Release: Friday, July 2, 2021 (Amazon Prime)
👀 Amazon Prime
Written by: Zach Dean
Directed by: Chris McKay
Starring: Chris Pratt; Sam Richardson; Yvonne Strahovski; Betty Gilpin; J.K. Simmons; Edwin Hodge
The creatures at the center of Chris McKay’s fast-moving and action-packed sci-fi blockbuster are microcosmic of the overall experience of The Tomorrow War. You can’t take your eyes off them despite how familiar they are, an amalgam of iconic elements and concepts from bigger, more famous genre titles of years past.
It’s not looking good for us humble humans in the year 2051. The global population reduced to something in the hundreds of thousands, we’re well on our way to losing the war against the Whitespikes, a race of vicious creatures who look like some hybrid between H.R. Giger’s beloved Xenomorphs and the chaotic Mimics from Edge of Tomorrow (2014). In a last ditch effort, future people are time-traveling back to our reality to recruit citizens into the war effort because we regular Joes are literally the last line of defense. May as well cancel the sunrise at this point.
The gregarious Chris Pratt is our ticket in to experiencing this future hellscape for ourselves, charged with leading a platoon on what essentially amounts to a suicide mission into a world overrun with beasts that move with alarming agility and aggression and have this nasty tendency to shoot spikes from tentacled appendages. Pratt again proves to be a supportable hero though this time he disconnects more from his goofball persona to slip into the fatigues of career-depressed Dan Forester, a retired Green Beret now itching to retire from the grind of teaching high school biology to disinterested students.
Too ‘average’ to fit in at the Army Research Lab, Dan is handed (more like strong-armed into) an opportunity to fulfill a destiny, if not also risk his sanity. His number gets called and despite the protestations of his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin — redeemed) whose experience as a therapist for returning survivors gives her a good idea of the best case scenario, he’s quickly on board for a one-week tour of duty in which the survival rate hovers at a miserable 30%. Those who do survive get beamed back to the present day from wherever they happen to be at the time. While a pre-jump exchange feels shortchanged between Dan and his estranged father James (a beefed-up J.K. Simmons), whose methods of dealing with his own PTSD have never sat right with his son, leaving behind his bright daughter Muri (a wonderful Ryan Kiera Armstrong) is the tear-jerking moment Zach Dean’s pedestrian screenplay flubs the most.
This brief snapshot of an average family life discarded with, we plunge headlong into the film proper, to the part everyone is anticipating. Blasting through the most hurried boot camp you’ve ever seen — mostly a loading platform where we pick up fellow goofball Sam Richardson as the nervous chatterbox Charlie and a dead-serious Edwin Hodge as Dorian, a jaded warrior on his third tour — we’re soon dumped unceremoniously onto the terrifying field, a visually stunning combo of war-ravaged metropolis, oceanic fortress and gorgeous locales both tropical and tundral. The future-world sets are the film’s best assets, a series of battlegrounds rendered both foreign and familiar and across which we rip on a death-defying mission to find the almighty toxin that can bring down these bastards once and for all.
In reaching for Interstellar-levels of wisdom director Chris McKay, in his first live-action feature film, misses the mark with only broad gestures toward its themes of redemption and familial sacrifice. After barely surviving Miami Beach and awakening in a military compound in the Dominican Republic Dan is brought face-to-face with a challenge greater than the physical ordeal. Australian actor Yvonne Strahovski ironically puts in the most emotional performance as the hardened Colonel Forester, who gives her trusted soldier plenty to think about à la Matthew McConaughey as his lonely little self slipped, preposterously, toward the singularity-cum-bookshelf.
Yes, almost by definition even the best sci fi are inherently ridiculous. Unfortunately The Tomorrow War lacks the emotional gravity and force of personality that can distract from overthinking. This is a blockbuster designed to keep your eyes busy and your analytical mind at bay. The film editors are key, masterfully sowing together the three major movements into one kinetic, fast-moving machine whose biggest malfunction is being forgettable pablum.
The Tomorrow War is likable, lively but ultimately shallow. However you could do a lot worse for an unwitting hero and for a piece of home entertainment. As yet another casualty of the COVID disruption, this two-hour wow-fest is found exclusively on Amazon Prime and is bound to rattle walls with its unrelenting energy.
Moral of the Story: The living room may not be the ideal environment in which to take in a movie of such size and scale — The Tomorrow War is Amazon’s biggest film purchase ever, priced at an eye-popping $200 mil — but the convenience factor makes this derivative sci-fi yarn more attractive.
Running Time: 138 mins.
Quoted: “If there’s one thing that the world needs right now, it’s scientists. We cannot stop innovating. That’s how you solve a problem.”
Check out the (really long) Final Trailer from Amazon Prime here!
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
I was surprised at how much fun I had with this. A little dopey in places but good popcorn entertainment. I really wish I could have seen it on the big screen. I thought some of the effects were pretty amazing.
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I definitely had fun! The familiarity is glaringly obvious so it bears commenting on, but for sure this was solid, especially for a direct-to-streaming offering. I’m with you though, so wish I could have seen some of these encounters on the big screen. The Miami Beach sequence was awesome
You had correctly labeled this as a poor man’s Edge of Tomorrow back in July before you had even seen it. I had to google the Mimics from that film and your characterization is spot on. They look eerily similar. This is derivative in so many ways but it gets a pass because of Chris Pratt.
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How did I miss these comments? My apologies!!
As soon as I got a good glimpse of these creatures, the Mimics were immediately in my mind. Not that that’s a bad thing, but yeah. They are familiar in the same way this father-daughter story is. Familiar but definitely entertaining. I was actually pretty blown away by some of the action here.
This wasn’t my favorite and i wished the girl from Punch Drunk Love had more time. I was really surprised she was in this? Think she got 20 million?
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Yikes Ipes! Sorry for my delayed response. I wasn’t ignoring you. I was just preparing to throw my computer in a rage because I can’t write right right now.
Which girl from PDL? I wish I could remember, and thanks for reminding me about that flick, that’s such a good Adam Sandler movie. I need to watch it again.
As popcorn movies go it was OK, but I wouldn’t bother watching this again.
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Same here. Good switch-your-brain off fare but I felt there was so much teased for a more interesting story.
Expensive blockbusters such as this going straight into peoples homes… I honestly think the days of $1 billion box-office bonanzas are over. I suspect that Covid and the likes of HBO Max and Disney+ may have destroyed cinema, and once these streaming wars settle down to a few surviving players, I also think the days of actors getting $20 million and higher paychecks are also over. The money won’t be there.
Which isn’t such a bad thing if it means such bloated, intellectually bereft blockbusters as The Tomorrow War become extinct. While I rather enjoyed the film as spectacle, its clear that there’s a really good, dramatic and emotional film in there buried under all the explosions, CGI and stupidity.
There’s a reason 1980s genre films were so good- even ILM had limitations and film-makers had to work at scripts more. These days its all CGI and ‘anything is possible!’ so most attention seems to be on fx workstations and not characterisation and drama, plot, you know old-fashioned stuff like that. The current crop of film-makers in Hollywood (I’m looking at you, JJ Abrams) are some of the worst we’ve ever had the misfortune to be making films, and the actors some of the worst, too, because they hide behind the CGI and spectacle and just have to look cool and pretty.
Its all quite depressing. Its no accident I spend so much time watching old movies these days. They are simply much better movies than what’s getting dumped on streamers now. Just the trailer for Amazon’s new Cinderella film is enough to make me choke on my crisps.
That new Cinderella looks truly awful. It looks to be ticking every single box of the Woke Film check box and doing whatever it can to distance itself from the original. It looks painful to be honest.
I think these days it takes quite a bit of effort to find the treasure troves. I fully believe there are plenty of good films being made, but the mainstream obscures them. In fact if anything, shouldn’t there be more potential for finding good stuff these days with the advent of multiple avenues, such as streaming?
Shudder is a platform I’ve been meaning to check out for awhile. It houses the likes of some really off-beat, entirely commercial UN-friendly fare, like the horror film Fried Barry. Check that one out. It’s goddamn wild. Invariably Shudder is going to be loaded with naff content as well, but percentage wise I think today there has to be better options.
It’s a really nervous moment for big, concept-driven movies though, that’s for sure. Dune in all likelihood won’t do very well at the box office, but I’m hoping will do well enough to get that second part green-lit. I’m optimistic it will do better business than his Blade Runner sequel. It logically follows that Dune too will sink like a stone, but I’m staying optimistic. Maybe foolishly so!
A movie like The Tomorrow War arriving straight into homes is not all that bad IMO. I for one would have been more upset having driven a number of miles to see something so derivative of The Terminator. I think we can expect to see more releases like this in the future. Generic + streaming seem to go hand-in-hand. Again, with the exception of the gems you do find buried underneath all the B.S. Top 10 Most Popular avenues the likes of Netflix really prefer you to waste your time with
I was surprised to enjoy this one even if it is popcorn fluff.
Love Sam Richardson.
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Sam Richardson seems like a genuinely good dude. I’m happy to see him blowing up