Review: ‘The Tomorrow War’ Uses Good Premise & Chris Pratt To Make Decent Sci-Fi Movie
SALT LAKE CITY — Keeping track of all the hopeful-blockbuster movies that were originally supposed to come out in 2020, but whose release dates were delayed by the COVID pandemic, has been an adventure in and of itself. “The Tomorrow War,” a science fiction/time travel/action movie starring Chris Pratt, is one of those films that’s had quite a journey of its own.
It was originally supposed to hit theaters on Christmas Day 2020, but production delays bumped its release date to late July 2021. It was then pulled from the release calendar altogether for a while. When it resurfaced, Amazon had purchased the distribution rights and is now releasing the movie just in time for the Fourth of July weekend on Amazon Prime.
In “The Tomorrow War,” Pratt plays a high school science teacher and Army veteran named Dan Forester. He and the rest of the globe are shocked when soldiers from the year 2051 appear right in the middle of the World Cup final to tell of a war against an invading species that humans are losing. In response to their plea for help, the world’s governments institute a draft and begin sending present-day soldiers and regular citizens into the future for one-week deployments to fight.
When Dan gets drafted, he decides to go despite the objections of his wife (Betty Gilpin, best known for Netflix’s “GLOW”) and their young daughter, in part because of some ominous information he learns while being processed for service. Once he does arrive in the future alongside other conscripted people, he must use all his skills to try and stay alive through the week to make it back to his family and with luck help some of his less skilled squad mates survive.
Without spoiling anything, Dan finds out he might also be able to help his commander in the future (Yvonne Strahovski, famous for “The Handmaid’s Tale” & “Chuck”) find a way to defeat the creatures once and for all.
“The Tomorrow War” boasts a solid premise that was enough to draw me in. I love a good sci-fi/action movie, and time travel is a bonus. While the movie does have familiar elements of many other sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and/or time travel movies, it still does a pretty good job handling its own story without feeling like a straight re-tread of those other films.
This is director Chris McKay’s first-ever live-action movie (he also directed the “LEGO Batman” movie) but he does a great job of using camera angles, sound and story to create a real tension throughout, especially when it comes to the creatures. One of his best choices was the slow reveal of what the humans in the future were fighting against, ratcheting up the tension, fear and dread that the viewer feels along with the characters on-screen. The special effects on the aliens are pretty decent as well, it doesn’t appear that the production budget was skimpy here.
But the main thing I took from “The Tomorrow War” was a reminder of why Chris Pratt is a bona fide movie star. He just oozes likeability and charm when he wants to, while also convincingly carrying the action scenes. It never ceases to amaze me that the goofy Andy Dwyer from “Parks and Recreation” is a legit, A-list action movie hero. Surprisingly, he’s not even the funniest guy in the movie, either. That honor goes to Sam Richardson’s character Charlie, who gets almost all of the best lines and nearly steals the show. But in case you were worried, Pratt does have his own funny and clever moments as well.
The rest of the cast is solid, but Pratt & Richardson really stood out. J.K. Simmons was also good as Forester’s father, but sadly not used on-screen nearly enough.
Despite how familiar it feels, “The Tomorrow War” is a solid sci-fi movie that’s worth the effort to seek out and watch, especially for fans of the genre. There are some plot threads left dangling and some characters and scenes that I would have liked to be explored a little more in-depth, but it doesn’t really detract from the overall experience. Besides, who knows if there won’t be an extended version released someday.
The biggest frustration about this movie might be simply that it would look so great on the big screen but you can’t watch it there. It certainly would have been worth a theatrical release, had that been Amazon’s plan. Instead, the film is exclusively streaming with your Amazon Prime subscription. Amazon Prime is a $15-per-month service that gives subscribers access to a big library of free movies & TV shows, as well as free shipping on most orders from Amazon.com.
“The Tomorrow War” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and gore. It’s mostly alien gore but some people get killed too. There’s also plenty of adult language. I think it’s all going to be a bit much for younger kids and wouldn’t recommend they watch it. The movie is 2 hours & 20 minutes long, but at least you can pause it if you need a bathroom or food break since it’s streaming.
FINAL RATING: TWO & A HALF OUT OF FOUR STARS
Hopefully, you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out some of his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com
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