The Tomorrow War (2021)

tomorrowThis was a bit of a silly movie, but it gets by with a pretty strong cast and really good production values- there’s some first-class CGI effects and creature designs here (which probably deserve a better movie). According to IMDB, this film from Paramount was originally intended to have a theatrical release but because of our old friend Covid, that was nixed in favour of selling it to Amazon for a cool $200 million. Let that sink in, and then consider how much these streaming services must be worth that they can spend that kind of money on content. So this film has big production values.

The title refers to a time travel element (fighters are recruited in the present-day 2022 to fight a war taking place thirty years in the future) but really its a bit of a misnomer-the film should have been titled “The Forester War” because that sums up what it really is, and gets at the scripts chief failings. For a film about a world on the brink of extinction due to alien invasion, its a remarkably small, intimate saga: Grandpa Forester is an ex-Vietnam fighter who can fly planes under the radar into Russia, Daddy Forester is an ex-marine who travels to the future and back to stop the war ever happening, Daughter Forester is a scientist/military chick who designs said toxin in the future and Mama Forester and child-daughter Forester in 2022 er, stress a lot but all make a happy family in the end. If that sounds like the script stretches credibility then you’d be right, and its a bit of a shame. Technically the film looks great with a number of big effects/action scenes which can be quite thrilling and dramatic but its all overshadowed by a nagging feeling of being taken for a bit of a mug by the screenplay. Daddy Forester Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is a school teacher who wants to impress his daughter by being Someone Special etc, but at the the start of the film his career aspirations are thwarted when he fails a job application. Naturally (quelle surprise!) it turns out he -and his family- aren’t just special, they save the whole of humanity. Everyone else seems to be just cannon fodder- its the Forester’s who get the job done.

The film also fumbles the ball regards time travel, or certainly gets caught up in a troubling paradox. Future-daughter Colonel Muri Forester (Yvonne Strahovski, who I adored in Chuck) confides in her father what happened to him in her past/his future (it wasn’t good) but this was surely erased by him travelling to the future anyway? The dad she remembers struck out regards being Someone Special, left the family and died in a car crash, but that guy never had to travel to the future to spend a week in a Future War (draftees go to the future for a week-long visit and if they survive -and few do, as the alien critters are nasty and winning- the draftees are returned to the present, their duty done).  Besides which, Muri designs a toxin to kill the aliens and sends her Dad back to use it and destroy the aliens before the war begins, but when he does that, he creates the paradox that having killed the aliens and saved the world, how did he get the toxin if the war never happened and Muri never had to design it? Yeah I know, alternate timelines etc. I actually thought they missed a trick not showing Muri going thirty years into the future and finding the Earth barren, all humanity gone and then the aliens having then fed on themselves until extinction. That way she’d know her timeline only ended one way and they had to start another, by sending her father back with the toxin.

One thing that did bug me was how they rather offhandedly explained that Time Travel had been invented and how it worked, the Time Machine being in some fortified offshore base. It was rather like, “ok yeah, and we invented this time machine, but the really important shit is the alien invasion!” as they casually announce that it only works in one direction and is fixed for thirty years travel, no more, no less, but hey, we really need to talk about the aliens. 

Its all patently ridiculous but it does look good and the premise is intriguing before its logic collapses. I appreciate I may sound overly dismissive (the Time Travel logic issues are hardly unique to this film, its a paradox that many before have become unstuck by) but its clearly a far better film than some of the mindless drivel that passes for modern blockbusters (Kong vs Godzilla, Outside the Wire etc).  Chris Pratt is, well, Chris Pratt- he gets by with his usual screen presence but to be honest, he’s one of those actors that seem to be playing the same character in every film I see him in: he’s not phoning in performances like Bruce Willis does these days but its getting worryingly over-familiar now. J.K. Simmons is his usual gruff antisocial curmudgeon and Yvonne Strahovski could arguably be playing Sarah Walker from Chuck… there’s certainly evidence that these guys were being cast because they fit the roles without hardly any effort at all. Comfortable, predictable casting I guess you’d call it. 

A final fight in the snow evokes memories of The Thing and it sure does look a sight with the last alien Queen battling in the winter wastes: its really quite impressive, brilliantly staged with great physical and CGI effects and the creature designs are very, very good. Its a pretty fair weekend entertainment I guess, easily dismissed but no worse for that: I just wish the whole thing could have been a little darker and less, well, less of “The Forester War.” And yet again here’s a modern blockbuster that lacks a really good score and is really hampered by that- modern action films really are handicapped by their scores, they lack any individuality, any real identity.   

5 thoughts on “The Tomorrow War (2021)

  1. Tom

    I feel the same way about Chris Pratt. He’s a likable dude but he’s the same in every movie. He also doesn’t have much range so you kinda take him for just a normal dude who happens to be strategically placed in every movie to be in position to save the world. Man, it’s good to be white and a male in Hollywood.

    1. There’s absolutely zero edginess to him at all, is there, and his range is pretty much all there in all the films he has done, its pretty sparse. Not that it hurts some actors, some guys just cruise along on good looks and affable screen personality but it gets boring.

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    We watched about half of this last night but gave up halfway through. Just utterly bored by everything in it.

    Chris Pratt as Special Forces Guy Turned Science Guy Who Is Sad tells you everything you need to know, really.

    1. Its the very definition of ‘audience-friendly’ I suppose, i.e. terribly familiar and inoffensive. There was some nice imagery in the latter parts but it was never as important as it thought it was.

      I should have been a Hollywood scriptwriter: my DVD collection and I would have gone so far mining traditional tropes. But JJ Abrams beat me to it, damn him. And he’s got nothing to do with this one at all, I believe, which is indicative of where films are now.

  3. Pingback: The 2021 List: July – the ghost of 82

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