James Jay Edwards

The Entire Science Fiction Genre Jumps the Shark with The Tomorrow War

(The Tomorrow War, courtesy Amazon Studios)

James Jay Edwards reviews The Tomorrow War, a military science fiction action film directed by Chris McKay and starring Chris Pratt. (Amazon Studios

 

Science fiction always requires some suspension of disbelief. But with The Tomorrow War, the entire genre may have jumped the shark.

The Tomorrow War takes place on an Earth that is facing an extinction-level event. Future Earth is fighting a war with a dominant alien species and is losing badly. So, the humans figure out a way to travel back in time thirty years and convince the world to institute a global draft of soldiers who will travel into the future to fight. Oh, and only 20% of those who make the trip survive.

 

(The Tomorrow War, theatrical release poster, courtesy Amazon Studios)

One such draftee, an ex-military scientist named Dan Forester (Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy), makes the jump to the future and, after a particularly disastrous encounter, learns a few things about the aliens. But he needs to convince a lot of people—both in the future and from his past—if he wants to help save mankind from extinction.

The Tomorrow War has time travel, aliens, explosions—everything one might want from a sci-fi epic without the lightsabers. The movie was directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) from a script by Zach Dean (24 Hours to Live), and the best way to describe it is as a cross between Independence Day and Starship Troopers. Only sappier and sillier than both of those influences. (Yes, even sappier than Independence Day and even sillier than Starship Troopers.)

 

(The Tomorrow War, courtesy Amazon Studios)

There’s plenty of action, and a lot of stuff blows up, so fans of that kind of thing will be into it. And the initial jump-in-time scene that Dan and his cohorts go through is harrowing. Let’s just say that it doesn’t go as planned, and the results are something just short of the intro scene to Saving Private Ryan. But once the troops are on the ground, things slow down immensely. And they were slow getting there, too.  Actually, the whole movie feels a bit long and slow.

The heavily computer-generated action set pieces are broken up by long scenes of dialogue and heart-pouring, some of which cannot be elaborated upon without spoiling important plot points. So, I won’t. But there’s a lot of soul searching and confessional. And with a cast that includes Pratt, Betty Gilpin (The Hunt), Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale), Sam Richardson (Werewolves Within), Edwin Hodge (Mayans M.C.), and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), McKay clearly wanted to give them something to chew on. Still, no one is going to win any Oscars for The Tomorrow War. Not even the special effects guys.

 

(The Tomorrow War, courtesy Amazon Studios)

For as hokey of a movie as The Tomorrow War is, by the time the whole thing unravels, it’s done in a fairly smart way. Dan and his pals put things together in a big “ah-HA!” moment that is actually pretty fun. Sure, there are a lot of conveniences, but also plenty of sense-making twists. Far-fetched, sure. But not any more far-fetched than the time travel element itself (which, in this movie, is really out-there).

The Tomorrow War isn’t a bad movie. It just isn’t a good one, either. It exists as a popcorn movie at a time when popcorn movies shouldn’t exist. It’s fun while it lasts but will be forgotten soon after. Or confused with some other sci-fi epic that travels through time to blow up aliens.

The Tomorrow War is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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