THE TOMORROW WAR (directed by Chris McKay, 138 minutes, USA, 2021)
BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC The Tomorrow War has the guy who directed The Lego Batman Movie attempting to deliver a heartfelt Terminator-eque action spectacle that ironically feels as if it was spit out by an AI. The film’s high concept story of humanity in the final throes of a losing war with an unstoppable alien race, who out of desperation draft their fathers into their war via time travel, has promise as a premise. But it becomes cliche to the point of trite when it comes to its execution. Heavily influenced by the Tom Cruise vehicle, Edge of Tomorrow, The Tomorrow War eschews that film’s cleverness and fearlessness, in favor of something more wholesome and saccharine, that feels more like it’s trying to click a checkbox on a demographic assessment, rather than tell a story.
In what feels like an unmade Bruce Willis vehicle from the ‘90s, we have Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a biology teacher and former Green Beret, who is sent 30 years into the future only to be put under the command of his little girl Muri (Yvonne Strahovski), now a grown-ass woman, world-saving scientist and take-no-prisoners Army Colonel leading the charge against the alien onslaught of the titular tomorrow war. Think if Sarah Connor was enlisted by John Connor in the war against the machines. Muri is in the process of orchestrating humanity’s last ditch effort to take out the aliens, and recruits her father in the mission that she hopes will turn the tide of the war by taking out the queen of the invaders, a tip of the hat to James Cameron’s Aliens. But that’s as close as this film gets to sci-fi royalty because in the days leading up the mission the film loses itself in a melodramatic spiral as Dan discovers he didn’t become the father he thought he would be. He then spends the rest of his time attempting to mend that relationship before humanity’s last stand, in a way that almost feels like some bizarre incestial love story.
The Tomorrow War has all of these things that ultimately should work, and sometimes do to varying degrees. The action set pieces are effective, the narrative is derivative – but ultimately serviceable, the alien creatures definitely have a distinct nightmarish look and you have a curmudgeonly wisecracking J. K. Simmons, as Pratt’s long-estranged Vietnam vet father to complete this package. But the film ultimately fails in the execution of its human story, because Chris Pratt who sees himself as the charmingly boyish beacon of hope just can’t let the credits roll with him being a shitty dad. So because of this we are forced to endure an ending that feels both unnecessary and tacked on, as he completely redeems his character in every way shape and form, in I might add, a bizarre homage/knock off of John Carpenter’s The Thing. This coda really hammers home the script-by-algorithm nature of these streaming service tentpoles. It’s simply two plus hours of content to consume with a name star attached and shit blowing up all over the place, which works out pretty well if you like that kind of thing.
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