The Tomorrow War

by | Jul 7, 2021 | 0 comments

Another forgettable alien war blockbuster

There was a time in the 1990s when blockbusters were coming out in droves, almost copying each other in themes and plot. There were two asteroid films the same year Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998), volcano disaster films such as Dante’s Peak (1997) or Volcano (1997), and even submarine films with Crimson Tide (1995) and The Hunt for Red October (1990). There was a certain concession that viewers gave these films, of acknowledging their cheesiness and generic molds, but then again blockbusters had been rare a few between until then. Decades on, we have come to an era where blockbusters are practically the only thing released in theaters anymore, and they’ve curated audiences to demand more from their average tentpole films.

The Tomorrow War (2021) is a film originally from Paramount Studios, but due to COVID-19 was sold off to Amazon Studios for $200 million. The concept of the plot is essentially: soldiers from an alien war in the future coming to recruit able bodies from the present. Our protagonist is Dan (Chris Pratt), an Iraq War veteran and current high school chemistry teacher, who is unhappy with his current life. He is soon recruited to fight in the future and once there links up with the intelligent and tough Colonel Forester (Yvonne Strahovski).

The Tomorrow War is only the third feature film from director Chris McKay, who first jumped into studio films with the surprisingly enjoyable The Lego Batman Movie (2017). With The Tomorrow War, McKay was dealing with a much larger film in terms of scope and budget. Yet he is allied with an always charismatic Pratt, who is able to lead most of the film’s generic and cookie-cutter scenes with his characteristic charm. The rest of our supporting players are rather relegated in a cluttered affair. You get brief glimpses of a winning Sam Richardson or a gruff J.K. Simmons, but only Strahovski is able to produce anything memorable. Strahovski finally gets a blockbuster chance to show her dramatic skills that she had been effusing in The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-), and her performance is almost too good for The Tomorrow War. Pratt, a Marvel veteran, knows how to find the balance between drama and wise-cracking self-awareness in these types of films, but Strahovski is giving an all-out performance that appears out of line with the streamlined qualities of the rest of the film. This certainly makes the underutilization of her character all the more frustrating for viewers.

The film’s plot, despite being “original,” feels like many other better films before it. There are elements of Independence Day (1996), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and even Predator (1987) in the film, to such an extent that no frame of The Tomorrow War ever feels like anything “new.” Dialogue is blocky, characters thinly drawn, and the structure feels incredibly patched. In fact, the final story feels like a badly edited version of multiple discarded ideas. This makes the three acts in The Tomorrow War feel like parts of three separate movies. This disjointed stitching makes the pacing and rhythm of the film slow to a crawl so that you lose much interest in the fate of the characters by the halfway point.

McKay isn’t able to offer much in terms of a distinctive authorship. The entire film feels like it has been crafted by studio executives in an attempt to recreate 90s blockbusters with only a feeble attempt at modernization (the problem was climate change guys!). However, in this day and age, such a film feels stale and interchangeable.

In the end, The Tomorrow War is a rather forgettable film. It is not terrible by any means, but it proves to be a dull affair, nonetheless. The story is incapable of hooking your attention or care for its world and characters, and no matter the stars that are on screen, it proves to be too much of a burden to heave. McKay is drowned out by a seeming factory setting that delivered a mindless array of noise, action, and cliches.

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 57% 57%

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