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The following contains spoilers for The Tomorrow War*_.*_
Perhaps considering that The Tomorrow War is a movie about time travel, it's not that weird that a movie that takes place largely at Christmas time opened in the middle of the summer. Of course, the film was delayed from its original holiday release in 2020, to become one of the big summer 2021 movies while also releasing on Amazon Prime Video rather than in theaters. However, while the screen may be smaller than intended, the action is not. The movie is as big a science fiction action blockbuster as we've seen recently, and everything about the film is just as big, and that includes The Tomorrow War ending.
Since Chris Pratt's The Tomorrow War is a time travel movie, in which humans from the future come back in time to recruit people to fight in a last ditch effort to save the entire world from an alien threat, it wouldn't be too surprising if things got a little confusing. Time travel tends to do that. And so, let's break down the ending of The Tomorrow War and what it all means to the future of humanity.
How The Tomorrow War Ends
The Tomorrow War follows Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) as he gets drafted into the future war against vicious aliens. While there, he meets his own daughter Muri, now all grown up (Yvonne Stahovski) and a colonel in the military, and he tries to help her find a way to destroy the aliens by discovering a toxin capable of killing them.
They are successful in finding a solution to the alien threat, and Dan is going to take the toxin back home so that it can be mass produced before the aliens actually arrive on earth, potentially preventing the entire war from ever happening. Unfortunately, the stakes are raised when Dan watches Muri die at the hands of the alien creatures before being sent home.
When Dan returns, the link to the future has closed, causing humanity to have a bit of a freak out. Nobody is quite sure what to do and concerns are focused on the here and now and not the future, so Dan tries to figure out where the aliens came from so humanity can be waiting with its killer toxin when they do. However, in trying to figure out exactly when the aliens arrive on earth, and thanks to a very helpful suggestion from his wife, Dan and his friends eventually discover that the aliens have been on earth all along.
Evidence is discovered that the alien threat landed on earth in the planet's distant past, and somehow became frozen in a glacier in Russia. Eventually, global warming will cause glacial melt to the point that the creatures will thaw out, and then the war will begin. Nobody in a position of authority is willing to support his plan so Dan enlists his estranged father (J.K. Simmons), because he has a plane, to help get them to Russia and check it out.
Eventually Dan and a small squad he met on his future deployment discover the alien spaceship. It crash landed on earth and was frozen over. More interestingly, it's discovered that the viscous aliens, the "white spikes" as they're called, are actually a biological weapon. They were bred by another alien race, apparently with the specific purpose of destroying life on other planets.
In the end, Dan's team blows up the alien ship, with many sacrificing themselves in the blast, but there are simply too many of the creatures to take out with the toxin they have. One female escapes the blast, and eventually Dan and his father are able to track it down and destroy it. The future appears to be saved and the aliens have been defeated.
What The Ending Means For Chris Pratt's Character And His Family
While the more immediate stakes of The Tomorrow War surround saving the human race from extinction, for Chris Pratt's character, it's ultimately about his family. His ultimate goal is to save his daughter's future, and if the rest of the world gets saved along with it, so be it.
Of course, things get a little interesting in that regard, when Dan Forester learns about his own future from his grown up daughter. The way time travel works in The Tomorrow War is that, despite having traveled to the future from his daughter's past, his adult daughter's memories are of an original timeline, what would have happened if the time travel had never occurred. In that timeline, we learn that Dan eventually divorced his wife and left his family, and ultimately died young in a car accident.
While we never learn the exact causes of Dan's decisions, the implication is that Dan feels he never accomplished the great things he felt he should have been able to do, that perhaps he saw himself as a failure. This idea is especially difficult for Dan to accept, because he cut ties with his own father after he also walked away from his family. His dad explains that at one point he was suffering from PTSD following the Vietnam War, and felt that leaving was preferable to staying and possibly doing something terrible.
Dan's victory against the aliens, something that did not happen in his daughter's original timeline, combined with his own knowledge of what he did in that timeline, have seemingly led him to a different place. Dan has reconciled with his own father, and he promises he will not leave his family. And, if Dan truly felt he needed to accomplish something great to have value, he's literally saved the world.
How Does The Tomorrow War Really End?
It looks like everything is about as close to "happily ever after" as they can get for Chris Pratt's character in The Tomorrow War. The war will never happen in the future. Muri Forester will, therefore, not die at the hands of the aliens. And, because the future will no longer progress as it did "originally," it's implied that Dan Forester will not leave his family in the future, so he will not die while his daughter is still a teenager.
Except we can't really know that for sure. Since we never really understand the circumstances of Dan leaving, we can't be sure that they still won't happen. What's more, the earth is still going to have to deal with having been involved in the future war, and all the lives that were lost, even though it won't be happening in the future. There's certainly no guarantee that Dan won't be dealing with his own PTSD after what he went through, which could make things difficult for his family.
In the end, not knowing what the future holds is perhaps all anybody can hope for. The worst possible future will not happen, and for the rest, maybe simply being aware of the possibilities will help prevent them from taking place.