The Tomorrow War


‘…big screen entertainment on the small screen, expensive, effective and unmemorable in its generic conventions…’

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.


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  1. I got halfway through it, enjoying it for what it was: a popcorn switch-off-the-brain kind of movie. But then, surprise surprise, we got given the “Bad Dad TM”and “Bad Husband TM” tropes yet again:

    Future daughter to previously kind and loving father: “You left! And it nearly killed mum!”

    Holy tired trope, Batman! I’m sick and tired of mainstream movies. Can we not have a dad who doesn’t leave his family in a film anymore?..

    ..OK, rant over. Is it worth finishing the movie, Ol’10?

    • Nope. It’s just standard issue fare, no twist, no angle, a tour of cliches. You deserve better.

  2. The movie completely derails in the second half. How do you market a movie about time traveling and then abandon the entire concept half way into the film? I couldn’t help but compare this to Edge of Tomorrow. It’s a great movie and I kept thinking about that during the entire film.

    • That is a good point for sure; having made time-travel a key elemnt, there’s not even a monetion of it in the last forty minutes. And no-one in the film thinks that time-travel is amazing or surprising, it’s just a plot point. We might as well be going to another planet, rather than the future. As I said in my review, if you remove the time-travel kink from Edge of Tomorrow, you end up with the Tomorrow War, and it’s a grossly inferior product IMHO.

  3. Would have made a point of seeing this as soon as it was released on my weekly Monday night visit to the cinema but I’ve gone quite off films shown via streaming that seem to lose all of the cinematic reasons for being made.

    • I’m beginning to wonder where cinema would be right now without streaming. Paramount obviously felt that the money was right to make this a safe bet. But it’s one less big screen film, and a good reason to stop making this kind of expensive epic altogether.

      • I think they probably at least broke even on it especially as they saved a bucket on the marketing and all those associated costs switched to the streamer. I agree it may cut against the idea of making more films for the big screen but it might still serve the studios well if they are guaranteed instant profit on big pictures rather than taking a risk on the box office.

    • And here was me thinking I’d mentioned Jack the Ripper last week and you’d not noticed!

  4. In a time where a good percentage of Americans seem to identify not with arts, knowledge, skills or philosophy but with guns, these sorts of films seem to provide them a valid reason to devote religiously to the god of the firearm. Future people arrive and have nothing to offer us in terms of actual existential crises we face, but just plain more bad news and more firearms. Pow Pow Pow, bang bang bang . . . the hardware devote will be pleased.

    • Yup, whatever other changes are made, big fake looking firearms are still a staple. Unfortunately we don’t have aliens to fight, so people turn them on their neighbours. This is a juvenile fantasy at heart, and having massive guns is a big part of what they are selling here…

      • years ago, sitting at a lunch table at an earlier job, an earlier version of me was subjected to the opinionated rantings of a loutish New Englander (the yankee of best form, the sort of which did not fade away with his passing) as he used Red Dawn (hey more classic Swayze) as a showcase of the sort of film that “makes you think!”
        Indeed . . . thinking man’s stuff.

        • Yup, these films all make these people all think the same thing, which is inventing ludicrous scenarios in which such extremity is justified. The US is full of individuals prepping for alien invasions and zombies, not guessing how their mindset is being warped and adjusted.

          • Like so many things that are dangerous to the fetid mental wasteland of the dumbass, satire, fantasy, religion among them, I hate having to limit my experience and arts so that they don’t hurt anyone! I suppose we’ve been preparing for the coming post apocalypse for a while. 😉

            • True, but there’s also smart people suckered into a survivalist mentality when in reality, they have nothing tougher in prospect than a trip to the mall.

    • Wow, that comment is kind of drenched in superiority and generalization. Could be when people hear about a movie… which is in fact all it is, a movie about fighting aliens it’s not in worship of guns but just having a good time watching a stupid movie. This is like saying I as a horror fanatic “devote” to the god of murder and butchery.

      • I’ll jump in and say that I grew up watching movies like Aliens in which the ‘fantasy gunplay’ was very much part of the appeal of the film. I’d agree that The Tomorrow War really doubles down exactly as you say on the ‘having a good time watching a stupid movie’ element, and successfully. And it wouldn’t be realistic to pin the anxieties of our time on a movie that is as innocous as this. I’d say we went off on a bit of a tangent with the comments, into a much more general area, but will return for part two of yours!

  5. You’re welcome to do so, Alex does something similar, but tends to jumble up the words he’s incapable of understanding, which is to say, most of them.

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