Review: The Tomorrow War

Year: 2021

Runtime: 140 minutes

Director: Chris McKay

Writer: Zach Dean

Actors: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jasmine Mathews, Ryan Kiera Armstrong

By Joan Amenn

It’s the Fourth of July weekend in the US and tradition demands hot dogs, cold beer and a rousing blockbuster of a film to be enjoyed in a local cinema. However, Amazon is releasing its big, messy holiday offering, “The Tomorrow War” (2021) on its streaming platform. This is regrettable since a lot of the action sequences of the film would work better on a giant screen. It’s not as much fun as “Independence Day” (1996) which it owes a lot to, but it’s not half bad if you are looking for an all you can eat buffet of special effects with a convoluted plot better not thought about too deeply.

Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is fighting to save the world from a dark future as seemingly unstoppable aliens threaten humanity’s survival. Pratt seems a little adrift at times without his compatriots from another action film that concerns aliens and humans. Thank the cinematic gods that J.K. Simmons was cast as his dad, James Forester because their scenes together are the best in the film. As a matter of fact, Simmons looks like he could fight a battalion of aliens with one arm tied behind his back and it’s a disappointment he isn’t given more to do here. There are several underutilized and very talented actors in the cast, such as Betty Gilpin as Dan’s wife Emmy and Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known as Chloe from the TV series, “24.”

The first hour of “The Tomorrow War” is heavy on exposition but still makes for an intriguing story opening. The special effects of a time travel device malfunction reference the infamous transporters from “Star Trek” misbehaving to the nth degree. The aliens seem to have been thrown together from an art department unable to commit to either spiky or squirmy as their main descriptive quality so they went all in and combined them both. The CGI effects of them swarming as they take over the Earth seems old hat now since it has been used so often to depict zombies with similar ambitions in recent films.

Overall, “The Tomorrow War” as directed by Chris McKay can be heavy going at times which is odd since he is best known for his work on the “Lego Movie” and Lego Batman” series. A little more humor and about an hour shorter film would have improved the pacing and the plot of the story. At over two hours runtime, there seems to be no science fiction narrative element not included in its overcomplicated screenplay by Zach Dean. “The Tomorrow War” will not become a classic film of summer escapism but it’ll do until those other movies Pratt is starring in premiere.

“The Tomorrow War” premieres today on Amazon Prime streaming.

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