Review: Chris Pratt's 'The Tomorrow War' is Plagued by Aliens and Unoriginality

Review: Chris Pratt's 'The Tomorrow War' is Plagued by Aliens and Unoriginality

Review of 'The Tomorrow War' starring Chris Pratt that's streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Movie Reviews
4 min read

Review: Chris Pratt's 'The Tomorrow War' is Plagued by Aliens and Unoriginality

Humanity is under siege by grisly global warming metaphors with tentacles and spikes in the year 2051. The civilisation’s last hope rests in the hands of a time traveling Chris Pratt. The Tomorrow War continues Hollywood’s concerted attempts at Andy Dwyer erasure. Beefed up into superhero shape by Marvel, Pratt presses on with his career transformation one shirtless thirst trap at a time.

Amazon’s sci-fi action flick adds to the “Chris Pratt does science” canon, already populated by characters like raptor researcher Owen Grady in Jurassic World and mechanical engineer Jim Preston in Passengers. The once man-child Mouse Rat frontman is now high-school biology teacher and hot dad Dan Forester, who is drafted to fend off an alien invasion three decades into the future.

Chris Pratt in The Tomorrow War.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

For all intents and purposes, watching The Tomorrow War feels like watching someone play a third-person shooter.

A large chunk of the movie revolves around Dan and co embarking on a series of battle quests: arrive at checkpoint 2051, team up with the other draftees, engage in a ballistic showdown with aliens, make it to the helicopter for rescue, use the weapon acquired in previous mission to take down the hive queen in the boss level. The cutscenes foreground the needed exposition and soapy subplots, whose emotional beats tie the whole thing together.


Transported to the future are an assortment of colourful personalities, subsequently pared down to a handful of survivors. From the present, there’s Sam Richardson as nervous chatterer Charlie, Edwin Hodge as battle-hardened Dorian, and JK Simmons as Dan’s estranged dad James. From the future, there’s Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Muri, the scientist who holds the key to saving mankind. Motivations are mostly generic. For instance, Dorian is a cancer-stricken draftee who sacrifices himself for the greater cause in a blaze of glory.

There’s a stench of ‘90s blockbuster cheese gone stale in The Tomorrow War. Its story of solidarity in the face of extinction evokes the showmanship of Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day. Pratt and Richardson however can’t recreate that Will Smith-Jeff Goldblum styled banter drenched in B-movie self-awareness. There is one wink-worthy moment sure to raise a chuckle though. Dan proposes a mission to fly into Russia, and the US Defence Secretary responds: “You want to use taxpayer money to fund a special covert mission into a hostile sovereign nation.”

Interspersed with the threat of extinction is a family arc to establish genuine human stakes. Engaging with our contemporary eco-angst about the future, The Tomorrow War’s story — of a father desperately trying to ensure there’s a world left for his daughter to inhabit — reminds us the responsibility of mitigating climate change falls on us and us alone.

Director Chris McKay draws on our fears about the state of the planet, much like Emmerich did in his own “disastrous” ways in The Day After Tomorrow. If you weren’t convinced before on why the remaining glaciers must remain solid and whole, the horrors trapped therein offer a forceful reason. The “white spikes” are uglier and teethier versions of the quadrupedal runners from the Alien movies. They don’t sneak up on you like the xenomorphs, but overwhelm you in their sheer numbers, like the zombies in World War Z. Easily enraged, feral and insatiable, they render the mostly invisible threat of climate change apocalyptic. With the world ravaged by an inhuman threat and scientists racing to find countermeasures, it is hard not see the film also as a reflection of our anxieties over the last year or so.

Yvonne Strahovski in The Tomorrow War.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)


Things kick off in 2021 where the soldiers from the future make their entry in dramatic fashion, invading the football pitch in the middle of a World Cup game to announce the fate that mankind faces. In a set-piece which will surely have audiences flinching and wincing, Miami is overrun by “white spikes” pouring into the streets. The tension swells with Lorne Balfe’s ascending score. If A Quiet Place makes every single sound stressful, The Tomorrow War revels in the noise of blockbuster mayhem. Yet, it can’t eclipse the benchmark set by Edge of Tomorrow, which sees Tom Cruise thwart an alien invasion using time travel. Speaking of which, the time travel conceit here is nowhere near as ingenious.

And no CGI wizardry or chiselled abs can save The Tomorrow War from an unavoidable truth: it’s what Martin Scorsese described as cinema “reduced to its lowest common denominator: content.” No wonder Universal offloaded the film to Amazon, because it doesn’t demand an investment beyond breezy distraction.

Pratt spoke of the original script being so dark it made “Children of Men look like a comedy.” So McKay wanted to buoy it up into a four-quadrant movie which wasn’t all “hopeless dystopia.” Had it fully committed to its 90s silliness, The Tomorrow War could have been the Independence Day for the climate change generation. The film’s ending potentially ensures there won’t be a sequel and a whole new franchise to boot. Hiding therein is perhaps an incidental truth, a more urgent message: with climate change, we don’t get second chances.

Rating: 1.5 Quints out of 5

(The Tomorrow War is now streaming globally on Amazon Prime Video.)

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