Creating a new, original blockbuster type of movie is almost impossible in this day and age. Most studios prefer to go the tried-and-tested route, rebooting old properties or adapting a best-selling book series to guarantee audience interest. The new sci-fi/action film The Tomorrow War doesn’t have either of those, but it does have Chris Pratt, who all but screams blockbuster given his prominent roles in the Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lego Movie franchises.
Pratt plays Dan Forester, a mild-mannered science teacher whose life – along with everyone else on Earth – is thrown into turmoil when a group of humans arrives from 30 years in the future to announce that the world has been overrun by aliens. The monsters – nicknamed White Spikes – are so overpowering that the human population has dipped to near extinction levels.
In desperation, the future humans are calling on the current-day humans to travel back to the future with them and join the fight. Due to the high number of military casualties, governments around the world institute a draft, roping in civilians like Forester and many others. The bulk of the film takes place in the future as Forester and his fellow untrained soldiers learn how terrifying the White Spikes actually are.
Directed by Chris McKay and written by Zach Dean, the film doesn’t give short shrift to the heart department. When he gets drafted, Forester leaves behind his wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin), and daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and the impact his absence has is far bigger than he could have imagined. The emotions of that bond, as well as the terror experienced by people with no combat experience when they’re thrown into the middle of an apocalyptic world, are palpable.
But, of course, this is primarily an action movie and that’s where the focus is for most of its overlong 2 hours and 20 minutes. Many of the scenes are chaotic, with the new arrivals having no idea what to do in unfamiliar surroundings and the speed and ferocity of the aliens adding to the pandemonium. McKay and his team are relatively effective in staging the sequences, although they rely a bit too often on random unnamed characters dying, with the main group miraculously surviving against all odds.
Things get more and more silly as the movie goes along, although the story never goes completely off a cliff like some other action films. The time travel aspect creates some seemingly impossible scenarios, but they resolve the conundrums nicely by the time the film comes to an end.
Pratt, who famously got his big break on Parks & Recreation, is surrounded by a bunch of other actors previously best known for their TV work. In addition to Gilpin (GLOW), the cast boasts Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, The Handmaid’s Tale), Sam Richardson (Veep), Mary Lynn Rayskub (24), and more. It’s possible they were cast precisely because of their small-screen appeal, giving their characters a more human feel than big-time movie stars might.
The Tomorrow War is the kind of movie that would play much better on a big screen than on whatever device viewers choose to watch Amazon Prime Video. But such is the way of the world these days, and the film still has more pluses than minuses, making it a positive experience no matter where you view it.
The Tomorrow War is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.