The Tomorrow War
Directed by Chris McKay
Written by Zach Dean
Starring Chris Pratt, Betty Gilpin, J. K. Simmons, Yvonne Stahovski, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Edwin Hodge
Originally set for a theatrical release, Chris McKay’s “The Tomorrow War” is a fascinating, if overlong, look at the effects of war and time with a father-daughter story at its center. It premieres on Amazon Prime on July 2nd.
Earth has been invaded, and in the future, the aliens have nearly overrun the population. Paradoxically, the humans of today must stop the war of tomorrow.
There is no ambiguity in how these creatures feast on us. There is no fear and no quarter, so it is left to the human population to find a way to stop them from annihilating all of us.
Chris Pratt stars as James Forester, a biology teacher and Iraq War veteran seeking to make his mark and a difference in the world. You can tell from the opening frames that Forester is somewhat of a rebel in the sense that he likes to do things his own way, not out of tradition and certainly not an influence from his two tours of Iraq, but his family upbringing.
Zach Dean’s story does a good job of putting us into the character’s shoes as James tries to get a big job in a government lab, only to be turned down – he’s too ambitious perhaps, and as much as he loves his family, he isn’t present in the moment. He doesn’t appreciate what he has.
It was interesting that McKay chose to unveil the film’s crux on a televised event as our future selves jump through time right in the middle of a football (soccer) match in England. We get the sense of “is this really happening,” a theme carried throughout the first act and a half. There are bits of the setup and concept, and as we mobilize to fight the future war, those concepts pay off.
Yet, Dean’s story also borrows far too heavily on other ‘alien’ films, namely James Cameron’s “Aliens” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” I even felt a lift or two from Doug Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” and that’s where the film loses its luster – it gets so caught up in the story it’s trying to tell that we lose interest in why the aliens came to be. Heck, I’d sooner settle for “The Core” with its logic and mechanics than another viewing of “The Tomorrow War.”
However, what brings me back to it is its humanity – it recognizes the effects of PTSD; even if Pratt’s Forester doesn’t exhibit them outwardly, we’re feeling it internally. And, that’s the one piece of Pratt’s performance that I will praise. He’s very stoic, and while it is admirable to be hardened, Pratt barely emotes, something that seems to be a trademark of his, and for me, it was a bit uncomfortable to watch.
Perhaps it’s part and parcel of the story that the first act and a half feel like we’re leveling up in some first-person RPG. That style didn’t necessarily rub me the wrong way – it’s the one thing about the story that I admire. But, when we get into the meat and potatoes of the story, it just isn’t enough. Yes, the family bits sprinkled throughout the modern parts of “The Tomorrow War, are solidly performed, but too little too late to salvage it.
PG-13, 138 minutes, Amazon/Skydance/Paramount