The Tomorrow War movie review: Chris Pratt charms his way through Amazon Prime's fun 90s throwback
The Tomorrow War movie review: Chris Pratt charms his way through Amazon Prime's fun, action-packed throwback to 90s movies like Armageddon and Independence Day.
Chris Pratt gets one helluva hero’s entry in The Tomorrow War, a very expensive-looking sci-fi action film that Amazon Prime Video reportedly purchased for a sum so whopping that it could’ve funded at least a dozen Eid extravaganzas starring Salman Khan. Bhai should take notes on how Pratt is introduced here — it’s almost as ridiculous as his own ‘entry shot’ in Radhe, and it certainly sets the tongue-in-cheek tone for the rest of the film.
The Tomorrow War is the kind of competently put-together entertainment that mainstream Hollywood does so well on occasion. Think of it as a close cousin to the Fast and the Furious films — it’s about as slickly packaged, although it doesn’t quite have the rewatchability factor of some of that franchise’s best entries.
Watch the Tomorrow War trailer here
It is, however, a long overdue throwback to the kind of action blockbusters that used to crowd the summer marketplace every year in the 90s — films like Armageddon and Independence Day. It’s a sign of our times that something that would’ve drawn hordes to the theatres back in the day is now being streamed directly to our homes.
And it is a signal from the future that kicks the plot of The Tomorrow War into gear. The 2022 FIFA World Cup final is interrupted by time travellers who emerge out of a wormhole. Blatant ploy to attract an international audience aside, this kind of makes sense — the World Cup final is probably the most-watched live television event ever, with over a billion people tuning in. It almost makes you wonder if the future humans waited specifically for the final to make an appearance.
Because the bad news they come bearing is time sensitive. The future world has been invaded by aliens, and humankind’s only shot at survival is drafting people from the past to fight on their behalf. This is where Chris Pratt and his particular set of skills come into the picture. Unlike the majority of the draftees, Dan Forester — that’s Pratt’s character — actually has combat experience. But by agreeing to go to war, he must make the difficult decision to say goodbye to his young daughter, armed with the information that 70% of ‘soldiers’ don’t return.
It's a rather literal metaphor for leaving behind a better world for future generations, and undoing the (almost irreversible) damage that older generations have already done.
Once the movie has played its cards, that’s when it enters the make-or-break zone. Some of you might (very appropriately) wonder what the point of sending middle-aged uncles and aunties to fight killer aliens is. Others might be confused by the time travel elements, which the film explains in a throwaway scene with a bit of a shrug. But The Tomorrow War isn’t meant for audiences who pause to ask such questions. You’re just expected to roll with it. And to make you feel better, the movie throws in a comic relief audience surrogate character (played by a scene-stealing Sam Richardson), whose sole job is to predict what you're thinking, and make the exact same exclamations.
The Tomorrow War marks the live-action directorial debut of Chris McKay, who previously directed the fabulous The Lego Batman Movie. He retains that self-aware sense of humour here. The winks aren’t as smug as something you’d see in a Joss Whedon movie, but they’re there alright.
But there’s also room for a time-hopping daddy issues subplot involving three generations of the Forester family. You can sort of see the big reveal coming from a mile away, but to McKay and Pratt’s credit, they play it as if a part of them knows that they can’t really hoodwink the audience. This dramatic through-line is serviceable at best.
The real fun in The Tomorrow War — and, really, any other film about mankind’s last stand against alien invaders — is to be had in the action sequences, which are filmed with a clear-eyed vision. The space aliens, to use Neil deGrasse Tyson’s favourite term, look sort of generic, but are rather well-rendered. The film doesn’t even feel the need to obscure them with rapid-fire editing; refreshingly, they’re presented in broad daylight, via shots that actually linger.
Also read: Men in Black International movie review: Chris Hemsworth is no Will Smith; the film is unfunny, unmemorable, unnecessary
The Tomorrow War is no Edge of Tomorrow, perhaps the best film of this size and sensibility released in the last decade, but it’s a lot like its star -- goofy, good-natured, and desperate to be liked, despite its problems. Don’t burst its bubble.
The Tomorrow War
Director - Chris McKay
Cast - Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Sam Richardson, JK Simmons, Betty Gilpin
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar