The Tomorrow War arrives on Prime Video this week, bringing a fairly impressive Sci-Fi blockbuster to the streaming service that’s fun to watch.
The Tomorrow War
Directed By: Chris McKay
Written By: Zach Dean
Starring: Chris Pratt, Sam Richardson, Yvonne Strahovski, Betty Gilpin
Release Date: July 2, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video
What’s a Summer movie season without some old fashioned alien invasion action? Not much. Thankfully, The Tomorrow War is here to fill that gap this Summer and for the most part it works really well. Of course, it’s possible I feel this way because the movie hits just about all the check-boxes to be considered “extremely my shit,” but I suspect a lot of people are going to have fun with this one.
For the most part, as usual, I’ll be trying to avoid spoilers in my review. Dealing with the Sci-Fi nature of the story (time travel and what not), some minor things might come out here and there, but I think you’ll be fine for the most part.
As you’ve gathered from the trailers, the future (2051 to be precise) is pretty bleak. So bleak in fact, that time travelers have journeyed to the past (our present) in order to recruit soldiers for the war they’re currently fighting. Their enemy is an alien species intent solely on the destruction of the human race. There are no prisoners being taken, no truce that can be formed. Sounds terrible right? Well, the worst part of it all, is we’re LOSING the war.
Even with the infusion of “fresh” troops (people a conscripted for week-long tours of duty in the future), things aren’t going well. These aliens mean business and fewer and fewer troops are making the return trip home.
Chris Pratt plays the role of Dan Forester, a former soldier turned High School science teacher. He’s long wanted to leave the life of solider behind him and pursue his passion for science and learning. Just a year after the arrival of the people from future, Dan is drafted into service, forced to leave his wife and daughter behind for a week in the hopes of coming back.
As you imagine, things go South pretty quickly. It’s a good indication of how poorly the war effort is going that even getting back and forth between time is becoming an issue. Honestly, the story’s concept of time travel is one of the things I enjoyed most about the film, and they manage to explain all of it fairly quickly.
Time travel isn’t exactly what it seems. They’ve opened a wormhole that’s a specific length of time: thirty years. There’s a specific in and out points that are exactly thirty years apart that can be traveled between. Time continues to move FORWARD on both ends, however, so you can’t just drop in to which ever time you’d like. So a week in our time still translates to a week’s worth of time 30 years from now.
I thought it was a really neat way to handle the time-travel element, and I was really impressed with how quickly they were able to explain this, and other paradoxical stuff, in a quick, efficient way that doesn’t take away from the story. The end result is a setup that manages to still impart a strong sense of tension, despite playing with the timeline.
The war itself is finite, and the people in the future are still racing against the clock to ward off extinction. There’s a sense of inevitability that permeates the story (even touched upon poignantly by some characters), and that nothing done will ultimately matter. I would caution you not to think about the “science” aspect too long, however. Like any blockbuster Sci-Fi story, if you think too long about any of it, holes will inevitably appear. Taken at face value, however, and it works for the story being told without any glaring moments that take you out of the experience.
Anyway, during Dan’s time in the future, he learns more about the alien threats (referred to as the “White Spikes”) they’re facing and how bleak everything really is. As he nears the end of his week-long tour of duty, which is filled with all manner of action and explosions, a plan begins to take shape. There’s a chance to not only save humanity, but rewrite the course of history…
Again, I’m avoiding spoilers, so I don’t really want to get into anything beyond that. It makes for a fun ride, however, as you do get the sense that anything could be possible. There’s a fatalistic aspect to the story, but as thing progress you get a sense of hope; that maybe something CAN be done. By the time you get to the film’s finale, you’re gripping the seat and hoping, right along with the cast.
By and large, this feeling is generated through the overall pacing of the story and the action on display. I want to make it clear, this is a GREAT alien invasion action film. There are hints of Starship Troopers and Independence Day-scale sprinkled throughout. Coupled with some really cool creature designs, and each action sequence manages to feel distinct and engaging, with the stakes ever-raised.
In short, the action is a blast. It kept me engaged at all times and in some ways felt like it never let up. Once a few elements are in place, The Tomorrow War sets a blistering pace that rarely lets you breathe, but it never feels too overwhelming either. The overall pacing/structure of the story is well handled, balancing the high levels of action with humor that never feels forced.
Where Tomorrow War struggles, however, is in the character moments. Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuinely touching moments in the film, but on the whole this aspect of the film is what holds it back. There are attempts to make the story a more character driven affair with a lot to say about the nature of family and finding your path in life.
These aspects are only surface deep and I never felt the deep connection I knew the filmmakers wanted me to. It worked in terms of moving the story forward, but never went beyond that. This is most clear during certain moments which simply didn’t feel “earned” emotionally.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it was never bad enough to detract from my enjoyment while watching; but it certainly keeps the film from being anything more than a fun “popcorn flick.” For a Summer blockbuster, that’s certainly not a bad deal, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again with my kiddos this weekend.
In general, it feels like Amazon scored pretty big in picking up The Tomorrow War. I could definitely see this playing well on the big screen. It feels perfect for audiences who just want to sit back, be transported for a couple hours, and have a fun time. As such, if you have Prime Video, there’s no reason to skip out on this one. It’s a blast to watch and has the action “legs” to carry it through multiple viewings.