In the picture

September 26, 2021

Amazon Prime’s bland The Tomorrow War fails to make much sense and thereby highlights the importance of good writing and a solid script

In the picture

The Tomorrow War   ☆☆

Staring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J. K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, Jasmine Mathews, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, and Keith Powers

Directed by: Chris McKay

Amazon supposedly shelled out 200 million dollars to acquire The Tomorrow War, and based on what you get to see onscreen – from the big star lead to the all-around CGI-fest – it’s easy to tell that the movie had a pretty hefty production budget as well. What’s confusing, though, is that with all the money that was being shuffled around, could the filmmakers not have spent a little on a better writer who could have polished this mess until it made more sense?

Because sense is something that The Tomorrow War rarely makes. And it is a pity because the film’s premise does have a considerable amount of potential.

Soldiers from the future interrupt an internationally televised football match in the present, as the action commences, bringing with them the news that the human race has been decimated in the year 2051, targeted by ferocious aliens known as the Whitespikes. They seek help from their 2022 counterparts, thus instituting a global draft: present-day people are forcibly recruited to serve a week-long deployment in the future and expected to battle the aliens, knowing full-well that few of them will get the chance to return.

Swept up in the action is out hero Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a former soldier who loves his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), detests his estranged father James (J. K. Simmons) who abandoned him as a child, and is unhappy with his job as a high school biology teacher.

Called upon to serve the draft, Dan finds himself fighting what clearly appears to be a losing battle. It is then up to him and a scientist he encounters (Yvonne Strahovski) to figure out how to save the human race before it’s too late.

It’s all well and good, except for the fact that the story has more holes than Swiss cheese. Time travel in and of itself is a tricky construct and an element that far better sci-fi flicks can sometimes struggle with. In The Tomorrow War’s case, the writer doesn’t even seem to be trying to create a coherent setup or explain certain mechanics and decisions, not just in terms of the science but also with respect to other plot points like the method of battling the future threat, the way of recruitment, the information or lack thereof provided to the draftees, among many other things.

The hope here seems to be that its action will distract you from its nonsense, but you’d have to have a superhuman ability to turn off your brain to really enjoy the proceedings, especially towards the end when things just become downright ridiculous and the flaws impossible to ignore.

The alien creatures are well designed; the CGI is generally impressive, if overused; and the acting is serviceable – Pratt does his best action hero shtick and there are a few supporting performances (Strahovski and Sam Richardson in particular) that stand out. But The Tomorrow War ultimately comes off as an expensive-looking bundle of absurdities. With a more solid script that paid just a little more attention to things like sense and logic, the film could have easily been so much better.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

In the picture