There’s a lot to enjoy in this film. Chris Pratt might be doing his ‘I don’t want to be a hero and would much prefer a quiet life but I can’t help who I am or get away from the significant events in my past that have given me what I need to save the day here’ character again but he remains an engaging screen presence. There is also a pretty cool set up where people are having to leap forward in time to fight in a war because nearly everyone thirty years from now has been killed already, which is an insanely short sighted policy for something thought up by people from the future but is still kind of fun. The script is quite witty too even if it oddly relies on not one but two random Father Christmas jokes (Tuna Santa made me laugh more than Conspiracy Santa). Betty Gilpin features as well, which after her excellent performance in The Hunt is always good to see, even if she is unforgivably relegated to the wife role in this case. It isn’t a problem that each of these comes with a proviso either, at least it’s not the real problem because actually when it comes to giving an overall evaluation of this film there are more significant things to worry about.
Essentially the downside with The Tomorrow War is that at its heart, right at the centre, in its true essence, it is a big, fat cliched mess and none of the set dressing can truly cover this up. There is no getting away from the fact that the film is lazily derivative and cheesy, and any ideas it does have run out just as they should be ramping up.
The movie has three main sections and they all have their flaws. The first part is a painfully slow build up to the war with the invading aliens, which the second part – the actual war, can’t really live up to. Then just as it seems to be ending, there is a forty minute epilogue. (To say this is overlong is an understatement against a film that doesn’t understate anything.) All of the characters, Pratt’s Dan Forester included, are tropes and the plot is totally predictable. Seriously, if you only see one alien invaders film this year then you’ll probably feel like you’ve already seen this one (especially if that film is A Quiet Place Part 2 or going back a bit, Edge of Tomorrow).
They present Pratt’s Forester as an everyman but still make him ex forces and the two things don’t sit easily together, they keep telling us he’s just a teacher but we know this isn’t his first tour (the guy ran with dinosaurs, for goodness sake) and even the civilian recruits around him step up with remarkable proficiency once they know to turn their safety catches off. Then there is commanding officer (who I won’t say much more about in case the secrets she briefly holds are not obvious) who is equally unbelievable.
You do need to consider that the director of this film, Chris McKay, previously worked on satirical projects such as The Lego Batman Movie and Robot Chicken so it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility to suggest that all of this is done on purpose to mock the medium. It’s very subtly done if this is the case though.
I didn’t hate this film but it could and should have been so so much better.
The Ripley Factor:
I’ve already talked about Betty Giplin taking a backward role here after seeing her wonderfully coming back off the ropes in her other projects. It’s not her fault though, she lifts the role, it’s the people who wrote her trite character in the first place.
Elsewhere there are women in command in the future but one of them has major daddy issues, despite her own brilliance and high competence so this isn’t anything more than a clumsy concession to feminism either. There have been some strong female performances in action films of late but this remains, it seems, one of tomorrow’s real battles.