We have all seen The Tomorrow War before. Maybe not in one piece like this, but we have definitely seen these parts many times. I know I have. Time traveling soldiers, alien monsters, daddy issues, a mild-mannered scientist who is the only one who can save the future, etc.
The sci-fi action movie The Tomorrow War (streaming on Amazon Prime) does not have a single original aspect to it. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t do anything fun or exciting with the familiar stuff. It is a long, dull slog through cliché after cliché, with obvious setups, poorly executed payoffs and loud noises in place of tension. This is not a good movie.
The story takes place in the near future when soldiers come back from the year 2051 to declare that aliens are on the verge of wiping out humanity. The only solution is to recruit people from thirty years in the past to travel to the future and help with the fight. Our protagonist is Dan Forester, a high school science teacher with a loving wife and daughter, who is drafted to battle the alien menace.
Dan is played by Chris Pratt. Pratt has had a ton of success saving the world in the future (as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy) and running from creatures trying to eat him (in Jurassic World). Combining the two (running from creatures trying to eat him while saving the world in the future) seems like a good bet for another hit. Yet what makes those two successful franchises work (especially Guardians) is Pratt’s charisma. He is good as a sarcastic wiseass, who saves the day while really just wanting to be loved. He clearly recognizes this because he has already lovingly mocked that persona in the successful Lego Movie franchise.
That makes it extra odd that he plays it completely straight in The Tomorrow War. If he were stretching his acting chops in something more dramatic, I would understand. However, The Tomorrow War is a big, dumb, sci-fi action movie. It could have used an injection of personality. Instead, Pratt plays a boring hero. Dan is just a guy who wants to protect his family and save the world. Since this story is absolutely ridiculous and not very well thought-out, having the star treat everything with a deadly seriousness was not a good idea.
I have questions about the plot. Some of them contain spoilers, so I will limit myself to a couple that don’t.
For starters: the soldiers from the future suddenly appear on the field in the middle of a globally televised soccer game and instantly demand help from the present. Flash-forward a year and the planet is already used to people being sent ahead to save humanity. It seems like a whole movie (probably a much more interesting one, too) could be made about that year. How did the population of the present react to 1) learning that time travel was possible 2) learning that there is definitive proof of life on other planets 3) finding out that we’ll be close to extinction in thirty years 4) having access to knowledge about their own futures and 5) being asked to risk their lives for something they have only been told about? How did the future people prove what they were saying was true? And how did they convince every world government to work together?
I get there is only so much space to explain things (The Tomorrow War is already too long at 140 minutes, as is), but that is some significant stuff to skip over. As Dan was being transported to the future for the first big action sequence, all I could think about was “How did the Earth get to this point so quickly?”
That leads me to something else that made no sense. So, Dan gets drafted and is put through basic training. Then, he and his fellow draftees are teleported to the future to go on a mission in alien territory. Once they arrive, it is immediately clear they have no idea where they are, what they are supposed to do, what they are fighting or how to kill these monsters. The majority of them are entirely unprepared for battle. If that is the case, what did they do in basic training? Granted, it appears they were sent in earlier than intended due to some kind of emergency. Still, shouldn’t they at least have been told what they were up against? These are mainly rhetorical questions. I know the real reason they went to basic training was so Dan could meet the other recruits and the screenplay could establish their one character trait before the yelling, running and shooting started. This is a very lazy production.
A big-budget, sci-fi action movie with aliens, time-travel, Chris Pratt, J.K. Simmons (as Dan’s estranged father) and Yvonne Strahovski (who gives the best performance as Dan’s commanding officer) sounds like it could be enjoyable. It is not. The story is rushed, the action is repetitive and unexciting and the characters are all stock types who have been much more interesting elsewhere. I went in to The Tomorrow War hoping for brainless fun. All I got was the first part.
1 out of 5
Chris Pratt as Dan Forester
Yvonne Strahovski as Romeo Command
J.K. Simmons as James Forester
Betty Gilpin as Emmy Forester
Sam Richardson as Charlie
Edwin Hodge as Dorian
Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Muri Forester
Directed by Chris McKay
Written by Zach Dean