — is one that always seemed like a good fit. And then there is always the fan-favorite Akira that has been in development hell for who knows how long.
Had Edge of Tomorrow been a bigger success, one could argue that properties like these could have been fast-tracked, or at the very least re-visited for interest by studios. As it stands, it seems unlikely that the film will make a dent in the struggle to bring anime/manga live action adaptations to the big screen. But who knows? Times have changed since the days of X-Men, and worldwide audiences are becoming more important than ever before to the overall success of a film. So when all said and done, perhaps Edge of Tomorrow really isn’t quite a failure after all.
Any thoughts? Could Edge of Tomorrow have been the one to open the floodgates to Japanese IPs? Could it still be that title? Or was it all just wishful thinking from the start?