If you take a banal concept like “sending people from the past to fight an alien war in the future” and decide to make it into a movie; eye-rolls from audience members with little patience for low-intellect movie concepts are assured. But in spite of that brief plot summary making little to no sense, the math behind why this flick was even made, does. Take Chris Pratt, throw him into an absurd action movie setting, give it a sizable budget, and hopefully, print money. Truthfully, it makes sense, more often than not Pratt turns a profit via his star power, all it takes is for the film itself to strike that precise balance of dumb bombastic entertainment that has been a tride and true staple of blockbusters for decades. So, does this action flick truly deliver on all of the absurdity it promises? Yes, the answer is yes. Is it a good movie? Well… that’s a little more complicated.
The Tomorrow War is by design, a goofy, illogical, lobotomized action flick that in no capacity is meant to be taken with a shred of frankness. Even the name itself is a warning shot, “The Tomorrow War…“, it sounds like a TV movie or young adult book series that desperately wants to be the next Hunger Games. But appearances can be deceiving, this flick has more in common with the likes of Battle: Los Angeles (2011) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) than it does with any sort of demographically-focussed narrative – and in truth, it probably lands somewhere in between those two flicks in terms of its overall quality.
Time travel in any storytelling medium exhibits the exact same problem universally; holes, lots and lots of holes. It’s somewhat of a tradition for audacious film-makers to nonchalantly inject convoluted time travel concepts into their big and dumb flicks with no regard to how it breaks the very fabric of their story, and well, the result here is no different, again, holes. The Tomorrow War doesn’t make any sense, not just in its time travel concepts, but in the practical and logistical decisions that the characters within its world consistently make. You often find yourself asking “why on earth are they going to all this effort when the real solution is so obvious?“, but to take any of these problems with a moody expression on your face is to miss the point entirely. As mentioned, this film is by design, goofy, and makes said goofiness, its own strength. The less this film made sense, the better it got. That’s the point.
This film is fun. It leverages its setting, not for the sake of impactful storytelling, but rather, to maximise its entertainment value by providing its audience with a diverse array of environments, situations, and stakes for the viewer to indulge in and bet on. When characters deal with one situation, another crops up and draws you back into the story; working almost like a well-engineered 2 hour 20 minute non-stop distraction. When you get the impression that the film is over, you soon realize you’ve only just reached the conclusion of the second act – leading to quite an enjoyable third act that rounds this film out as a diverse action adventure flick.
Lead actor Chris Pratt looks and acts like your prototypical action hero in this flick, holding onto a helicopter wire with one arm as he fires a machine gun in another – it’s everything you’d expect minus the quippy comedic lines, which are distributed off to other smaller supporting roles. Supporting actress Yvonnne Stravohski does her job a little too well, overshadowing Pratt in any sequence that requires emotional expression. For a role that exists within quite a small time-frame of the film, Stravohski manages to make quite an impression through the lens of her character. When any of the aforementioned emotional sequences reach their critical mass, it quickly becomes clear that Pratt has a ceiling to his acting and that it’s probably best not to try and go above it.
The Tomorrow War allegedly comprises a hefty $200 million budget and was actually made for a theatrical release but Paramount sold the film to Amazon Prime Video for circumstances surrounding Covid-19. Expectedly, this film feels like it belongs on the big-screen and I feel like it would’ve boosted my experience in viewing it. Across the visual spectrum, it is enough to satisfy anyone craving a CGI-heavy and an escapist movie experience. There is a certain mediocrity to the CGI as it feels underwhelming, considering the budget; especially when compared to the likes of Edge of Tomorrow, a 2014 release. It is hard to argue against the designs of the aliens as it helps capture the threat of these creatures while showing a vulnerability that is tough to exploit.
What helps this film feel like a large scale sci-fi spectacle is the usage of interesting digital and practical environments. Action set-pieces (there are a lot) consist of a variety of large or small scale sets that contribute to the escapism fun that is had here. Whether the sequence takes place on an apocalyptic Miami Beach or the depths of Russian glaciers; they all contribute to the thrill and spectacle of this high-budget blockbuster. Although, it feels like there is some wasted potential here as perhaps this experience would have been greater felt in a movie theatre. The majority of the score, composed by Lorne Balfe, is mostly drowned up by the loud sounds of gun-fire coinciding with multiple explosions. Definitely a soundscape designed for a powerful sound system as the sound editing is nothing but bombastic as it begs for your attention. There are some interesting pieces of music that aim to connect you with emotional pieces of the movie – these pieces aren’t allowed enough time to settle before the next gun fires.
The Tomorrow War balances idiotic fun with some well-rounded pacing to deliver exactly what you’d want out of a disposable blockbuster. It may not contain the same value in repeat viewings as other action flicks within its category, but it certainly exceeds those peak points of fun you’d expect from a storytelling concept that feels like it’s been dreamt up by an ametuer sci-fi novelist. This is disposable storytelling at its highest level.