With exciting and impressive action draining the budget dry, very little is left for the illogical plotting and cliche ridden characters.
In the last few years, it seems films sent straight to streaming have replaced films that used to be straight to DVD. These can range from silly concept B-movies to extremely generic action and comedy films, neither of which present themselves as compulsory theatrical experiences. Amazon Prime’s The Tomorrow War is no exception to this theory with its clunky script, hammy humour and flawed narrative, yet is somewhat redeemed by its strong action scenes.
Produced with a $200 million budget by Paramount Pictures for a cinematic release but bought by Amazon for another $200 million, this is one of the most costly films to bypass the multiplex. Indeed, selling to Amazon may have yielded a greater profit for Paramount than a cinematic release. The plot echoes Edge of Tomorrow: a war against aliens in the future is going disastrously wrong, so time-travellers are sent thirty years back to 2022 to recruit soldiers from the present. One such soldier is Chris Pratt, a teacher with a wife and young daughter, as well as a strained relationship with his father (a welcome J.K. Simmons). The generational gaps between father, daughter and grandfather anchors the film with an emotional narrative (though its barely compelling enough to properly slip a straw into your tear ducts like Interstellar will).
The time-travel concept in this film is nonsensical. Using the logic that soldiers who have died between 2022 and 2051 are the only ones allowed to be conscripted so as not to meet their future selves, the script by Zach Dean skirts around needed exposition like a child who hasn’t fully prepared their class presentation. Or J.J. Abrams. Butterfly effects, closed-loop paradoxes and parallel timelines are discarded for their purpose of the concept which feels like a missed opportunity. Although it would be far more stupid, there is a more enjoyable version of this film out there where soldiers from all over the planet’s history are summoned. Imagining Romans, conquistadors, Spitfires and Union soldiers all joining forces against hordes of aliens sounds like an even more terrifically enjoyable B-movie than the inventive but safe concept of The Tomorrow War.
Chris Pratt occasionally lives up to his surname with some of his performances, but here he isn’t playing ‘himself’ as he does in Jurassic World or The Magnificent Seven. There is a bit of depth and sadness in his character that makes the inevitable Pratt-quips slightly less annoying than they are in his Star-Lord performances. He sufficiently grounds the script to the point of making it just about tolerable and worthy of investment. Ultimately, he delivers in the action, the only worthy watching point for the film.
The aliens in need of a genocide are formidable creations. Visually teased for the first 40 minutes, the anticipation of getting to the futuristic battlefields and seeing this lethal threat is genuinely high. Multi-limbed white monsters with spike-shooting tails and an armoured back impervious to bullet or blade, their rapid speed and indiscriminate violence pushes the 12-age rating to the border with all the decapitations and barrels of green blood. The set-pieces have a videogame style due to their constant movement and escalation. There is a mission to capture the alien matriarch that is riveting, followed by an oceanic siege that has some seriously impressive scale. The finale strips thing back for a more contained and intimate scrap that is crying to be edited on YouTube with health bars.
It may be predictable from the first half-an-hour, but The Tomorrow War is a serviceably fun action picture that can very much be enjoyed watching with friends and family, providing nobody expects intelligence.