Directed By Chris McKay
Starring – Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K Simmons
The Plot – The world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future, mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Strahovski) and his estranged father (Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, adult language and some suggestive references.
– Underlining feels. Despite the occasional desire to cater towards Pratt’s often overtly comedic filmography, “The Tomorrow War” keeps its heart in the right place by supplanting a layer of sentimentality to the script that is highly meaningful without feeling melodramatic. This is realized in the family ties of the characters, primarily the dynamics between Dan and his father, but also between Dan and his daughter, that the film illustrates tremendously. These arc’s not only provide stakes to us the audience beyond the worldwide fate constantly hanging in the background of the story, but also provide a nourishing connection in the foreground of the narrative, which cuts through conflicting themes of regret, abandonment, and even self-worth to the supplying of the screenplay’s evidential depth. It attains urgency in both the physical beats of the narrative, and mental aspects of the movie’s psychology, occasionally tugging at the heartstrings of the audience more than we’ve come to expect from a popcorn war epic.
– Surprising effects. Part of what helps to cement the transcendence in appeal of a straight-to-streaming property of production, are the details and nuances afforded to some truly gruesome monster designs that enrich believability continuously throughout. Aside from the textures of these beats eliciting heft in the direction of the scenes and sequences they accommodate, it’s the layering of their computer generated properties that prove a lot of time was spent in conjuring up the essence of something as physically imposing as it is gnarly illustrated. On top of the animals themselves, the green-screen work of backdrops and unpredictable elements like fire are consistently immersive in the context of the scenes that they accompany, making the most of the overly ambitious 200 million dollar budget that proves you have to pay a little extra to capture imagination.
– Immersive sound. No action movie would be complete without an audible mixing and editing of schemes that play fruitfully toward the elements of environments and other-worldly characters featured prominently in “The Tomorrow War”. For the warzone settings themselves, an echoing chorus of firepower and overhead copter’s buzz by our audible senses constantly with a far and near persistence that is easily illustrated with our eyes closed. For the monster antagonists, the snarling essence and imposing weight outlines a claustrophobic proximity that amplifies tension whenever its alien sounds invade our perception, all the while working wonderfully with Lorne Balfe’s resonating emphasis to anxious compositions that inevitably captivate the audience and bring professionalism to the technical elements of these riveting action sequences.
– Sturdy performances. It’s nice to see Pratt back after the recent controversy that swallowed his career. As Dan, there’s some familiarity to Pratt’s undertaking, mainly in the eclectic nature of his emotions that often reflect the tonal aspects of the atmosphere accordingly, but there’s more dramatic heavy lifting for Chris this time, especially considering the script’s two most meaningful tiers of storytelling rest solely on his shoulders. As usual, the likeable everyman approach of his personality is firmly on display, and the ruthless energy exuded during physical sequences cements his action star status prominently without the ego that stems from typical one word top billings. In addition to Pratt, I thoroughly enjoyed the utility work from Simmons, who again plays another hard-ass, but this time with an air of longing that compels his character. Finally, Strahovski supplants her single best performance to date, giving the ladies in the audience plenty to cheer about as this badass mysterious figure in the war who becomes more vital to the story the longer the movie persists. Her chemistry with Pratt dazzles for all of the reasons you wouldn’t expect, and her timely teary registry articulates the humanity of just what’s at stake in the balance.
– Thrilling action. McKay’s casting to lead this project most intrigued me, especially considering this is the same man who made “The Lego Batman Movie” a staple on the list of best Batman movies, for me. So I was curious to see what he would bring to a science fiction war epic, and I was not disappointed. McKay instills no shortage of vulnerability to the plight of his human antagonists, testing them in terms of physicality that prove this is anything other than a quick fix solution. On top of that the unpredictable factor of each action sequence elevates the exchanges in ways that consistently reach for improvisation in a series of movements that I truly feel any human person would deliver while fighting for the edge of their lives. On top of it all, the scale and spectacle of the engagement is most certainly on display frequently throughout, capturing the devastation with a series of long take landscape shots that stretch as far as they eyes can see, and play into the hopeless dread playing into inevitability of what’s to come.
