Released: 2nd July
Seen: 1st August
One of the interesting things that’s started happening over the last year and a half of the pandemic has been witnessing big film companies selling off their features to streaming services in order to ensure the biggest possible release in the current circumstances. The Tomorrow War was originally meant to be a big Christmas day release in 2020, taking the mantle of being one of the few holiday blockbusters that weren’t made by Marvel.
Of course because last year was the year we learned “Avoid it like the plague” was a complete lie, that film had to be pushed back in release and was eventually sold off to Amazon for release on their Prime video service… and that change in venue is the biggest weakness of The Tomorrow War.
The Tomorrow War starts in 2022 where a simple biology teacher and former green beret Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is living his relatively normal life, teaching a boring class and dealing with issues at home when suddenly people from 2048 show up out of nowhere to tell the world that an alien race known as Whitespikes will soon be coming to destroy the earth and they need soldiers to help fight this war that’s just a little further in the future than tomorrow.
Drafted into this battle, Dan ends up with a small group of people being led by Romeo Commander (Yvonne Strahovski) on a mission to save some essential research and stop the Whitespikes from completely destroying the earth.
For what it’s trying to be (namely a big fun action flick involving time travel and the white cousins of the aliens in A Quiet Place), The Tomorrow War is pretty effective. Its trick is just taking a brief moment up top to lay out the very basic time travel rules and to make sure everyone’s on the same page before we can just lie back and enjoy the explosions and terrifying aliens with tentacles. It’s not trying to be much more complicated than that, it’s here for big over the top bombastic fun and it does that about as good as anyone could ask for.
Of course The Tomorrow War also realises that pure bombast gets exhausting after a while so it has a pretty brilliant emotional throughline involving Forester’s issues with his family, making him a more interesting well rounded character and letting us have moments where we can breathe. On top of a secret connection he has with someone (a connection you can probably guess if you think for a minute, but it’s reveal is a big enough moment that I don’t wanna spell it out) there’s also glimpses of his relationship with his own father, James (J.K. Simmons) who helps set up the whole idea of Dan wanting to be a better father.
Those interpersonal relationships between the character are the heartbeat of The Tomorrow War, keeping it from being just a generic action flick. All the actors involved brought their A-game and make it so we genuinely love their characters, which in turn makes it more terrifying when we see them in any kind of potential danger from the aliens who are very quickly shown to be the most terrifying goddamn things. Seriously, the clicking sound that they make will make your toes curl by the end of the film and it’s so carefully used that it produces just the right amount of tension.
The Tomorrow War‘s biggest problem is one that it can’t really fix, namely that this is the kind of film that should have absolutely been held back until it could play on a big screen in full surround. Some films would work no matter what screen you put them on, but things like The Tomorrow War are clearly designed to be big dumb fun movies you enjoy in a crowded room with popcorn and soda while occasional yells of “FUCK YEAH” come from that one guy in the back row who decided to bring in a snack from the nearby food court.
That’s how The Tomorrow War should be watched, not on some crappy 32 inch TV where the top right corner is showing signs of visual decay after years of usage! It loses so much of the scope when viewed at home, and scope is about 50% of what this film has to offer. It’s not going for anything clever like Edge of Tomorrow and it’s not even the conclusion of something like Endgame so there’s a narrative function to go along with it, it’s a big fun dumb action film that revels in its big fun dumbness and you just took away the big part by pushing it onto a screen in your living room.
I still would recommend seeing The Tomorrow War, it’s a good enough time with some fun characters and action scenes (The stairwell shootout is kind of spectacular) that will give you plenty of bang for your buck over the course of its runtime… just be warned that you will be painfully aware that you’re seeing it in a much smaller format than you probably should be seeing it in and it’s noticeable that it wasn’t made with Prime in mind.