All You Need is Kill

Posted: September 19, 2014 by Steven Diamond in Books vs Shows, Books We Like, Books We Love
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I am continually fascinated by novels and short stories being made into movies and TV shows. Half the fun of it is the whole process of comparing the two versions and having that debate about which is “better”. I realize how fruitless such comparisons can be, and I also realize that most people opt for the auto-response of “the book is better”. Thing is, that isn’t always the case. Just look at the Dexter novels vs. the TV show as an easy example.

So here we are again. My comparison this time around is ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow. My first disclaimer is that there will a few more spoilers in this review than in others. The second is that I typically go far easier on movies than on literature—a critic needs to have something he can just enjoy. However, I tried to ramp up my criticalness for the movie this time around, knowing I’d be doing this review. Also, I way prefer the name of the book to that of the movie.

So let’s begin with the basic story. Alien invasion. Earth is screwed. Everything is going as poorly as possible. Then we have the genesis of power-armor. In one of the first major conflicts using the suits, a female solider is able to kill a ton of the aliens—or Mimics, as they are called. This makes it so the propaganda centers on the effectiveness of the suits, and how Earth is going to beat the Aliens back. Earth will be saved, and all that.

Enter the main character of the story. In the novel, his name is Keiji Kiriya. In the movie, William Cage. This is where the differences start creeping in. After all, in the movie the main PoV is American, and in the book Japanese. The change didn’t bother me at all, because the person’s race has no actual bearing on the story. The movie does a way better job of actually giving some character background for the main PoV, while the novel does better with the main secondary female character, a female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Anyway, the main character is thrust into battle, and it’s a trap set by the Mimics. Cage/Keiji dies super quick (within minutes of the battle beginning), but not before taking out a very different looking Mimic.

And then the main character wakes up, and lives that same day again. And dies. Again. And again. The Military Science Fiction version of Groundhog Day. Turns out the main PoV has hijacked the Alien power.

So, to be super blunt, I thought the movie was way better than the novel. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the novel, because I did. But the movie worked better in terms of character and WAY better in terms of an ending. The relationship between Cage/Keiji and the Full Metal Bitch was so much more refined in the movie. I know, I know. This never happens. But to me this is definitely the case with the movie. Additionally, the character progression was much better in the movie. It is kinda glossed over in the novel.

Now there are places where the novel surpasses the movie. One is with the side characters. The sergeant—played extremely well by Bill Paxton in the movie—has a much more defined backstory in the book. The other characters in the squad have a bit more personality as well. And again, the Full Metal Bitch’s backstory is fleshed out way more…and yet I felt like she had more personality in the movie, and was much more relatable. The other place where the novel shines is in its brief description of where the Mimics come from. In the movie it’s pretty much “Hey there are aliens! And they wanna kill us all!” The novel, with just a simple explanation, really gives them a bit more meat.

But even with all this, it still isn’t enough to overcome the issues that the novel has in tone and in main character development.

The thing I like most about this story is the chance for one person to become a literal hero. That story trait is one of the main reasons why I am such a David Gemmell fan. Heroism. Doesn’t mean the character is perfect. Far from it. But the progression we get to see of a character as he becomes a better person.

Ultimately, the movie and the novel are telling a different story, and I think this is why I liked the movie better. The novel is a gritty war story that forces a tragic ending upon the reader. A tragic ending that feels out of place and shoehorned in. The movie, on the other hand, is a war story where character growth is the focus, and the ending strives for real heroism.

Which version you like better will depend on your outlook. For me, while I love the grimdark that is all over the place, sometimes I just want a story of pure heroism. Sometimes I want to fist-pump in the air after finishing a story. The Edge of Tomorrow gave me that feeling, while ALL YOU NEED IS KILL left me feeling slightly…empty.

While I liked ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, I loved Edge of Tomorrow.

Recommended Age: Movie is PG-13. Book is R.
Profanity: Tons in the novel. All of it strong.
Violence: Tons. Shown very well in the movie, explained very well in the novel.
Sex: Talked about in the book, but nothing show.

Here are your links:

ALL YOU NEED IS KILL

Edge of Tomorrow

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