Amazon Studios has proven themselves with dramatic fair like Manchester By The Sea and Sound of Metal, but continue to struggle with big budget blockbusters. Their most recent effort, The Tomorrow War, has a lot going for it. The premise, despite being a silly one, is intriguing. There’s ample action, moments of sincere tension, a heartfelt father/daughter dynamic and some very believable and frightening creature designs. Seemingly, all of the ingredients for a crowd pleasing success. Yet, somewhere throughout the recipe something was missed, leaving us with a final product that feels unfinished and unsatisfying.
The premise of the film is that approximately thirty years in the future, a war is being waged against mankind by a deadly alien species. Mankind is losing, and badly. In a last ditch effort to save the world, soldiers from the year 2051 travel to present day in order to recruit and take new fighters into the future. Hence the film’s title The Tomorrow War.
When bringing the element of time travel into your plot, especially in a way as centralized and significant as this, there are bound to be things that don’t make sense. It’s the double edged sword of time travel in cinema; you can play loose with the rules, because… well, there are no legitimate rules. But often it comes across as nonsense. And nonsense is precisely where The Tomorrow War lands. In fact, the entire premise of the film is a bit of nonsense. Wouldn’t it make more sense for soldiers from the future to prepare people of the present day for the upcoming invasion, rather than taking them to a future where mankind is already doomed? I mean, they have thirty years, they know exactly when the invasion begins and where. It seems that with thirty years of preparation, mankind would stand a pretty solid chance. It’s not quite a plot hole, but it’s surely poor writing.
The Tomorrow War succeeds in two areas. First, is with its creatures. Prior to seeing our first creature appear on screen, they have been described as nothing short of nightmare fuel; horrifying killers and masterful hunters. The type of thing you hope to never see face to face, because if you do, you likely won’t survive to speak of it. The reveal, for the most part, lives up to the expectation. The monsters are well crafted with believable CGI and a fitting design by Ken Barthelmey that H.P. Lovecraft would likely approve of.
The second area where The Tomorrow War succeeds is with its heartfelt, family dynamics. The relationship between Dan Forester and his young daughter feels earnest and sincere. It’s in these moments that we see Chris Pratt give his strongest performance. It drives the emotional impact of Forester’s journey into the future in order to fight a losing battle, as silly as that idea may be. It will especially strike a cord with those viewers who have made that sacrifice of leaving loved ones behind while deploying for war, and the uncertainty that follows.
Despite a handful of solid action moments, The Tomorrow War retreads over familiar territory. It starts off running with bold new ideas, but eventually settles into a ridiculous and lackluster pace. Is it worth watching at home on the weekend with a couple slices of pizza and a 12 ounce soda? Sure. But you likely won’t be pausing it when you get up for a bathroom break. 5.5/10