The Tomorrow War might not star Will Smith but this sci-fi action film is in the same vein as previous Independence Day releases.
As oddly as it sounds, The Tomorrow War is just the type of escapist entertainment we need coming out on the other side of the pandemic. Time travelers travel back in time from 2051 to disrupt a World Cup soccer game and give Earth an urgent message: a deadly alien species is attacking the planet. They’re hellbent on destruction and show no signs of stopping. After the all of the world’s military gets pummeled, civilians begin to get drafted into the war. Suffice it to say, the only way Earth stands a chance is if present day civilians join the fight. There’s a bad idea if I ever saw one.
One of these recruits is Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a teacher hoping to save the planet for his daughter. He’s also a former Army Special Command Operations veteran. The man is devastated to leave behind his wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin), and daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Dan joins Charlie (Sam Richardson), Dorian (Edwin Hodge), Norah (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Cowan (Mike Mitchell) in as they travel to Miami Beach 2051. In the future he teams up with a military scientist code-named Romeo Command (Yvonne Strahovski) to bring about a toxin that will kill the “white spikes” as the aliens are known. But back in present day, Dan has no choice but to team up with his estranged father, James (J.K. Simmons), to give Earth a fighting chance of survival.
We see the film through Dan’s perspective and the stakes are high. It’s not unfair to refer to this film as a character study either. Or as I call it: a popcorn character study. At the same time, this is a film that also has a warning for humanity when it comes to climate change. What happens when all of the ice starts thawing out? Nevermind how many extra inches or feet of water we have in the oceans. What if there’s something lurking beneath it and we aren’t able to stop it? Warnings for the world notwithstanding, there’s also an It’s A Wonderful Life vibe to this film since Dan has an opportunity to give himself a second chance.
Chris McKay, who directs the film, comes from the world of animation. He’s not the first to make the leap to live-action nor will he be the last. Coming from the world gives him an advantage when it comes to working in the sci-fi genre. It shows on the screen especially with how visual effects-heavy that the film is. Working with cinematographer Larry Fong, they capture some beautiful visuals while using as little green screen as possible in the process. The film may have been digitally shot but it looks as if it were captured on film.
Chris Pratt is a long way since his Everwood days. He’s now a reliable action star on the screen. Who could have ever seen this coming if you watched either Everwood or Parks and Recreation? In any event, he makes his character stand out from the likes of Peter Quill and Owen Grady.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that you’d be doing yourself a terrible disservice if you don’t make it a Sam Richardson double feature. Richardson also stars in Werewolves Within, a horror comedy whodunit now available on on VOD. Anyway, the Second City veteran brings his A-game when it comes to the film’s humor. Unlike Pratt’s character, Sam’s Charlie is just your average guy. I’ve seen Sam working in Chicago improv long before the world was introduced to him in Veep. He has a real knack for comedy and with two films out right now, I truly believe we’ll be seeing him in more leading roles. As for the Betty Gilpin fans, I’m sorry to say that she doesn’t have a larger role in the film.
Film composer Lorne Balfe is also having himself a heck of a month. In addition to his work for the upcoming Black Widow, he turns in one heck of a score for The Tomorrow War. It’s not the ordinary score that you’d find in a blockbuster film and it goes without saying that less is more. Meanwhile, Balfe contributes a number of themes including for both Dan and his daughter, Muri. Their themes are similar, too.
Some films running close to two and a half hours feel every minute of their run time. However, this film doesn’t. It keeps its audiences completely engaged whether we’re in the present or some 30 years into the future.
The Tomorrow War is a popcorn film even if you’re watching this film from home instead of on the big screen where it belongs.
DIRECTOR: Chris McKay
SCREENWRITER: Zach Dean
CAST: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, Jasmine Mathews, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Keith Powers, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Mike Mitchell