– Endearing science. Only hardcore enthusiasts of science fiction films will appreciate the fantasy and imagination decorated throughout the ideas and world-building of this nearly post-apocalyptic society. For my money, the various time travel elements, the psychology of the whiteclaw creatures themselves, and even the arsenal of hand-to-hand weaponry affords a fantastical element to the script’s creativity, without fully losing itself in the various futuristic gimmick’s and styles of most movies set in the future that feels unnecessary for this movie when compared to the out-of-this-world elements that make up an abundance of its conflict. Without familiarity in what makes these things tick, the human characters are always urgently playing against the expiration date that they already know in the back of their minds.
– Clumsy structure. Perhaps my biggest problem to the film, and one that weighed heavily on the pacing for the movie’s entertainment factor is the unorthodox scheme of its storytelling, which often feels like three different movies shoehorned into one lengthy picture. For my money, I counted five respective acts during this epic, and the movie could’ve rightfully ended during three of them, respectively. The flowing of these elements, while nice to have focus on without rushing through, were entirely not necessary in a 110 minute cut, which I feel would’ve produced a far superior product over the bloated one that we regretfully received. It certainly feels more like a faithful book adaptation rather than typical conventionalisms that we’ve come to expect within the three act structure of cinema, feeling like the most convoluted of director’s cuts that over indulges on matters that don’t all resonate with an air of importance along the way.
– Forced humor. Because this is a Chris Pratt starring vehicle, as well as a Chris McKay directed one, the movie feels obliged to supplant these abrupt tonal shifts throughout, which in turn create no shortage of problems to the finer elements they’re supposed to compliment. Levity in an apocalyptic setting is one thing, but when the storytelling halts to flex its comic muscle, it’s a little too much relief from the thickness of the atmosphere, especially considering the humor itself stems from the laziest examples of one-liners that I thought ended with Will Smith in “Independence Day”. It would be fine enough if this element remained a consistency throughout the narrative, but unfortunately it only arrives during sporadic moments throughout, and is all the more straining to the tonal consistency, which tries to tickle with these undercooked moments of self-humility in between these humbling instances of global destruction, to create a feeling of too many cooks in the creative kitchen.
– Amateur dubbing. While I previously praised the movie for articulating the danger in audible capacities, the audio for the movie isn’t completely without fault, clumsily tripping its way through some of the most obvious and reckless off-camera voice work that now sets the benchmark for the year’s worst. Most ideally, it’s during the beginning and ending of the movie that is most apparent, especially with a phone where Pratt’s character is on the phone to seek a job, and his mouth is moving in a way it rightfully shouldn’t during certain phrases. In addition the heavy-handed stench of the movie’s finale is made most obvious with an overhead narration that echoes what is so easily illustrated in the context of the screen, sending audiences home with shallow emphasis that will only be rewarding if you missed out on the previous 135 minutes of the movie’s run time.
– Uneven halves. In my opinion, the opening forty-five minutes of this film are easily the weakness of the movie, and one that will stand as the test for audiences wondering if they can last nearly the nearly two-and-a-half hour marathon. Mainly, the problem is with parody level dialogue that only attains passable effort because of the charisma of the actors delivering them. On a surface level, they’re everything wrong with action cinema, complete with tropes and circumstantial blandness that rubs a lot of these films together, but on a deeper delve, they serve as obvious meandering of hand-holding the audience that drives me nuts in all forms of fictional cinema. There are certainly easier ways to convey these pivotal instances of information within the interactions of the characters, but they’re often so heavy-handed and on-the-nose that they reek of off-screen influence, and break my concentration each time they compromise the integrity of every character interaction.
My Grade: 6/10 or C+