The Tomorrow War: Indubitably, a Review

For all the criticisms I can levy, it’s still a worthwhile film for a fun evening in.

The Tomorrow War: Indubitably, a Review
Chris Pratt, looking Fine. (Pintrest)

In The Tomorrow War, we have Chris Pratt doing his usual superb job acting in a lovable role: dad of the hour struggling to follow his passion for science in a job market that won’t support him. Despite his many years of military service, he just doesn’t have the private sector corporate experience that the big labs want, and when we first encounter him he’s just experiencing yet another rejection.

This pretty clearly sets up one of the film’s main themes: the failure of society to reintegrate the soldiers it sends to war. Other themes like fatherhood and family responsibility are a bit more muted, and are weirdly intermingled with a bunch of other plot points that distract from them.

Leading the plot, Pratt’s character ends up clearing a path into the future to try and save the past (that’s not giving anything away that isn’t in the trailer, don’t worry). Things get a bit more complicated than he expected, and there are a whole bunch of pretty solid CGI scenes where Pratt kills a massive load of aliens and a massive load of random human extras get to be killed by aliens in return. Overall, this portion of the story is sort of what you’d expect from any grade-B action sci-fi flick: it’s schlocky, but not in a terribly bad way. It’s almost not enough to keep the really long (two hours and eighteen minutes) film going, I almost gave up on it about halfway through, but if you’re down for a longish action flick that’s mostly cheese, it’s worthwhile. Even if you see the plot twists coming a light year away, you’ll enjoy some good acting (and a little bad) and you’ll also enjoy a ton of things exploding.

Now begins the spoilers

A cool ensemble cast that makes me think this might have been another TV pilot turned instant film (pintrest)

What does The Tomorrow War do well? Action. What did it not do so well? Everything else, including its somewhat vague “soldiers are misunderstood and mis-cared for” arc, which, while perhaps intending to be good, got weirdly left behind somewhere toward the middle of the film, and somewhat subverted in the final scenes. Always hinted at but never seriously driven at, the film brought up the effect of combat on soldiers without offering much beyond a shrug and an “oh well, they should get over it and remember what’s important in life” sort of message that I’d find pretty frustrating if I’d ever been to war.

This whole plot was intermingled with some random focusing on the “anti-war protesters” who are against the massive worldwide draft that has been instituted to pull soldiers from our time into the future to fight the aliens. I couldn’t parse that one: was it a dig at the anti-war movement? Maybe? Mostly, it just seemed to waste valuable screen time.

But what all of this did lead to was one of the main plot breakages that nearly threw me out of the film.

The whole plot revolves around people from the future using a dues-ex technology to bring in help from the past. It’s a classic clever sci-fi plot. Awesome. But, after bringing in some soldiers (who get killed quickly), the plan devolves into “bring in random, overweight, unfit, civilians). The story never explains why this was the best strategic military decision, aside from claiming that the selection process involved making sure that the people being sent into the future would have been dead of natural causes in their own timeline before the date of their arrival in the future war. Yeah, okay, so they clearly weren’t trying to go for depth when it comes to the time travel stuff.

But the point is: you have essentially unlimited access to all of humanity’s resources from the most advanced time period around… and you use your energy to bring people who are utterly useless into the future war? Not to mention that the whole plot revolves around creating a serum that can kill the alien menace… and the main limiting factor to its creation appears to be a lack of resources (laboratories, scientists, etc.). But why not just send the data back in time. People in this movie can carry things back and forth through time, after all. It’s such a massive plot hole that I found myself cringing a few times at the sheer idiocy of it.

Why not train lots and lots of soldiers to go into the future with lots and lots of real gear (it’s not like there’s a shortage in the current timeline), while supercomputers and scientists in this timeline use the data from the future to kill the evil aliens?

Plot holes like that just KILL me.

I looked like this through most of the film. (Pintrest)

But, what bothers me the most is how the film wrapped up its vague “pro-wounded-veteran” arc. Mostly, it didn’t, leaving it just as vague as it had been from the beginning — more the suggestion of real content than the actual content. But the final scene offers an odd picture: where the people who experienced horrors all seem to be fine and dandy, as long as they get to be with their families. And that’s not a bad message in some sense, but it pretty deeply undercuts a much more serious discussion. Besides, how much do you want to bet that Pratt’s character goes back to the job he hates as soon as the film is over with? Hmm.

Overall, it’s an incredibly shallow film “full of sound and fury” and signifying absolutely nothing. It is a lot of fun purely for the action, and the cast of actors is quite good, even the side characters. Yvonne Strahovski does a really great job with her limited role. But what it strikes me as, overall, is a watered-down Amazon film designed to appeal to the lowest common intellectual denominator. A film that intentionally brings up serious issues and then glosses them into oblivion. It can’t even decide if it wants to be an action film or a horror film, in the end.

All that said: hey, if you’re really bored, watch it. But I guarantee you that it won’t be something you’ll ever need to see twice.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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