The Tomorrow War: Review
The Tomorrow War Synopsis: An ordinary family man named Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is recruited by time travelers from 30 years in the future to fight in a deadly war against aliens. Alongside his estranged father (J.K. Simmons), a timid scientist (Sam Richardson), and a captain from the future (Yvonne Strahovski), the small-knit team must fight to save the world.
Blockbusters used to be genuine events savored by summer audiences. Now, the Hollywood marketplace is rampant with grandiose event movies, so much so that there isn’t enough room for all of them on the big screen. Netflix has produced its own competitive wave of big-budget tentpoles (Army of the Dead and The Woman in the Widow), while Amazon Prime continues to purchase studio’s forgotten projects from the scrap heap (Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse and the upcoming Cinderella were acquired from Paramount).
Prime’s grandest tentpole yet, The Tomorrow War, boasts all the right elements. With a marquee movie star and an inventive sci-fi premise in tow, director Chris McKay crafts his live-action debut in the straightforward mold of 90’s blockbusters. There’s ample promise brewing in the film’s throwback delivery, but The Tomorrow War sinks under its oppressively flavorless design.
If there’s a positive to take away from the bloated 148-minute runtime, it’s McKay’s assured work behind the camera. The LEGO Batman Movie helmer and his skilled team choreograph an array of kinetic setpieces, utilizing a wide range of extreme locals and swift camera movements to convey the carnage at hand. Some blockbusters throw money at the screen without conveying monumental scale. McKay, on the other hand, relishes in every cent of the film’s excessive 200 million dollar budget. From the creative creature design to the onslaught of roller coaster thrills, McKay does his best to imbue enthralling momentum across the busy narrative.
McKay ensures some excitement, but a majority of The Tomorrow War mindlessly travels through the motions. Much of the film feels like a blah amalgamation of superior actioners (the Edge of Tomorrow comparisons are numerous), lazily incorporating tentpole influences without a genuine means of repurposing them. In terms of screenwriter Zach Dean’s narrative and delivery, there’s no magic sparkle igniting the formulaic devices. It all feels factory-assembled in the most cynical, studio-mandated way.
Dean’s screenplay isn’t without promise. The narrative’s intriguing twists open the door for moments of tender emotionality, while the core plotting connects seamlessly with our current world struggles. It’s just a shame that the film never engages with those foundational elements. I’ve heard several cite The Tomorrow War’s plotting as video game-esque, but frankly, that’s an insult to modern gaming’s evolving nuances. There’s nothing to take away from the slapdash screenplay other than a series of poorly formulated contrivances.
Oddly enough, The Tomorrow War’s largest blemish lies in virtually every frame. Chris Pratt’s attempts at smoldering action hero charisma fall woefully flat, with the A-list actor lacking the dynamism and gravity to carry the narrative on his shoulders. Movie star roles like this are designed for actor’s distinctive presence to command the screen. Pratt’s form of machismo bravado is ironically just as generic as the film he’s starring in. A talented supporting cast only makes the issue more apparent, as supporting players Yvonne Strahovski and Sam Richardson consistently upstage Pratt through their sheer talent (I am loving the Summer of Sam Richardson, his effortless charm would’ve made him a far more affable lead).
The Tomorrow War feels more like a soulless product than a cinematic blockbuster. Despite an endless budget and nuggets of worthwhile ideas, there’s little to distinguish this feature from a long line of failed blockbusters.