The Tomorrow War begins with Dan Forester (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) falling from the sky into a rooftop swimming pool in a burning city. From there we jump back a bit to see how he got there. That involves what looks like aliens landing on the pitch during a World Cup soccer match. But they’re not aliens, they’re humans from the future, and they need our help.
Writer Zach Dean (24 Hours to Live, Deadfall) and director Chris McKay (Robot Chicken, The Lego Batman Movie) get things off to a fast start. At this point, The Tomorrow War is less than ten minutes old. But can they keep this pace up for the film’s two-hour and twenty-minute length? Can they keep it interesting for that long?
Twenty eight years into the future aliens referred to as “White Spikes” have invaded Earth, and are doing a good job of wiping humanity out. The solution? Recruit people from the past to fight in the future. Which means Dan, a former special-ops fighter turned science teacher is drafted and sent to fight.
We get some complications here as apart from a loving wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin, The Hunt, GLOW) and daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong, American Horror Story, IT, Chapter Two) he also has an estranged father (J.K. Simmons, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Zack Snyder’s Justice League). There is also, for some reason, an anti-war movement composed of people who plan to be dead before the invasion. They are are the ones being sent so as to avoid paradoxes such as meeting yourself. The fact that not fighting would doom any loved ones they might have seems to be lost on them.
Thirty-six minutes in and we see the full version of The Tomorrow War’s opening, and get a good idea why Earth is getting its ass kicked. In a horrifying scene, Dan and his unit are sent to the wrong location, he got lucky landing in the pool. Others impact on the roof, or miss entirely and fall to the ground. What’s left of them get to fight the aliens and rescue some scientists before the city is levelled whether they’re out or not
McKay has achieved considerable and justified acclaim for his Lego movies, but he might have been better off making his live-action debut on a smaller feature. Granted the script isn’t anything special, composed of bits and pieces from everything from War of the Worlds, Starship Troopers, The Thing and The Terminator franchise. But McKay’s direction is equally uninspired and the action scenes, as full of aliens and explosions as they are, never seem as exciting as they should be.
The Tomorrow War doesn’t get any better after he comes back from the future and has to reconcile with his father to save the world. You didn’t think they’d miss a cliche like a father and son reconciliation did you? The attempts at serious, emotional situations both between Dan and his father and between him and his now-grown daughter (Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Predator) in the future are incredibly bland. It doesn’t help that Pratt himself is bland as hell. He’s great playing an odd, quirky character like Star-Lord, but he can’t make Dan anything but another generic action hero.
Paramount sold The Tomorrow War off to Amazon when COVID closed the theatres rather than wait to release it as some other studios did. Maybe played on the big screen and with an audience, The Tomorrow War would have come off better. The CGI monsters are impressive, even if some of the scenes of destruction are iffy. And for those that aren’t fussy about their action scenes, Micheal Bay fans, for example, there are lots of people shooting and things blowing up. Streamed to my monitor however it was average at best, not nearly as much fun as much smaller films like Beyond Skyline and Skylines.
The Tomorrow War is currently streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime.