Review by C.J. Bunce
Chris Pratt movies are a thing now just like Tom Cruise movies and Mark Wahlberg movies. The latest Chris Pratt movie is The Tomorrow War, which just arrived this past weekend on Amazon Prime. It’s every bit a vehicle for Pratt and could star nobody else. Like the Jurassic World movies, Passengers, and even The Magnificent Seven remake, Pratt is a unique casting decision but evidently studio execs keep going for his “aw, shucks” brand of characters. In The Tomorrow War, Pratt plays a biology teacher dad turned rescuer of mankind named Dan Forester. Forester is nearly impossible to distinguish from Pratt’s dinosaur confronting character in Jurassic World. Pratt plays that bit of a dope you can’t imagine actually doing any of the things his character encounters, so you may need to be a Pratt fan or simply be grateful it’s a free action movie and not mind you’re getting what you paid for. Either way, there are worse direct-to-TV movies out there, but as the alien invasion genre goes, don’t expect to count The Tomorrow War high on your list.
The movie is not as good as anything it can be compared to. Zach Dean’s overstuffed script is similar in its building blocks to Michael Crichton’s Timeline, with its small number of characters that somehow save the future, plus time travel, and one or two too many subplots added simply to squeeze in more action scenes. The plot of aliens frozen and unfrozen has been done before, and the aliens are similar to the squiggly critters of John Carpenter’s The Thing and some of the scenes may remind viewers of Alien vs. Predator. The attempt to capture a key alien for research, dissection, and xenocide has been done far better in Starship Troopers and Edge of Tomorrow. And the idea of a parent and kid doing some time jumps to save the world is straight out of the Terminator movie series. Being derivative doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the next sci-fi movie if it’s done right. Unfortunately The Tomorrow War is just okay.
Some of the subplots hinted at–like running instead of allowing himself to be drafted, allowing the classroom of kids play a bigger part, or having the future humans be the real villains–might have been more fun plot points to pursue.
The aliens, once we see them after too long a build-up, move too fast to be studied by the viewer and once they are seen they are a confusing mass of body parts that don’t seem to follow any kind of biological rules. It’s the design that doesn’t quite work more than the CGI execution–they are on par with the beasts that attack China in The Great Wall. The script is full of heavy drama, quick scene changes, little development and explanation, and sparse humor, so don’t expect Attack the Block either. What is novel about The Tomorrow War? Not really anything. It’s another “hunt the aliens” movie. To its credit it has more action and layers than A Quiet Place. And it’s similar in vibe to Amazon Studios’ recent adaptation of The War of the Worlds—it feels more like a TV movie than something you’d be willing to lay down the theater ticket price for.
Fans of Yvonne Strahovski will love seeing her again, but this is not much different for her than her role in Chuck, and the part is like her secondary role in The Predator–not quite enough to boost her into big movie star roles. Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons also has a fun small part, but his character is under-utilized. Sam Richardson plays a recruit sucked into battle with Pratt’s character, and he rises to become a high point of the show. Chris McKay, known for The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, directs the film, but doesn’t bring any of that same charm to this outing.
As for Pratt, being cast in roles once reserved for his father-in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger still seems bizarre. The goofball from Parks and Recreation and Everwood and Guardians of the Galaxy may work for some people as action hero (he’s great in all three of those roles), but even they must put aside any ounce of believability for this movie. It would have been fun seeing someone like Wyatt Russell, who worked so well as action hero in Overlord, in this role instead. If you can lower your personal analysis bar for a free TV movie (once you’ve paid your annual fee, of course), then you may enjoy a few hours of action sequences of soldiers shooting stuff. If not, check out one of the other, better, sci-fi movies above I’ve mentioned.
The Tomorrow War is now streaming on Amazon Prime.