REVIEW: The Tomorrow War (2021)
Throw time travel into a story, and you better either play things brain-achingly smart, or so unashamedly daft that it’s almost too fun to stop and compare notes. The Tomorrow War, somehow manages to sit comfortably in the middle of this Venn diagram shaped like a timeloop and quickly becomes an absolute blast because of it. Chris Pratt is the former marine turned science teacher whose Christmas gets cancelled when solders from the future crash the Qatar World Cup Final 2022. As if seeing the tournament accompanied by Christmas tunes wasn’t jarring enough, these time travellers bring the bad news that years from now, humanity is close to extinction thanks to alien invaders. The only way to save the future is by enlisting able bodied souls from the past to fight the good fight, which our man Pratt quickly becomes a part of.
If that sounds like an info dump written in a rush, then you won’t be surprised to know it plays out in a similar vein. Thankfully it’s a hurdle that The Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay runs at with the same frenetic energy he conjured for the Caped Crusader and his work on Robot Chicken. There’s aliens, there’s time travel, just go with it, and if you struggle at any point, trust in Chris Pratt to keep the ship as steady as he can.
After saving the galaxy with a dance off and using trained velociraptors to win the day, running around in a timey-wimey battle for the future of the planet is hardly a stretch for Pratt as the hero of the piece, Dan Forester. The model father and former veteran with dreams of bigger things and a checkered relationship with his reclusive Dad (J.K. Simmons) may feel cliche, but Pratt’s charisma makes it all worthwhile throughout the often brisk pace The Tomorrow War is moving at. There’s also an impressive supporting effort from both Sam Richardson as comedic comrade Charlie, and battle scarred soldier Dorian played by Edwin Hodge. Particular credit must also fall to Yvonne Strahovski as Romeo Command, who while playing a character linked to a signposted story beat, still feels like a hero in this war we’d happily stick with, even if Pratt’s hero took a time out.
Initial exposition and surprise turns may feel a bit ropey, but once Forester gets boots on the future ground, it’s clear that writer Zach Dean is moulding an epic sci-fi that is echoing but not imitating some of the greats. Battling in what feels like the same action-packed arena as Edge of Tomorrow and The Terminator (Pratt even steals his father-in-law’s line at one point), The Tomorrow War leans lightly on time travel, being far more focused on the alien invasion than anything. It’s here where the film really holds its own as one of Amazon’s most entertaining movie entries to date, thanks to the terrifying threats from outer space.
Nicknamed Whitespikes, they may sound like something that belongs on an empty bottle you’d find at a park bench, but they’re easily one of the best creature designs of the past few years. As if spliced in the same monster factory as Cloverfield and A Quiet Place, seeing them tear through soldiers like tissue, or get capped by Pratt themselves, is something that never gets old. Every close encounter is a tense one expertly handled by McKay who proves here that his filmmaking transition from animation to live action hasn’t been affected. There honestly hasn’t been this much extra terrestrial evisceration since Starship Troopers and you’ll love every second of it. Set pieces play out with video game vibrancy and feel just as fun, but it’s an intermittent jolt that struggles to stay consistent for the film’s final act.
Just as McKay rushes to get things started, so too does the film’s finale suffer the same fate. Pratt and his supporting allies in arms go here, there and everywhere to make their last stand and the route to get there, along with the tropes scattered within it can feel shoe-horned in. The positive, brief as it is, is that it gives more time for Pratt to clash with Simmons as his on-screen Dad, who steals every scene he’s in and should hopefully spark the desperate consideration to get a buddy project going for these two immediately. It’s moments like these and awesome alien-destroying action that help The Tomorrow War provide a balance among its absurd and enjoyable nature, earning its spot as the perfect Friday night movie.
The Tomorrow War is available on Amazon Prime Video from July 2, 2021.