Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews The Tomorrow War

Josh Reviews The Tomorrow War

In The Tomorrow War, Chris Pratt stars as Dan Forester.  Dan is a former soldier who is now a high school science teacher, but he dreams of something more for his life.  His wish turns into a nightmare when soldiers from the year 2051 arrive via time-travel in the middle of a World Cup match to announce that, in their time, mankind is fighting a losing war against alien invaders.  The nations of the world unite in creating a mandatory draft of 2022 citizens who will then be sent into the future to help the people of 2051 fight the aliens.  The deployment to 2051 will only last seven days, but most don’t make it back.  Needless to say, it isn’t long before Dan is chosen for the draft and sent to the future…

If you’re willing to turn your brain off, The Tomorrow War can be enjoyed as an amiable action adventure.  The visual effects are solid and the film is fast-paced enough to keep the audience zipping along from one adventure sequence to the next with little time to get bored (or focus too hard on the film’s ridiculous plot twists and turns).  Chris Pratt is, as always, a charismatic and compelling lead.  He gives the film his all, but at this point we’ve seen him play this sort of friendly/heroic role a few times too many.  Sam Richardson (Veep) is energetic and funny as the academic who gets sent to the future along with Dan.  Mary Lynn Rajskub and Mike Mitchell are fun, familiar faces as additional draftees sent into the future war.  Yvonne Strahovski is solid as the leader of the future military forces.  And then there is J. K. Simmons, acting circles around everyone around him as Dan’s haunted draft-dodging father.  Mr. Simmons is terrific as always; I wish he was playing this role in a better movie!

There are a lot of big fun ideas in The Tomorrow War, but this to me was a film that falls apart instantly once you start to think about it.  I’m a serious sci-fi fan, and while I am totally OK with a fun sci-fi shoot-em-up, I do at least request that a sci-fi film has a premise that makes sense.  I can suspend my disbelief to accept that the people of 2051 were able to invent time travel.  But how is it that people from 2022 can be sent to 2051 (and then return to 2022 if they survive) without changing the timeline??  How does it make any sense to just drop untrained civilians into a war zone (rather than taking the time to give them some sort of basic training)??  (Remember, these people have a TIME MACHINE — so there’s no rush and no reason not to take however long they need to train up the 2022 draftees before sending them into the 2051 war-zone.)  When we see Yvonne Strahovski’s character working on a biological weapon to use against the aliens, why is she the ONLY PERSON on the huge military base working on it??  I could go on; the film is filled with problems like that.

Additionally, the film has an episodic structure that prevented me from fully engaging with the story.  Once Dan and his fellow unfortunate, untrained civilians get dropped into 2051, I thought to myself, OK, we’re going to watch this crew go on this adventure.  But no, most of the players — even those played by actors I recognized — were killed off immediately.  OK, I thought, so they made those casting choices to surprise us; we’re really just going to watch the trio of Chris Pratt’s Dan, Sam Richardson’s Charlie, and Edwin Hodge’s grizzled veteran Dorian try to survive this crazy future world.  But no again, very quickly Dan’s story splits off from Charlie and Dorian’s, and now all of a sudden we’re following Dan and Yvonne Strahovski’s character.  And then after what I thought was the film’s big action climax, we get an additional almost half-hour of another adventure set in the antarctic.  (That expended action epilogue reminded me of the weird half-hour at the end of Jurassic Park: The Lost World, when we get an extended action sequence of a Tyrannosaurus Rex loose in the city, that felt strangely tacked onto the very different film we’d been watching up until that point.)  This structure made the film feel very choppy to me.

The actors really do try.  I already noted the always-amazing J.K. Simmons, who invests true emotion into his portrayal of Dan’s estranged and haunted father.  Mr. Simmons brings a world of life to this character who is only in the movie for a few scenes. Ms. Strahovski and Mr. Pratt do good work in developing their characters’ relationship after their paths cross in the future, and Mr. Pratt and Betty Gilpin (who plays Dan’s wife Emily) also try their best to make us care about their characters’ connection.  But when the movie they’re performing in is so goofy and dumb, these actors mostly feel stranded in the story.

I wasn’t expecting much from The Tomorrow War, so I wasn’t let down.  I was able to munch on popcorn while sitting back on my couch, and I had a pleasant enough time watching this film.  But, I am sorry to say, this is not the type of sci-fi movie I’m looking for.

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