It’s weird to see summer blockbuster movies designed for streaming, but that’s where we are. The Tomorrow War has some very strong visual effects that provide energy for the film, but it mostly fell pretty flat as an imitation of Starship Troopers and Interstellar with a pinch of Independence Day mixed in.
It’s tough to put a pin in exactly what’s wrong with it because it’s got the cast, the production value, and director Chris McKay coming off the success of The Lego Batman movie. However, in a nutshell, this movie is trying too hard to do too much.
Chris Pratt is great as Starlord in the MCU but his character here is mostly stripped of humor (reserved mostly for Sam Richardson), and what’s left doesn’t go down smooth at all. He just doesn’t have chemistry with any one of the women in his character’s life, which is really awkward during some moments that should have emotional gravity. My intention isn’t to rag on Pratt. He’s shown range and complexity before, but he showed more of it in one scene with Gamora and Thanos than he has in any of his other high-profile projects combines. It seems like he finds his emotional cues through his characters’ humor and, in this instance, his character was as bland as the beige cardigan he’s wearing to start things off.
Thankfully Yvonne Strahovski and J.K. Simmons are there to help pick up the slack. Strahovski is quickly becoming one of my favorite performers as her emotional output fits the tone the film tried to set. There’s a lengthy side-plot about her character’s relationship with Pratt’s character where she’s carrying all of the emotional weight in those scenes. Her efforts made the success of those moments and she deserves the credit. On the other side of the coin, Simmons has long been one of my favorite character actors and, even though he’s given a broad-strokes character, he manages to draw the best out of Pratt in their scenes together. There’s an underlying theme of how parenting behavior has an effect on children and you see that redemption arc in play for all of these characters.
The story idea is ambitious but ultimately doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why would people from the present, travel to the future, to fight a losing war, with 1/3 survival odds, rather than just learning from the future in order to avert the same fate? Beats me, but that’s a BIG part of the movie. I get that it’s trying to go against the grain of other time travel movies that have taken that approach, but there’s a reason those other narratives have held the line. This method provides the spectacle element of the film and I get the not-so-subtle messaging about the present being responsible for the future (climate change, wink wink), but none of the practical application makes sense. I’m guessing Zach Dean was banking on some of the emotional cues to land with more impact. I liked the reversal of the grandfather paradox as a fulcrum for the time travel element of the film, but the biggest emotional bubble bursts too early. Ultimately, the characters have to come to all the conclusions on their own while the audience can already see the finish line.
I was pretty skeptical of this movie beforehand and my instincts were pretty good. Overall, it wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t describe it as good either. Nothing personal against those involved, but this movie didn’t do much for me. If you’re looking for some mindless entertainment, it’ll give you that.
Recommendation: Science Fiction purists will probably struggle with this one but if you’re in the mood for an ambitious but sort of unfulfilling sci-fi action flick, look no further.