Review: 'The Tomorrow War' an insane, loud, and goofy summer blockbuster
Courtesy of Amazon Prime
When preparing to watch Chris McKay’s “The Tomorrow War,” his first live-action feature after helming “The Lego Batman Movie,” you must understand all logic is thrown out the window and trying to make sense of a movie where the main characters are thrusted 23 years into the future to battle an alien menace known as “White Spikes” is futile. Those expecting “The Tomorrow War” to justify its 140 minute runtime should look elsewhere, but what could have been another boring piece of original IP surprisingly injects the season with a loud, dumb, but delirious and silly blockbuster.
“The Tomorrow War” embraces what makes these bloated, big-budget sci-fi adventures tick: tossing a squad of characters into a hyperactive, video game setting where motivations are so razor thin, if they get killed, it won’t affect the overall endgame; and never overcompensating for what the screenplay doesn’t explain. Not since “Armageddon” has a plot been so miniscule to the big, brawny action set pieces that if you looked hard enough, Micheal Bay probably has consulting credit.
Another theatrical casualty of the pandemic, McKay obviously made “The Tomorrow War” with the intent of a big screen debut. The pristine, $100 million budget is laid out, but it’s no shock Amazon picked this up from Paramount as launching anything without the words “Marvel” or “Reboot” in the title is automatically pegged for box office failure. Gone are the days when a big movie star could open a film on their own, forcing Paramount to sell a large chunk of their 2021 slate (save for the bigger, splashier sequels), leaving “The Tomorrow War” to play on the small screen where its immaculate special effects and crowd pleasing aurora is desperately missing that shared, communal experience.
Fortunately for McKay and screenwriter Zach Dean, “The Tomorrow War” will see more eyeballs on its opening weekend than it probably would’ve in a traditional setting. The plot is simple and easy enough to follow. The year is 2022 and lowly biology teacher and retired Afghanistan war sergeant, Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), who is determined “to make a difference,” gets drafted in a war set in 2048 against an unknown intergalactic foe. The way Dean unravels the recruitment process is quite comical: soldiers from the future “jump” into the past, and emerge from a swirling smoke ball during the heavily publicized world cup sporting big “We Want You!” energy. Within the coming days, able bodied folk (who can physically make the “jump” without disintegrating) are drafted to fight a battle their future selves are losing (but thankfully the government gives families of fallen soldiers $1 million pre-tax as a token of appreciation).
The time travel logistics and how Dan and his team of “soldiers” make the journey from 2022 to 2048 aren’t important, but once they arrive are given a seven day tour to which if their still breathing after that time, they’ll be zapped back home where anti-war protests and PTSD support groups are rampant. Such creative worldbuilding is explained via montages and inquisitive characters asking what everyone's thinking (“Why don’t you travel back in time and kill the monsters before they were born!”) But questions are easily forgotten once Dan beams into the war zone, leaving behind his daughter and wife (Betty Gilpin), quickly reverting to ‘hoorah’ mode leading a group of barley trained “warriors” through deserted streets where aliens, who look cross bred with a Xenomorph and the small parasites from “Cloverfield,” ready to mawl anything that moves.
Several other, I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-watching sequences unfold, ranging from an absolute bonkers trifecta of military personnel attempting to carrel and capture a gargantuan Queen Spike to a climactic showdown set on a glacier with snowmobiles (you can’t make this stuff up). “The Tomorrow War” cranks the shaft to 23 and doesn’t let off the throttle. Pratt already proved his muscular presence in “Jurassic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” and he’s perfectly cast as the likable action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger would have played had this released in 1982. J.K. Simmons plays Dan’s estranged father-figure who’s backstory is a comical inclusion that only pays off because the Oscar winner is absolutely ripped. And by the time a scientist/general in the future (played convincingly and with conviction by Yvonne Strahovksi) spews jargon about ways of thwarting the alien menace, our brains are checked at the door.
But the best part of “The Tomorrow War” is just how freaking cool it is. A rare breath of fresh, original IP not doused in superhero capes or one of those lousy sequels nobody was asking for. All the rules of the critic notebook are tossed out the window and trying to analyze the moving parts won’t yield many results. Don’t read too far between the lines and enjoy this giddy popcorn flick in all its chaotic foolishness. Life is short.
THE TOMORROW WAR debuts on Amazon Prime Video, Friday July 2nd.