The Tomorrow War is directed by Chris McKay in his first live-action directorial release and stars Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, and J.K. Simmons. The film was originally slated for a cinematic release with Paramount, but Amazon acquired the rights for distribution during the ongoing Covid pandemic and released the feature digitally for all Prime customers on July 2nd, adding another original to the streaming platform’s ever-growing library.
The story follows a mix of present-day soldiers and civilians sent into the future to fight an alien army after time-travelers arrive with an urgent message: The year is 2051 and mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species – the only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight.
“They have no use for prisoners or government, technology or money… We are food and they are hungry.”
The premise is intriguing but not overwhelmingly original. Clear inspiration from past genre entries is very apparent and the film tries to incorporate these. We are placed in a position where global extinction is close and nearly all efforts to avoid this have been taken – yet we are expected to believe everyday average Joes could make the difference. In the beginning, time is spent fusing characters together but nothing really materializes from these interactions, leaving feelings of wasted screen-time as the focus swiftly changes to our central protagonists.
Pratt and Strahovski are the focal points, and the film’s better moments come when the two are on screen together. Pratt proves his action star credentials once again, but the script doesn’t allow him to hit the heights of previous work. Strahovski flexes her acting chops and shows the range that has made her a very flexible actress. Long before her work in The Handmaids Tale, she blasted onto screens as the beloved Sarah Walker in Chuck. And she brings out that side of her skill-set in this one. Surprisingly, the use of other highly valued cast members is limited, with J.K. Simmons and Betty Gilpin sitting on the bench for the most part. This feels likes a waste of the salary cap and a missed opportunity for more.
“This is the end. Within the next few weeks, the human species will disappear from the face of the earth. We are literally living on borrowed time.”
The cinematography is one of the strong points here, with the film shifting its tonal focus throughout, making for a great-looking film. Whether it be an apocalyptic inner city, an exotic jungle terrain, or a glaciated covered mountain range, the film has plenty of visual appeal. The creature design is very impressive and the CGI never really feels out of place. Close-up shots of the aliens show a great amount of detail and enhance their terrifying nature. The camera work can be a little disorientating at times, affecting viewability in the high octane action sequences, which is a real shame as these scenes are where the film otherwise excels.
The use of different locations and colors in the various acts serves as a mini-homage to sci-fi greats of the past. Classics like Terminator, Predator, and Alien came to mind as I watched the events play out, but we never stay long enough in the one situation to fully appreciate the nostalgia. These constant scenario changes really become a disruptive influence as we work our way through the inflated runtime.
Although there are things to like about The Tomorrow War, it feels like they missed an opportunity to create something more. The action is impressive, the leads deliver the goods, and the visual appeal is rich and varied. But it suffers from a disjointed narrative, lack of originality, and trying to be too many things at once. I can’t help but feel if they had spent more time in Tomorrow, we would have enjoyed the film much more today. And the shift from theatrical release to digital really impacts the viewing experience, as the film needed the immersive visuals and surround sound that only the cinema can provide; the value of this film lies in its spectacle and that just isn’t replicated on the couch, no matter the size of the TV!.
Rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5
The Tomorrow War is available to stream on Amazon Prime. Check out the trailer below.
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