It is a holiday weekend in the US (just a regular weekend here in the UK), and to mark the occasion, Amazon has brought out the big guns. Available to all Amazon Prime subscribers right now is a sci-fi action blockbuster, where humans fight aliens… for the survival of mankind!
No, I’m not talking about the movie, Independence Day, I am instead talking about The Tomorrow War! This is an alien-centric film that involves explosions, plenty of CGI, and a dash of time travel!
In the movie, a group of time travellers from the near future, head back to 2022 to warn the human race that its days are numbered. In thirty years’ time, the population will be on the brink of extinction, with some creepy-looking extra-terrestrials set to inherit the planet.
In order to fight the oncoming onslaught, the nations of the world send soldiers into the future to face this new-found threat. But when the soldiers fail to stop the aliens, ordinary citizens are drafted in to do what they can instead.
One of these citizens is Dan Forester, a former Green Beret turned science teacher, who suddenly finds himself being called into duty. But Dan will soon discover that fighting aliens is the least of his worries, when he learns some troubling information that could shape his own personal future.
Directed by Chris McKay, The Tomorrow War stars Chris Pratt, J. K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Yvonne Strahovski, and Sam Richardson. The film was originally set for a theatrical release last Christmas, but COVID got in the way and as a result it has wound up on Amazon Prime Video.
I believe the film’s move to streaming was ultimately for the best, because while this movie works OK on the small screen, I feel it would have floundered somewhat in cinemas. The Tomorrow War is a mixed bag, which offers up some nice ideas, but too often it misses the mark.
On the positive side, the film boasts some very impressive creature designs. The aliens in this movie look gruesome, move with considerable menace, and prove to be a formidable foe.
The effects team that has put these creatures together have done a fantastic job. Every time the aliens are on screen, they really add something to the look and feel of the film.
One moment in particular, where the aliens begin to take over a compound, is a real treat. The sight of these creatures crawling all over the structure is visually engaging and I liked it a lot.
It is clear to me that a great deal of time and effort has been put into getting this aspect of the film just right, to ensure the villains are a credible threat. It’s a shame then that this level of detail didn’t extend to other parts of the movie, beginning with the casting.
Chris Pratt is the lead star of this picture, and he gets a great deal to do. However, the majority of the supporting cast are instantly forgettable and feel like glorified extras.
The exception to this are J. K. Simmons and Betty Gilpin. Neither are forgettable, but both should not have signed on for this movie.
J. K. Simmons is criminally underutilised in The Tomorrow War; appearing as Dan’s estranged father who crops up briefly towards the beginning of the movie, before sitting things out until the dramatic showdown towards the end. Simmons is a great actor – he is wasted here.
The same can also be said for Betty Gilpin, who is inexplicably cast as Dan’s wife – a character who does nothing more than look happy and/or sad, whenever the script calls for it. Last year, Gilpin took centre stage in the horror-thriller, The Hunt, and proved she has leading lady status written all over her, so why she is playing such a one-note part here is anyone’s guess?!
Gilpin needs to get her agent on the phone and have a serious word about this bit of casting. This role is a major step backward, when she should be building on what has come before.
But it’s not just the casting that is the issue with this film, the direction is also a problem. Too many scenes in this movie are completely underwhelming.
Most of the action sequences aren’t imaginative enough, the humour often falls flat, and some of the character interactions are just plain boring. Director Chris McKay has previously delivered the brilliant animated film, The Lego Batman Movie (2017), so he has what it takes to make a great blockbuster, yet something just feels a little off here.
This is a movie about humans fighting aliens across time(!) – which is a pretty daft concept. Everything in this film should have been cranked up to eleven; yet it all feels as if it is running on a 6 or 7 at best.
There are also problems with the time-travel plot, which seems to have been flung together regardless of whether or not it makes any sense. And then there is the overall visual aesthetic, which looks rather cheap.
This is a $200 million picture, and yet at times it looks like it has been put together on a shoestring. I can only presume the money was spent on the creature effects alone, because I fail to see where the rest of the money could have gone?
While watching this movie, I was reminded of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, which recently landed on Netflix. Snyder is a divisive director, but there’s no denying he has a certain style which creates an impact on screen and it was ever-present in Army of the Dead.
Had he made The Tomorrow War I imagine it would have been a vastly different picture, with his stamp all over it. I don’t see any of McKay’s stamps on this picture – no marks whatsoever – and as a result, I can’t hear his voice or feel his presence anywhere in this film. Shame.
The Tomorrow War isn’t dreadful, it is simply a bog-standard sci-fi flick. It is perfectly fine to watch, and it will provide some entertainment, but I don’t quite understand why it doesn’t push itself more?
I genuinely believe that on paper this looked like solid stuff, and while there are moments which do work quite well, there is too much that just feels merely adequate at best. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t expect to remember much about it in the months to come.