A Bombastic Blockbuster Lacking A Coherent Story
Stories about time travel are difficult to get right. Sometimes you can get lucky with movies like Back to the Future or The Terminator but other times you get a right stinker like Time Under Fire.
Reportedly costing over $200 million, Amazon Studios have gone all out with their latest time-bending summer blockbuster, The Tomorrow War (ironically releasing tomorrow). It’s just a pity that none of that money seems to have trickled down to the writers.
On paper though, the film actually has some nice ideas. Set in the not-too-distant future of 2022, the world is stunned during the World Cup when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 and claim aliens (dubbed the White Spikes) are wiping out humanity. The only hope for our salvation is to send soldiers and civilians from the present to the future via a global lottery. May the odds be forever in your favour.
Among those unlucky enough to be drafted is high school teacher and science whizz Dan Forester. Before he’s even picked to fight this future war, he believes he’s destined for great things.
Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan finds himself whisked across to 2051 alongside a wisecracking team of misfits. Along the way questions are answered over how these aliens came to be but to be honest, every answer just raises more questions.
It also doesn’t help that The Tomorrow War tonally jars between slapstick, bombastic action and family melodrama. The film lacks any panache with these scenes, instead bludgeoning you with a sledgehammer every time the plot grinds to a halt for some handy exposition or awkwardly contrived dialogue. This film has a nasty habit of throwing slapstick and over-long jokes at the absolute worst times too.
An early example of this comes from our ragtag group of survivors when they first look across the hellish landscape of future-Miami. Instead of the usual array of shocked looks and “oh my god”s we’re instead greeted with some Will Smith jokes. These little moments are so frequent that they undermine the threat these world-ending White Spikes actually pose.
At 2 hours and 15 minutes, the film has a serious pacing problem too, falling into tired and obvious tropes along the way that feel hollow and drawn out. The film is around 40 minutes too long and there’s some nonsensical twists and contrivances here that completely take you out the moment.
I won’t go into spoiler territory but suffice to say the weak explanation for time travel makes absolutely no sense. In fact, the movie even boldly goes so far as to contradict its own lore during the second act before slapping you in the face with it during the film’s climax.
The story is a mess, no doubt about it. However, the movie tries to throw in a lot of action to disguise that. While it’s not always successful, at least the acting is up to scratch. Chris Pratt works well in his lead role although he is a little uninspiring as a science geek.
.J.K Simmons is his usual brilliant self, despite being sidelined for large swathes of the story. The stand-out here though is Yvonne Strahovski. Avid TV fans will recognize her as Serena Joy from The Handmaid’s Tale and she brings her A-game to this role. That same level of depth can be seen here, lighting up every scene she’s in.
Alongside the acting, the visual effects in this movie are fantastic. There’s a real desire to make this a bombastic summer blockbuster and all the hallmarks are here for it to achieve just that. You’ve got your usual array of explosions, never-ending army of creatures and plenty of lavishly dressed sets too. This is one good looking film – but it’s not enough.
Whenever the term summer blockbuster comes up I always mention Independence Day, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park. These three are the quintessential blockbusters in their respective fields. The Tomorrow War pales by comparison.
In fact, the story is so nonsensical that if you even stop to think about the plot for a second, the whole concept falls apart. And no amount of bombastic action or wisecracking gags can disguise that. Skip this one tomorrow.
The Tomorrow War drops on Amazon Prime Video on 2nd July!