Simultaneously a big deal and a nothing burger, The Tomorrow War is one of the more substantial feature films that got hived off to streaming due to the on-going pandemic; originally set for a cinema release via Paramount, Chris McKay’s sci-fi epic debuts 4th of July weekend 2021, an ideal time to kick back and watch Parks and Rec star Chris Pratt kicking some alien backsides in all-American style.
In a wobbly first hour, our future selves contact us on a pressing matter by bursting out of a vortex during a live telecast of a key football match in the Qatar World Cup 2022. These beings bring grave news; things are about to get a lot worse for humanity due to a upcoming war against the usual gelid, malignant alien hybrid creatures, pretty much the same ones as in A Quiet Place but without the sound issues. Soldiers are needed, so science-teacher Dan Forester (Pratt) is amongst those sent to fight in a future that turns out to be a video game set to crushingly hard. Amongst those Dan meets in his future life is his daughter, raising the stakes on a deadly game of cat and mouse with the monstroids.
The Tomorrow War sounds like the literary outpourings of a 14 year old boy, and that’s the point. After all, the director comes direct from the Lego Batman movie, but overt humour is somewhat scarce in this po-faced film. JK Simmons turns up as a ‘conspiracy Santa’ dad, Mary Lynn Rajskub is buried somewhere in here as well, and the action sequences are big and dramatic, even if it feels like Edge of Tomorrow but minus the time-slip novelty. It is, for once, nice that The Tomorrow War justifies the run time; a first climax in which Dan, spoiler alert, sees the death of his daughter is quite protracted, but leads towards a closing arc in which Dan fights to service a goal that he knows he won’t see. It’s not Bergman, but at least the emotional beats are as extended as the exposition dumps.
A rumoured 200 million dollar purchase or Amazon Prime, it’s an effective buy for the streamer seemingly only interested in the most commercial end of film; they otherwise seem dedicated to offering the shoddiest possible service, with inaccurate cover art and information, battered prints, garbled subtitles and prohibitive pricing and selling policies. Prime Prime circa 2021, The Tomorrow War is big screen entertainment on the small screen, expensive, effective and unmemorable in its generic conventions.