The Tomorrow War Review

The Tomorrow War
While watching the World Cup, former soldier-turned-science teacher Dan Forester (Pratt) witnesses the arrival of humans, time-travelling from the future, recruiting people from the past to fight in a future war against aliens. When Forester is conscripted, the fate of the war lies in his hands.

by John Nugent |
Updated on
Release Date:

02 Jul 2021

Original Title:

The Tomorrow War

Chris McKay's first film as director was The Lego Batman Movie, a film which hilariously undercut DC’s most self-serious superhero by turning him into a preening, microwaved-lobster-eating plastic toy with lines like, “I also have huge pecs and a nine-pack.” It was an animated action movie — for kids! — laced with parody and satire. McKay’s first live-action film isn’t quite the same proposition: it’s a big, blundering, CGI-heavy action sci-fi that works within its genre mould rather than outside it. The Tomorrow War is not entirely without a sense of humour, but as with its noisy, show-offy action sequences, it feels broader, made for the widest audience possible in a way that might inadvertently alienate them.

Emblematic of this tension is Chris Pratt, whose character is a none-more-generic action star: hunky, chunky and chiselled, certainly, but lacking anything distinctive or compelling for us to get behind. Pratt easily sells the ex-military side of his character (it recalls his early role in Zero Dark Thirty), but never quite convinces in his later career as a nerdy science teacher. When he’s given free rein to crack wise and arch eyebrows in the Guardians universe, he’s electric; when he’s effectively the straight man, as he is here, his natural charisma is a little dulled.

The Tomorrow War

There seems to be uncertainty in terms of which tone to strike. At times, it’s suffocatingly serious: Pratt is faced with daddy issues for maximum emotional motivation — as if the extinction of humanity wasn’t enough to get him out of bed. Dialogue arrives smothered in clichés (“You and me... we’re going to save this world — together,” smoulders Pratt at one point), without ever managing to sprinkle the necessary irony or self-awareness for leavening.

The humour hit-to-miss rate is alarmingly low.

Other times, perhaps conscious of how po-faced it’s all getting, some comic relief is shoehorned in, from capable performers but with mixed results. Sam Richardson, of Veep and I Think You Should Leave fame, brings a puppyish sweetness to his sidekick Charlie (“I think we’re going to be best friends,” he says to Pratt’s character at one point, entirely earnestly), and it’s undeniably refreshing to see non-military beta types being conscripted into the future war. But the humour hit-to-miss rate is alarmingly low.

Shot loudly and expensively, the action has its moments (a slow-motion descent into an apocalyptic alien hellscape is a highlight, even if you feel the CG rendering behind it) and Pratt clearly relishes the opportunity to have at least one Cool Guy Explosion shot. But the aliens here have nothing to them that we haven’t seen before, slithering and screeching onto the screen like the bastard love-children of Venom and the Mimics from Edge Of Tomorrow. With a final act set on a glacier, the pacing starts to feel glacial too; it is approximately half an hour longer than it should be. Even in this final act, there are glimmers of a more promising film. But like tomorrow itself, it never quite arrives.

Despite its wild premise — Chris Pratt goes to the future to fight aliens! — and considerable talent, The Tomorrow War is mostly just bloated blockbuster business as usual.
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