Director: Chris McKay
Starring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strzechowski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Jasmine Mathews
Written by: Zach Dean
Running Time: 140 mins
Release date: 2nd July 2021
As the schedules for cinemas gets more and more crowded, there are going to be some casualties. The gamble that movie companies have is will they make their money on products that would have received a release in cinemas, or are they more interested in getting the largest audience possible, where streaming services come into play. With a film like The Tomorrow War, it is evident that it’s a big blockbuster with a famous star that needs to be seen on a large screen, yet Paramount have felt that it should be sold to Amazon Prime, maybe having no confidence it will get the audience they want. Hence, The Tomorrow War gets a premiere on the streaming service, and while it’s far from a perfect movie, it does need a big screen to enjoy fully.
During the 2020 World Cup, a group of soldiers appear from the future, warning the world that aliens have invaded and the creatures will destroy the whole globe if people do not join the fight. Former soldier and family man Dan Forester, now a science teacher, is fearful of being recruited. When the day comes, he has seven days to tackle the aliens and is used as a researcher to find a possible killer toxin that can be taken back from the future to stop the events occurring.
This sci-fi adventure is big on spectacle but small on sense. Directed by Chris McKay, who directed The Lego Batman Movie, is film looks impressive, but it lacks a sense of humour, which is surprising considering. There is the occasional one-liner, but on the whole, this is a sombre affair. The set pieces, and there are three significant moments, are well executed and, in some cases, quite exciting, which doesn’t always happen in blockbusters. The element of peril is usually lacking. Here, it is improved with decent special effects and aliens that genuinely look threatening.
With lightning speed and limited space to dispose of them (shooting them in the chest or blowing them up are the only to kill the aliens), these creatures have the added weaponry of spikes fired from their tentacles. All of this put the amateur soldiers into instant trouble as they run through corridors or trying to escape impending doom from an airstrike. The second, set on a research centre in the centre of the sea, has moments that remind of the zombie attack in World War Z, which means the finale has to be incredibly special, which it just misses but only just.
Where the film fails to ignite is the script and the scenes in between the alien attacks. It is always tricky to make any time travelling story a sense of realism. Here it falls down flat right from the start, as the soldiers from the future exclaim that in 11 months, the human race will cease to be. This brings up the question of how have they survived in the distant future? It’s these little moments that let the film down. A central plot device is Forester discovering when he will die. We all know that tampering with the future will only bring bad, so when he is told how his death occurs, it surely will make him take a different path and thus change the events in the future.
It is far too long at a bum-numbing 140 minutes, with drawn-out scenes of dialogue and exposition slowing the pace down to a stop. You long for the subsequent spectacular set-piece and brush over the complex family issues (Forester has problems with his estranged father, there’s the saving the world for his daughter subplot and then the science parts, which seem to go on and on).
The performances are acceptable from a cast that are mainly secondary to the effects. Chris Pratt, who is very familiar with sci-fi adventure, is, well, Chris Pratt. Likeable, charismatic and the ideal lead (although we need the scene where he took off his shirt to have an arm attachment?) J.K. Simmons, as Forester’s father, mumbles his way through his lockdown beard, while Yvonne Strzechowski makes for a fine leading lady, a mix of brains and brawn.
The Tomorrow War isn’t a total disaster. It’s very flawed and too long, but it passes the time nicely as a piece of blockbuster entertainment. Would it work in cinemas? I think it would. A big, loud popcorn movie that does lose a great deal on the smaller screen.
3 out of 5
The Tomorrow War is available now on Amazon Prime.