The Tomorrow War (2021) – REEL Review

Director: Chris McKay | 2h 18mins | Sci-Fi, Action

Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is pulled into a war 30 years in the future, where humans are losing to a futuristic alien race.

Despite the overwhelming presence of streaming services over the past few years there’s been a reluctance towards blockbusters (this year’s pandemic being the exception), high-concept smash ‘em ups that often dominate the summer for cinemas rarely find their way to our television screens as original properties. The Tomorrow War, the $200m Amazon property, is proof of just why these films so often depend on the atmosphere of the cinema to secure popularity and a strong reception. Seeing this in a high-intensity cinematic experience may just get you through the clunkiness of it’s story and performance – but unfortunately the home experience leaves so much to be desired. 

30 years from now a war ensues against humanity and the only way to save their planet is to draft people from the present. It’s a simple idea that doesn’t want to delve too much into the logistics but would rather cut to the action and emotional core as quickly as possible. In a way you have to respect Director Chris McKay’s and Screenwriter Zach Dean’s decision to avoid the more logistical problems of their time jumping concept and allow people to just “enjoy themselves” – which you more than likely will for the first hour or so – but it’s by-the numbers story and eventual convenient subplotting make it insufferably mediocre once you’ve reached the 140 minute mark. 

Chris Pratt stars as the protagonist Dan Forester – an army vet turned family man turned science teacher – who gets drafted for his 7 days of service into future warfare. Pratt’s niche as an action star has always been his ability to interject comedy into whatever he does, his almost ‘anti-star’ performance in Guardians of the Galaxy is the epitome of what makes him so entertaining – it’s just a shame that The Tomorrow War can’t quite grasp that same level of humour or intensity from the star. Pratt hits his beats with a flourish of personality and commits fully to the film’s emotional connection between Father and Daughter, but it’s in the dialogue that even the best actors suffer. At one point near the climax of the film in the snowy tundra of Eastern Russia, after Pratt has battled an alien with his estranged Father played by JK Simmons, Simmons playfully asks “did you just ask him to die? Why didn’t you do it sooner?” One of the most off-tone lines to come from a film that’s chock-full of misplaced humour. 

It’s all too easy and too rushed, making you wish for a time when blockbusters wouldn’t instantly take the easy option.

At the core of the film is the relationship between Dan and his daughter, Muri. In the present, she’s a sweet girl who dreams of finding ‘cures’ in the ground, so rather unexpectedly as Dan makes his way to the future he finds himself running into his daughter – who happens to be a Colonel as well as being the person in charge of finding the toxin to defeat the alien creatures. This is a forgivable trope that does spawn some sweet, if not on the nose, moments between the two protagonists – but once that story finds its conclusion the film gives into cliche after cliche as it stumbles to its underwhelming end. 

The movie does hop from one forgivable cliche to the other but it’s in the final act that it really does suffer. After getting no help from the government to hunt down the aliens in the present day, Forester starts to make a plan of his own, jumping from one convenience to the  other. Need a volcanic ash expert? He teaches one. Need an illegal plane flown by someone willing? No problem, his alienated Father just so happens to be in that business. It’s all too easy and too rushed, making you wish for a time when blockbusters wouldn’t instantly take the easy option but instead would take risks to give us something different.  

Arguably the strongest thing about The Tomorrow War is that it reaffirms the importance of the cinematic experience. A $200m production that might be able to distract you from it’s weak story and bloated run time if you were in an immersive environment, but sadly, being available straight to our TV’s means that the mediocrity comes bubbling to the surface too easily. Pratt tries his best along with an equally talented cast, but by the last 20 minutes your exhaustion will be too much. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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