Synopsis – A family man is drafted to fight in a future war where the fate of humanity relies on his ability to confront the past.
My Take – The thing I miss most about the summer season from previous years (excluding last year) is the continuous roll out of popcorn entertainers every week!
Sure, F9 just came out, we have Black Widow coming out this weekend, and Snake Eyes by the end of the month, followed quickly by The Suicide Squad and Free Guy, but (no) thanks to the pandemic, most of those regular yet surprisingly action fillers which would often fill out the space between the anticipated releases have found themselves being relegated to online releases.
Such is also the case for this first live-action effort from director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), which was initially set up as a Chris Pratt headlining tent pole blockbuster by Paramount, until they sold it to Amazon Prime for $200 million. While the sale did get the studio an amount the film may not have earned theatrically, but by doing so it unfortunately also fated the action blockbuster to a much smaller screen. Which is a shame since a spectacle like this one definitely deserved a watch on the biggest screen available.
Yes, it looks derivative, is heavily inspired from Independence Day (1996), Starship Troopers (1997), Battle Los Angeles (2011), Battleship (2012), Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and follows a similar route to all the invasion movies that rely heavily on the thrills and some nice ideas thrown in together with some war movie clichés, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, right?
In the film’s defense, right from its first stage of marketing, it never seemed to make a promise to deliver any form of mind-blowing innovative take on the sub-genre, only simply, the deliverance of dumb, fast and loud entertaining ride.
Set in 2022, the story follows Dan Forestor (Chris Pratt), an Iraq War vet and high-school science teacher who is struggling to find a better job according to his suitability. However, the world around him unexpectedly changes when a team of soldiers arrive from 2050 to recruit more people to travel into the future and help them fight a terrifying race of alien creatures known as the White Spikes, who have overrun the planet and left humanity on its last legs.
While the world leaders immediately agree, unfortunately, within a year, the world’s armies are depleted leading to a global seven-day period call, forcing Dan to draft up. Despite hearing pleads from his wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and his nine-year-old daughter Murie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and a chance to remove his tracker with the help of his estranged anti-government survivalist father James (J. K. Simmons), Dan heads 28 years into the future to join a losing war lead by Colonel Forester (Yvonne Strahovski), a military scientist desperately collecting an antidote to kill the aliens.
What follows is 138 minutes of breathless action which moves at a breakneck speed, thrusting Dan and his untrained, unprepared crew into the midst of a battle and unfolds as a series of rapid-fire scenarios: ranging from finding a group of people to retrieving an object, to executing the escape plan, all the while killing as many aliens possible, without getting eaten. Ordinarily, such set up would be cause for concern as tedium and repetition are corrosive to action movies, but the film adds variation, urgency, and humor to keep things engaging.
The most interesting element of the film is how the imminent death of humanity three decades into the future has sapped the spirit of the present population. Riots break out all over the world, with protests flaring up over the fact that we are fighting and dying in a war that hasn’t even started yet. Even all the kids in Dan’s class appear to have given up on life itself, with the screens in the classroom flashing factoids about climate change leading to the loss of habitat and the melting of the glaciers.
Sure, the film is set as a brainless blockbuster, but it’s savvy in how it connects its science fiction despair over a dying, somewhat distant future to our real-life despair over what our next several decades might look like. For good measure, director Chris McKay and writer Zach Dean (24 Hours to Live) even thrown in an obvious twist, which still works, as it grounds the film emotionally and recurring theme of all things blockbuster nowadays, importance of family.
Yes, there are some things that could have been done better, like the action sequence on a grander scale becomes confusing, as the lack of limitations becomes a bit of a hindrance. A fact forgivable because the White Spikes are genuinely terrifying. Concept designer Ken Barthelmey (Godzilla vs. Kong) gives the aliens a ghostly insect like look, with tentacles that help them move at a sneaky speed, something on the lines of the ones we saw in A Quiet Place films. The sight and sounds of their first reveal are especially unforgettable.
The performances are too on point. Chris Pratt was amazing throughout, and fits the bill physically as well mentally. Yvonne Strahovski gets to displays an impressive range and shares an authentic chemistry with Pratt, as does Ryan Kiera Armstrong. J. K. Simmons is his usual amazing self.
In supporting roles, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, Jasmine Mathews, Keith Powers, Seychelle Gabriel, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Mike Mitchell are also good. On the whole, ‘The Tomorrow War’ is a loud and frantic action blockbuster that is very entertaining and assuredly strong.
Directed – Chris McKay
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 138 minutes