It’s summertime. A time reserved for blockbusters starring tentpole A-list actors, and what better way to spend an evening than to watch Chris Pratt, Star Lord himself, traveling through time and shooting up aliens. While I wouldn’t call The Tomorrow War a blockbuster-caliber film after seeing it, I will tell you it’s a helluva enjoyable way to spend over two hours of your time.
The basic premise is that in 2052 an alien race all but wipes out humankind, and what is left of the military finds a way to time travel back 30 years to implore mankind to join them in the future to battle the aliens. Dan Forester (Pratt) is a high school bio teacher who knows he’s destined for something more. Betty Gilpin plays his wife Emmy, and they have a nine-year-old daughter, Muri, who is a science whiz like her dad.
As you can imagine, Dan is drafted and jumps into the future for a seven-day enlistment. Over 70% of draftees do not return, so the odds are against Dan, but he needs to save the world for his little girl (played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong). It’s here in our near future where we meet a ragtag team of civilian soldiers including the endearing Charlie (Sam Richardson), the token fat kid, Cowan (Mike Mitchell), the military lifer with a chip on his soldier, Dorian (Keith Powers), and the middle-aged white lady ready to kick some ass, Norah (Mary Lynn Rajskub). There they meet up with an eclectic cast of mostly younger military soldiers, including Dorian (Edwin Hodge), Major Greenwood (Keith Powers), and Sgt. Diaz (Seychelle Gabriel). Lieutenant Hart (Jasmine Mathews) is predominant in the trailer and doesn’t disappoint in the film, while the other strong future leader is Romeo Command (Yvonne Strahovski). This group works in the eleventh hour to attempt to stop the aliens, called White Spikes (named for the spikes they shoot from their tentacles), before the last half a million humans left are wiped from the planet.
I wasn’t expecting much. It sounded like a weird alien shoot ‘em up like a mashup of Independence Day, Starship Troopers, War of the Worlds, and World War Z, with a sprinkle of Ender’s Game. When I initially watched the trailer, it looked fun, and I like Pratt. I also like J.K. Simmons who plays his estranged father, James Forester. As the film got going with character development and exposition, everyone fell into their little tropes, and we guessed some of the basic plotlines you see in the films listed above.
While the first hour or so followed a lot of those hackneyed narratives, at about the 90-minute mark it shifts gears just enough to regain my waning interests in some of it. At this point, they still hadn’t used one of my favorite actors very much, but I knew director Chris McKay (best known for the LEGO movies) still had a little room to work his magic. That he does, with a few interesting narrative elements to take the plot in some interesting directions. For the sake of not giving spoilers, while the conclusion is mostly as expected, how they arrive there was fresh.
Looking back, the trailer was relatively mediocre so I sat down to watch it again after the film. As is the norm, there are a few trailer clips not in the final, and I do think the cut scenes would’ve given more credence to character motivation. With that said, the overall trailer didn’t do the film justice. I enjoy time travel and sci-fi narratives, and Pratt and Simmons both are awesome. I really enjoyed Strahovski (who is most famous as Sarah Walker in Chuck) and her role throughout the film, too.
As we continue to fight for Hollywood to be more inclusive, I enjoy actors cast because of their talent. There are a lot of BOPIC actors in the film just because they are good actors. While I did take umbrage at an old white dude (David Maldonado) being the leader of the world in 2022, I was pleased that the world of tomorrow seemed to be run by young women.
I also really enjoyed the visual effects. There were several scenes that featured various explosions and also gunfire that were directed toward the fourth wall. With that said, the White Spikes were the best bit of visual effects in the film. At first, I couldn’t stop thinking about Demogorgons running around Indiana, but then I really enjoyed the nods to other monsters from films like Predator & A Quiet Place. There are some really great kill scenes involving Strahovski and Richardson, where they both annihilate aliens in fist to fist combat. I’m not talking about the scenes you chuckle at because they’re so bad. I mean really awesome scenes.
With that said, there are things I didn’t enjoy as much. Many of the characters fell into tired tropes like, an ex-military dad who has some talent that’ll save the world, a pining wife left behind hoping hubby will save not only the world but also their family, and black sidekick to our hero who may or may not die. I also hated the sound editing. Granted I screened this at my residence, but I had to crank up the volume to understand the voices over the effects quite frequently. I wish I had seen the film with closed captions and may need to rewatch it once Amazon Video releases it on July 2nd.
The movie is billed as a sci-fi, thriller, adventure horror film. Some of the odder bits were glossed over, and of course, the viewer needs to suspend some disbelief watching sci-fi. Toward the end, a few realizations felt really rushed and meant to tie up loose ends with very little meaningful explanation. Perhaps the scenes that were cut would’ve answered these questions? The PG-13 rating is clearly for some of the more gruesome scenes of human and alien deaths. There’s a little language too, but I wouldn’t say there was much that I would call “horror”.
About The Tomorrow War
Synopsis: An alien invasion thirty years into the future has all but wiped out humankind. Chris Pratt is called to time travel into the future to save the world for his daughter and family.
Director: Chris McKay
Writer: Zach Dean
Stars: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Sahorvski, Sam Richardson, JK Simmons, Jasmine Mathews, Edwin Hoge
Runtime: 2 Hours, 10 Minutes
Releases: July 2nd, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video