“The Tomorrow War” has a great premise: Humans from 30 years in the future travel back in time to modern day with an urgent message: Earth is under attack from alien invaders, and Earth is losing. Badly. They need to draft people to help fight the future war in order for our species to survive.
That description is not giving anything away – that’s all in the trailer. There will be a warning later in this review before specific plot points are revealed, so you can read on without fear of spoilers.
“The Tomorrow War” stars Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy” “Jurassic World” “Passengers” “Parks and Rec”) as well as J.K. Simmons, Sam Richardson and Yvonne Strahovski. The movie was slated for a theatrical release around last Christmas, but the opening date got pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then, rather than open in theaters as originally planned, a decision was made to instead make the movie available for streaming exclusively through Amazon Prime. (Meaning if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can watch it for free.) The decision to scuttle the theatrical release altogether was ostensibly made due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there’s quite a bit of online speculation that the pandemic was used as a pretext to prevent a box office bomb.
If so, it was a wise decision. The movie is fine to watch streaming at home, but it’s easy to understand how people would be upset if they spent money to see it in the theater.
The fault lies almost entirely with the script. More specifically, the fault lies in the failure to logically think about how the world would react to the situation. As a result, major plot points are downright silly.
On the positive side: It’s nice to see a big-budget movie with an original premise instead of yet another superhero movie, franchise sequel, or remake. But that’s exactly what makes the poor execution so frustrating: the premise has so many interesting ideas that are left unexplored.
Some of this can be excused under the category of “willful suspension of disbelief.” Writing about time travel is hard due to the whole paradox thing. But it’s a fictional story, not a documentary. If you buy into the premise that future humans have technology that allows them to travel through time, then you can safely assume that those future humans understand how it works. And the movie actually does have a reasonable enough explanation for why the future humans cannot simply go back in time to before the start of the attack to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Still, it would have been interesting to see how the modern-day world mobilized. And it would have been interesting to see how society changes knowing that certain disaster awaits 30 years in the future. Flushing these concepts out could have organically informed how later events unfold. Instead, it turns into yet another bland sci-fi movie where the fate of humanity rests on one man.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Enough vagaries. Time for specifics.
Seventy percent of modern-day draftees never return from the future war, and most of those that do come back to modern day come back badly maimed and too traumatized to talk about the experience.
It’s no wonder why. The modern-day draftees are given basically zero training before being sent to fight aliens in the future. (People are literally sent to the future still wearing their street clothes.) But why? The alien invasion won’t happen for 30 years. Sure, by the time the future humans travel back in time to modern day to ask for help, the human population of the year 2051 has already been mostly decimated, so maybe they just need some bodies to join the war effort right away to try to avoid extinction. But if the strategy is to grab random civilians and then send them to the future and throw them into battle while still wearing their street clothes without any training, then it’s no wonder future humans are getting their asses kicked.
Draftees ludicrously aren’t even shown images of what their alien foe looks like because it might make them too scared to fight. It’s a good thing their guns at least seem to have an infinite supply of bullets.
This all begs the logical question: why throw any modern-day humans into the effort at all? Given the high casualty rate and the knowledge that the earth is badly losing, wouldn’t it be better to instead prepare in this timeline to be ready for the fight? The lapses in logic just get worse as the movie goes on.
“The Tomorrow War” is a bland sci-fi action flick with a likeable cast and a lousy script.