Unoriginal premise and uneven tone derail Amazon’s The Tomorrow War. Spoilers ahead
We caught the premiere of Chris Pratt’s The Tomorrow War (TTW) the other day, and it’s unfulfilling, to say the least. The premise for the movie by director Chris McKay (of The Lego Batman Movie fame) is one that we have seen time and time again.
The human race is on the brink of extinction because of an alien threat – cue the unlikely/semi-retired hero Chris Pratt as Dan Forester (a retired soldier and now biology teacher) who is brought in to save the human race. Conscripted (mandatory enlistment) into the global battle against the alien invaders that have a taste for human flesh, Pratt finds himself travelling to 2051 to help in the human race’s fight for survival.
The plot elements and storyline seem to have been Frankensteined from other popular films like Edge of Tomorrow, Independence Day, Tenet and the Terminator franchise. This comparison has been drawn by countless other reviews that have covered the film – which sadly means that it’s anything but innovative at this stage!
While watching you get hints of the director trying to stitch a story that is larger than life, and even larger than the scope of the script– with uses of lens flares, soaring music and slow-motion (trademark Michael Bay and JJ Abrams) minus the finesse of what these seasoned directors have been able to do with their respective franchise.
Watch: The Tomorrow War Official Trailer
The Awakward Tone
TTW’s storytelling is marred again and again by an almost hurried need to reach the end – we are as helpless as Pratt trying to make sense of the invasion. You can almost see the decisions taken in the editing room, with action sequences and emotional moments all seemingly rushed to adjust into a happy ending.
Even McKay admits that he changed the last third of the film from a bleak to one that was more light and [had] feelings of hopefulness.” But in doing so, the CG set pieces where Pratt fights the aliens, or the real emotional moments where he connects with a future version of his daughter-turned-colonel, still leave the viewers with an awkward tone.
Pratt’s screen presence is the other problem. McKay’s story is one about mending relationships with bad father figures. This is evident not just from the strained relationship that Pratt shares with a PTSD ridden Vietnam veteran dad (J.K. Simmons). But also in his desire to be a better father.
However, this is introduced and resolved very quickly in the first and third acts of the movie with a surprising turn where Simmons agrees to fly Pratt’s recon team into Russia’s frozen glacial fields. And all because the world is at stake! Otherwise, Pratt’s busy jumping between a good soldier and a committed father for the entirety of the movie.
Half Baked Storylines
Pratt’s blockbuster persona is a shadow of its formers self, seen in movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or Jurassic World. At least there we have come to expect a stubborn and daring Indiana Jonesesque screen presence. In TTW, Pratt’s too busy walking through his feelings of an unfulfilled life added to his need to fix relationships which turns into a half-baked mess.
Surprisingly, what works are the action sequences and terrifying alien design! For being a movie that centres on the theme of family, this one has some truly icky scenes of humans being maimed at the hands of the Whitespikes. And holy hell are they completely gruesome in their aim to take down every living thing that’s on the planet.
As Colonel Muri narrates, the aliens are efficient in taking over all of Earth in only a span of three years. The CG design – although strained at times – still holds up really well in conveying an apocalyptic 2051.
All in all, the movie is a complete no-brainer and a perfect weekend flick to watch to kill some time. If you’re expecting Pratt’s characteristic hero persona – you will be left disappointed. But maybe that point of the film wasn’t to have Pratt’s character turn into a hero – but a decent science-loving dad.