The Tomorrow War is pure sci-fi cribbing, a regurgitated and ungainly monstrosity without a single novel idea.
What do you say about a movie like The Tomorrow War? Its IMDb trivia page notes excitedly that it’s “the first film to be executively produced by Chris Pratt,” which perhaps is meaningful because it helps us assign blame and seems to portend future unpleasantness. It’s a turgid, generic mashing-up of already tired sci-fi action concepts seasoned with the usual gibberish about the importance of family and largely directed with a televisual eye. The fact that it was produced at great expense by a major studio and then unceremoniously sold to Amazon to be dumped onto streaming as grist for the content mill shouldn’t be alarming except insomuch as that indicates just how much mediocrity still counts as an actual movie.
Chris Pratt plays Dan Forester, ex-soldier and suburban high school teacher who longs for something more out of life. Like all regular-degular white men, he senses that his purpose is escaping him. That all changes when, during a Christmas party at which everyone is watching a soccer match (is that really a thing that happens? ), the world is astonished as a wormhole opens up on the pitch and some weird soldiers come out and explain that in 30 years time, Earth will be ravaged by space monsters called the White Stripes. Sorry, White Spikes. Jack White’s involvement or lack thereof notwithstanding, future Earth is losing the war against the aliens and running out of troops, so the people from now need to travel into the future to join the military and fight for humanity’s survival. Dan is quickly conscripted in a worldwide draft. It seems prima facie absurd that governments around the globe would agree to press-gang their citizens into a plot unfit for a YA novel, but hey, if you buy the premise you have to buy the bit.
What follows is an unusually loosely-plotted, almost episodic bit of sci-fi movie rehash: guys in camo gear scanning an urban hellscape with machine guns and bent knees; big toothy tentacle monsters that absorb bullets unless they come from the main guy’s weapon and constantly make high-pitched shrieking noises; incredible scientific and strategic breakthroughs made by the comic relief while the entirety of the world’s scientific and military communities — let’s face it, suits and eggheads, really — stumble around like morons; and on top of that, some heartfelt reconciliation between absent fathers and their children, because literally everything is about family now, unless it is about family and also trauma (there’s some trauma here too, don’t worry).
As written by Zach Dean (last seen co-scripting the surprisingly amusing 24 Hours to Live) and directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, for God’s sakes), The Tomorrow War is almost entirely bereft of even the slightest novelty. Honestly, even a well-executed contrivance would be welcome here. Despite the occasional arresting image —a mountain of space monsters climbing themselves, or a platoon of soldiers spilling to their doom out of a wormhole high above the ground, pancaking against skyscrapers — there is literally not a single interesting idea or exciting bit of action. Even the central premise — that we must unite in the present to prevent future catastrophe — is thuddingly literalized when climate change becomes a central factor in the story. Everyone who made it seems to know that, too, and so they’ve sort of quietly put it in the discard deck. It’s nothing more than mere content, a movie you could technically sit down and watch.
You can stream Chris McKay’s The Tomorrow War on Amazon Prime Video beginning July 2.