In the Tomorrow War, Chris Pratt takes on aliens, in the future, using time travel. What more could you want? As it turns out, quite a lot.
The War of Tomorrow
During a world cup soccer finale, a wormhole opens in the middle of the field. Soldiers jump out. They are from thirty years in the future, where humanity is fighting a losing war against aliens. The future needs soldiers from the present to fight a war in the future. Naturally, the whole world joins to help, implementing a world-wide draft. That does not work out well, with only a third of the drafted returning, and none of them unscathed.
Dan Forester is an ex-soldier teaching chemistry at a high school. He wants to make a difference in the world, but he has a hard time achieving that. Then he’s drafted to fight in the war. The future soldiers scan him and he learns he has only seven years to live. Before he can fully process this, they slap a wristband on his arm, give him a gun, and send him into a wormhole.
As it turns out, the shit has really hit the fan in the future, and the wormhole dumps Dan right into the middle of it.
You might already see a rather big plot hole. Recruiting large numbers of people from the past would invariably alter the course of history. In fact, it is later explained — sorry, minor spoiler — that the past can be changed and creates a different timeline. So, in fact, the world is sending hundreds of thousand of people to their death for a future that was no longer going to happen the moment the wormhole opened. Oops, time travel idiot plotting.
Chris Pratt plays Dan Forrester, the ex-military protagonist. He is the most buff chem teacher I’ve ever seen, and he’s no Walter White. Pratt acts well enough in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jurassic Park, but he can’t sell this character outside the action sequences. That’s not wholly his fault. The script is also pretty terrible. And tomorrow’s people are, well, idiots. More on that in a bit.
Yvonne Strahovski plays Dan’s Colonel in the future. She plays her role well, managing to take some of the cheese out of the ham-fisted character arc she is forcing on Chris Pratt. She herself is, well, an interesting character, and they could have done interesting things with her, but unfortunately they chose to make her no more than a driver for Dan’s plot.
Then there is Dan’s estranged father James (J.K. Simmons). They have a troubled relationship, and he’s responsible for some of Dan’s mental problems. Of course, the movie makes it all come together and alright. Sigh.
Betty Gilpin plays Dan’s wife. She’s a psychologist who ends up dealing with traumatized future-war veterans. An interesting angle, that is utilized… not at all. She’s… there.
Then there’s Charlie and Dorian. They are both part of Dan’s unit in the future. They are both interesting in their own way, but — again — under-utilized.
Too much generic fluff, too little body
As you can see in the part above, there is quite a lot of potential in the characters. At least in my opinion. Unfortunately, there is too much potential and too little actually realized. On top of that, it seems the writers tried to ram three different movies into one: Starship Troopers for the first section, and a mashup of Alien and National Treasure for the final act — No, I kid you not, National Treasure meets Alien. In short, it’s too much, and it suffers from chimera storytelling.
The Tomorrow War is not really dark, even if it does borrow from horror tropes. The weirdly tacked on third act basically makes what came before look like a different movie. It also tries to shoe-horn small arcs for all the characters in, pretty heavy-handedly and predictably. It makes it all very bland and derivative. It’s better to do one thing well than do a lot of thing badly, and the Tomorrow War goes all out on the second.
Time travel is Hard
Another problematic thing in time travel movies is that they are rarely logically consistent. And the Tomorrow War is no different. It makes zero sense. I already explained that the branching-timeline part would make the entire war obsolete. There are more problems.
First of all, why doesn’t the future provide as much information to the past so they can beat the aliens before the war even begins? Apparently, there is no clear reason for that. Secondly, why doesn’t anybody in the past ask about that? The entire world starts sending people to their deaths without asking for proof, future tech, or anything. They swallow the story whole and start sending people. It would have been cool if the whole thing had been some kind of mind-fuck, and the leaders of the world were in on it, but no.
I’d like to nit-pick more, but that would require a lot of spoilers, and I feel I’ve already spent too many words on this movie.
The Tomorrow War is a movie. It is somewhat fun to watch. The idea of the movie is nice. Aside from that, it sucks donkey balls. There are better scifi movies out there, a lot of them in fact.