REVIEW: The Tomorrow War (2021)

Still image — Chris Pratt in ‘THE TOMORROW WAR’ — Available now on Amazon Prime Video.

Directed by Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie) — Screenplay Zach Dean.

Several years ago, there was a time when me and my father would watch and rewatch science-fiction films so much so that we knew the dialogue by heart. I can’t possibly tell you the amount of times that I’ve seen, for example, Stargate, which I have a lot of love for. When I was a kid, my father would always steer me towards horror or science-fiction films, and therefore it was a great joy for me to be able to watch this film with my father. Although I had some problems with the film, I genuinely had a lot of fun with it, and I know that if I were still a kid today, then he and I would watch The Tomorrow War over and over again.

Chris McKay’s The Tomorrow War is an original science fiction film set in late 2022 and early 2023, when, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, soldiers from the future time travel onto the football pitch in the middle of a match. The soldiers explain that humanity is on the brink of extinction in 2051, and that they desperately need soldiers from the present day to fight for future generations by travelling via a wormhole to the 2050s to fight a supposed alien race known as ‘the Whitespikes.’

However, after several deployments that prove unsuccessful, an international draft is initiated in another desperate attempt to save the future of the human race. This compulsory recruitment makes it so that even civilians have to put their lives on the line on the frontline decades into the future. One of these people is biology teacher Dan Forester (played by Chris Pratt), who is also a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Dan desperately wants to fight for his daughter’s future, but, when he finally gets to the future, he finds out that there is a very special reason why he was drafted for combat.

The Tomorrow War is a film that, at the heart of it, is about getting society to care about and protect the world of tomorrow and future generations. Although it is fairly obvious that this is what they were going for at the outset (and perhaps slightly clumsily executed), I like the idea of making big budget science-fiction films as metaphors for climate change. One would hope that films that bake in analogies such as this one can help to make people realize the gravity of this very real problem.

Although if it were to actually move the needle in a positive direction, this film would need to be much more articulate in expressing its theme, and the tone of the film would definitely need to be less awkwardly comedic. And, in the end, it is just a ‘big action science-fiction movie,’ which, I mean, is alright. There are moments in the film where it feels like the comedy has been inserted into it rather than appearing naturally.

Chris Pratt, whose character is fairly unremarkable, is often a comedic leading man even in his most action-packed blockbuster appearances, but here Sam Richardson’s Charlie is the genuinely funny comic relief, and some might even suggest that Pratt is slightly miscast, even though he is an entertaining leading actor to watch. On the flip-side, I thought that Yvonne Strahovski, who I’ve been a fan of for quite some time, delivered a reliable and convincing dramatic performance.

Although it is just a popcorn film, I am impressed by how ambitious The Tomorrow War is. The creature design of the so-called ‘Whitespikes’ is genuinely impressive and frightening, and seeing them for the first time did send a chill down my spine. Furthermore, the film takes its time in the first act, which I thought was quite involving, and there is a very interesting change of pace around the ninety-minute mark (although, ultimately, not for the better). The problem is that the film is not just overlong but that the plot is also far too predictable and convenient. At the end of the day, it feels like three movies packed into one, with the first two being quite good and the final chunk failing to nail the landing. For example, the final battle is extremely over-the-top, and the final line is cheesy.

Although the metaphor at the center of the film may be fascinating, the film is more interested in being a ‘big action science-fiction film’ than the thoughtful film that you may want it to be. It reminded me of everything from World War Z to Edge of Tomorrow, but, at the end of the day, I think that the film it really wants to emulate is Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day. If you can manage your expectations, then I think you can have a lot of fun with The Tomorrow War, which I, admittedly, really did, all things considered.

6.7 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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