Film Review – The Tomorrow War (2021)

There is something innately nice and warm and safe about Chris Pratt. It’s oddly unsettling. And yet, there is just as much to feel jealous about as well. There’s much to envy about the life of a successful actor, granted, but much more in this case. It’s all apropos of nothing and makes this writer sound like a jerk but that isn’t the intention – bottom line, Chris Pratt is awesome (much like his turn in the equally awesome The Lego Movie) and we want to be him. He’s funny too. We forgot that part.

To some, Pratt is the loveable Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation; to others, he is the aforementioned voice of plastic character Emmet in both Lego movies; but to many, he is the strangely creepy Jim from 2016’s woefully misjudged Passengers. Oh, and some dude called Star-Lord – no idea. Whatever your choice of fighter, there’s much more to the actor than meets the eye so it’s something of a shame that The Tomorrow War – his latest bombastic, dizzying extravaganza – finds him on familiar ground, even if some of the inner workings are a little different. Despite the obvious flaws of the aforementioned sci-fi film opposite Jennifer Lawrence, it allowed Pratt to step out of his usual personas to some degree and tackle something meatier, more grounded than his usual cocktail allows.

Here, he plays Dan Forester, a veteran-turned-science teacher and caring father and husband (Glow’s Betty Gilpin – woefully underused – plays his wife) who is trying to reclaim his past exploits that a classroom doesn’t provide: while he enjoys the unique interactions with some younger minds, it isn’t quite the same. At a Christmas party, the world changes: soldiers from the future burst through the space-time continuum with a hearty “Great Scott!” warning the present day of an impending war with an unstoppable alien race that appeared out of thin air – no spacecraft, no science experimentation gone wrong, no otherworldly botanists gathering specimens. Thus, Dan and thousands of others – from everyday men and women like Charlie (Sam Richardson) or Norah (Mary Lynn Rajskub) to those who have been drafted before like Dorian (Edwin Hodge) – anyone who can hold a weapon, no matter the experience, is called into service, with future leader Romeo Command (Yvonne Strahovski) calling the shots in the future.

If all that sounds vaguely familiar it’s because it is – heck, most time travel films borrow from each other, just look how many films were quoted by the Avengers in Endgame – but The Tomorrow War borrows most of its best stuff from many that have gone before. That isn’t to say the film isn’t a blast because, for much of it, it’s an energetic, ferocious dose of summer entertainment that combines many elements that make for a successful stay-out-the-sun blockbuster thanks to Chris McKay’s chaotic, dizzying direction and some absorbing if hollow set-pieces that, too, seemed ripped from a video game.

Be it Aliens, Independence Day, even A Quiet Place, The Thing, and countless more, they all make cameo appearances here and while we know that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, things could have been a little less on the nose. Still, it’s hard not to get a strange kick out of The Tomorrow War, and while some of its deeper meanings – of the US government’s treatment of veterans or of the deep-seated fears of fatherhood – get lost in the mayhem, the ride is plenty exciting enough.

★★★


sci-fi, action | USA, 2021 | 12A | 2nd July 2021 | Amazon Prime Video | Dir.Chris McKay | Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons , Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Edwin Hodge