REVIEW: ‘The Tomorrow War’ Is Built on the Foundation of Yesterday’s Blockbusters

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The Tomorrow War

The Tomorrow War, directed by Chris McKay and written by Zach Dean, is an Amazon Prime Video original film co-produced by Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media. Former soldier turned science teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) believes that he is meant to do something great with his life. Little does he know that he’ll get his chance. A group of soldiers arrives from 30 years in the future where mankind is fighting a losing battle against a race of vicious aliens and starts recruiting civilians to bolster their forces. Drafted to fight in the future war, Dan resolves to stop the invaders and save his family.

This is the final film in a trio of sales Paramount made to Amazon during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic following Without Remorse and Coming 2 America. It also marks McKay’s first foray into live-action films, following his work on The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. McKay definitely knows how to build up the stakes throughout the film, with each setpiece becoming more frantic and violent than the last. It also wastes no time setting up the stakes, with the opening scene seeing Dan and his fellow recruits being warped into the future and falling from the sky! The year 2051 is also every bit the night, with cinematographer Larry Fong (Kong: Skull Island, 300) delivering images of fiery red skies and a mass of alien invaders swimming toward the platform where the future soldiers are stationed.

Less impressive is Dean’s script, which feels like a hodgepodge of multiple sci-fi blockbusters I’ve seen over the years. A protagonist traveling through time to battle an alien force? Edge of Tomorrow and Stargate covered that well-worn ground. Is humanity being utterly outgunned by a race of vicious aliens? See Independence Day; hell, one of Dan’s fellow recruits, Charlie (Sam Richardson), even says, “I’m glad Will Smith didn’t live to see this” when arriving in the future.

Even Dan’s promise to return to his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) feels lifted from Interstellar, and Yvonne Strahovski’s role is easy to decipher, given the nature of the plot. The invaders-dubbed “White Spikes” for the projectiles they fire from their tails look like an unholy fusion of the monsters from A Quiet Place and the Xenomorphs from Alien. I know most screenwriters and filmmakers wear their influences on their sleeves, but they usually try to be subtle about it.

The Tomorrow War

I do love that the film has a pro-science message. Like all good science fiction, the aliens serve as a metaphor, this time for climate change. And in case that wasn’t clear, the aliens’ origins are actually tied to global warming. No joke. The fact that characters use their brains just as much as bullets and grenades to fight these invaders is a great touch, as I’m a fan of heroes who use brains over brawn.

Pratt, who also serves as an executive producer on the film, has said in interviews that he wanted to play a more down-to-earth protagonist after participating in multiple blockbuster franchises, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. However, the problem is that Dan Forester comes off as less than a well-rounded character and more like a stock video game protagonist. I feel that if Pratt leaned more into his comedic chops, it would have given his character a bit more depth. As it is, I have trouble believing this guy was a high school teacher, let alone the one man who could save humanity.

It’s also a shame because the supporting cast makes a meal out of their characters’ morsels. As I mentioned before, Richardson is a genuine delight-Sam’s motormouth tendencies spring from the fact that he’s understandably anxious about being dropped into an apocalypse. Edwin Hodge plays a surly soldier who is one of the few people to volunteer for tours of duty and has an excellent reason to do so. And J.K. Simmons plays Dan’s estranged father, James, who carries his own mental scars from his time in Vietnam. I would have liked to see more of these character’s journeys, as they felt far more interesting to me.

The Tomorrow War will undoubtedly remind its viewers of various science fiction movies they’ve seen before. Still, it does boast impressive visuals and action and a surprisingly pro-science message. I recommend doing a double feature with Army of the Dead, as both films boast a high-concept pitch and enough action thrills to keep viewers invested.

The Tomorrow War is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

The Tomorrow War
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

The Tomorrow War will undoubtedly remind its viewers of various science fiction movies they’ve seen before. Still, it does boast impressive visuals and action and a surprisingly pro-science message. I recommend doing a double feature with Army of the Dead, as both films boast a high-concept pitch and enough action thrills to keep viewers invested.