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While we as a society are heading back to the movies, we’re still seeing a number of streaming exclusives fighting back in the war to win audiences' attention. As a necessity to keep the wheels turning, some movies like director Chris McKay’s The Tomorrow War have been shifted from its previously planned theatrical release into a Prime Video exclusive debut. In this particular case, that was probably the best move for all involved, as this Chris Pratt led sci-fi movie doesn't just lose the battle for entertainment value, but botches the whole war.
The premise behind The Tomorrow War is built around a promising kernel of an idea. Citizens of Earth travel from 30 years in the future in order to draft an army from the past to fight the good fight against an alien invasion. One of the soldiers drafted late in the war is Dan Forrester (Chris Pratt), a science teacher and military veteran who agrees to enlist despite his family's deperate pleas for him to abstain – adding personal drama to the plot. With the clock ticking, and the world in the balance, how in the world can you go wrong with a story like that?
Chris Pratt’s goofy charms aren’t enough to save this disastrous waste of time.
Unfortunately, there are barely any stakes or backstory developed in The Tomorrow War, which leaves the characters and their plight woefully underdeveloped. In more ideal circumstances, casting an actor as charming and quick as Chris Pratt would make up for that sort of deficiency, and surrounding him with an ensemble that includes Betty Gilpin, J.K Simmons, and Sam Richardson would only serve as a multiplier for that effective casting as well.
The Tomorrow War is far from ideal, however, as the impressive ensemble of acting talent is left to fend for themselves with the material and lack of character development. Not even a visually stunning creature design for the alien adversary that Pratt and company are fighting can overcome the otherwise drab visual style of the film. And that’s not even the largest problem on display, as the issues with The Tomorrow War’s intended tale don’t stop at the personal level.
The Tomorrow War has a story so disjointed and uninteresting that it feels like a series of random episodes for a show that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) exist.
Trying to recall the events of The Tomorrow War, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that you’d seen a handful of episodes from a TV series that barely made sense. At least two different plots are partially set up, only to be mashed together without any thought of how to connect the two messages at play. As a result, when The Tomorrow War actually gets something right, its flaws only stick out that much more.
A firm example of this curse is most clearly presented whenever J.K. Simmons and Sam Richardson’s characters are on screen. Both appear sporadically throughout The Tomorrow War, and their energy gives the film a welcomed boost of humor and emotion. So when Simmons disappears in the middle act of the film, and Richardson weaves in and out at random, it feels like those characters were either forgotten or left on the cutting room floor.
Somehow The Tomorrow War found a way to make aliens, time travel, and explosions boring.
The Tomorrow War has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to potential, as three of the coolest hallmarks of sci-fi are all present and accounted for between the aliens, the time travel, and the action adventure set pieces of future war. And yet none of those concepts or the characters that are engaged in the events they incite are memorable enough for anyone to invest in, dragging the movie down.
The Tomorrow War has some cool ideas and elements to throw around, bit it’s all squandered in a very messy end result. For a movie that’s puts a lot of emphasis on time travel, the film its feet and makes you feel every second of its runtime. If you choose to attempt to watch this film, you just might be mad you can’t go back in time and erase the experience. Simply put, do your future self a favor, and skip The Tomorrow War.