If you are looking for a thrilling terror machine, The Tomorrow War will satisfy that craving. Otherwise, it’s a lesson in overstaying one’s welcome.
This review of Amazon Original film The Tomorrow War does not contain spoilers.
Nothing seems super out of the ordinary in The Tomorrow War. I’m serious. Yes, there is a relentless amount of action from many pissed-off aliens in desperate need of a blood sugar high, and we are that tasty treat. That’s nothing new. The future still looks the same in this movie. The guys get older, yet the women stay young. A scene portrays a minority as a coward or selfish, then redeemed layer by dying off quickly so the great white hope can win the battle. The last third is a playbook of cornball action films. Yet, I found myself wrapped up by its break-neck pace. It’s a lesson in overstaying one’s welcome.
Chris Pratt stars as Dan Forester, a retired veteran who is teaching high school science. He is married to his beautiful wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin), a clinical social worker at the local VA hospital. They are raising their seven-year-old daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who loves soccer. As they take-in a game together on television, as he promised, suddenly a team of United States soldiers from the future leaps out of a cloud of purple haze on the soccer field. Their leader, Lt. Hart (played by The Rookie’s Jasmine Mathews), has a message for them: We are their only hope.
From there, a worldwide draft is imposed. Anyone over 18, any health condition, it doesn’t matter. We are talking about 50 years old out of shape mothers strapping up their boots and given a week to learn how to be Rambo. You can thank Gloria Steinem. She won the battle on gender rights for everyone. Soon, only 500,000 people are left on earth (Yet, the national media outlets are still broadcasting. I bet Nielsen will have a field day with that sweeps week). Forester is drafted and “jumped” into tomorrow’s war. If he make it a week, he can come back. That’s if he survives that long.
Director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) spared no expense with the adrenaline that fuels the first two acts. The action is relentless. The creatures are some of the most frightening on film you might ever see. Your palms will sweat, you’ll be leaving a dent in your armrest (or a loved one). They had something with The Tomorrow War. A genuine tension and suspense that will have you ignoring some obvious flaws. A decent plot point involving The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Yvonne Strahovski gives the film a bit more emotional heft than expected.
Then, strangely, Deadfall scribe Zach Dean’s script keeps going. It could have ended there. It should have ended there. Instead, it uses the same compulsion by most major studios. They take an extra forty minutes, creating an unnecessary last stand. It begins to wander in big-budget studio banality. Even when the creatures are running around like turbo-cheetahs, Pratt and company appear to be walking or jogging without any urgency. It begins to feel like everyone starts to go through the motions.
Yet, I still find myself drawn to the positives of big studio system filmmaking compared to its faults. When you combine that with Pratt’s star wattage, winning, boyish charm, and comic timing in the quieter scenes. Sam Richardson’s very welcome role as the nerdy Charlie delivers the well-placed comic relief Tomorrow sorely needed. Though, you’ll notice how cartoonish and flat most of the characters can be.
Ultimately, The Tomorrow War overstays its welcome. It entertains the audience as much as it lets them down. It has a solid premise (no, this is not Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow), cool creatures, a star to hang your hat on, but comes crashing down under the weight of its ambition.
Yet, The Tomorrow War almost represents something more. It a big-budget monster blockbuster that we used to take for granted. The film represents what we love about summer. Enjoying a mindless action film and then going to a barbecue. In fact, this is a bit of normalcy in our everyday lives we have once forgotten about.
You can enjoy aspects of a film without giving it a positive review. My job is to grade a film if I approve of it in its totality, which means it is a marginal pass for me. If you are looking for a thrilling, terror machine, The Tomorrow War will satisfy that craving. If you are looking for a complete experience in its entirety, stop the film at the 100-minute mark and walk away happy. I wish I did.
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