The Chris Pratt-starring future war epic is derivative and messily constructed, but it boasts some charm.
It’s clear from the starting gun that Paramount originally intended to push The Tomorrow War as a major summer theatrical release. But given the pandemic, Amazon Prime Video has stepped up to rollout this 140-minute sci-fi action romp starring Chris Pratt of Marvel’s Cosmic corner and Jurassic World fame.
Pratt has found ample success in the space action-comedy realm thanks to Star-Lord and James Gunn. But Passengers, his last foray into more original science fiction, mostly put audiences into hypersleep. The ambitions of Tomorrow War certainly differ, as first-time live-action director Chris McKay (of Robot Chicken and Moral Orel fame) aims and shoots for loud, bombastic action with only a spare amount of goofy quips, split between Pratt and one of his co-stars, Sam Richardson, who almost single-handedly prevents The Tomorrow War from being a total wash.
At first glance, the time travel set up of The Tomorrow War rings absurd, even by Hollywood standards. As Pratt’s American protagonist Dan Forester watches the World Cup live (see, told you it was absurd), a group of rough-neck soldiers who could be confused for starship troopers appear on the field and make a haunting declaration, that all of mankind will be wiped out during an alien invasion within the next 30 years.
The last of humanity still wages a desperate battle against these creatures, essentially pale cousins to the ones currently appearing in A Quiet Place Part II, albeit slightly less bulletproof and with a complexion right out of Resident Evil. But this remnant of resistance is losing. Badly. So, in what is called the first “worldwide draft,” the united governments of the world conscript countless people from the past to fight the war of the future (not to be confused with Future War).
Once The Tomorrow War gets clear of its clunky, half-baked set up and gets the action going, it boasts its share of viscerally enjoyable sequences.
After establishing its premise, The Tomorrow War attempts to explain why this is the plan the human resistance is running with, but it clumsy lampshades the details in scattered moments throughout the picture’s first half. It does ultimately explain why future humanity can’t just go back in time to before the invasion and try to prevent it or better prepare for it. But in practice, this explanation amounts to briskly sweeping aside any pesky implications and questions, without even a Bruce Willis handwave to just accept what’s happening and move on.
Once The Tomorrow War gets clear of its clunky, half-baked setup and gets the action going, it boasts its share of viscerally enjoyable sequences. Pratt’s Forester is a former soldier turned biology teacher, allowing him to pull double duty as both scientist and daring leader of a ragtag crew of everyday citizens in a seemingly hopeless fight. Much is made about his home life and the nature of fatherhood, as is common in such pictures, from his strained relationship with his own estranged parent (J.K. Simmons) to the uncertainty of him coming back to his own daughter.
While Tomorrow War tries to tug at heartstrings, for the most part, it fails. Pratt’s screen presence is at least affable enough to make Forester believable, even with his self-admitted absurdities. He excels when bouncing off other characters, notably a tough-as-nails colonel (Yvonne Strahovski) who may have devised a way to stop the invaders for good. It’s nowhere near as memorable a dynamic as the one Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt built in Edge of Tomorrow, an excellent science fiction war movie from which The Tomorrow War borrows a great deal.
The Tomorrow War’s audience will likely see some of the big reveals coming long before its characters do. But it’s not a picture that burdens itself with false pretenses or delusions of grandeur. It aims to be a movie in which Daring Action Hero Chriss Pratt commands a ramshackle band of amateur soldiers in a loud, blaring firefight in the post-apocalyptic future. In that respect at least, it hits its target right in the bullseye.
The Tomorrow War streams on Amazon Prime starting Friday, July 2nd.