Any movie that opens with “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses on the soundtrack has me on its side from the start.
Unfortunately, in “The Tomorrow War,” everything that follows seems derived from The Book Of Sci-Fi Movie Clichés. So much so that it could have been called “The Foreshadowing War,” as nearly every plot point is predictable from the get-go.
Chris Pratt stars as Dan, a military-veteran-turned-private-citizen, who’s drafted into a war against aliens who attack the Earth thirty years from now. He’s just one of thousands of civilians from the present who are “jumped” forward to 2052 to take on the extraterrestrials rampaging around the planet and reducing the global human population to a mere half-million.
Let’s go through the sci-fi/action movie clichés list and see how many “The Tomorrow War” checks off:
- A scene in which the heroes are told there’s nothing more they can do, that they’ve lost, that it’s impossible to stop the onslaught of aliens. But then you notice there are 40 minutes left in the movie. Of course.
- A scene in which a government official refuses to send the citizen warriors on a dangerous mission and forbids them from going. Naturally, two minutes later, they’re on their way. You betcha.
- No matter how many rounds of ammunition the humans fire at the aliens, no one ever has to reload their gun. Sure.
- The protagonists can outrun fireballs from bombs dropped close by. Yep.
- Computers that only exist in movies, the kind that flash results in a big font while it announces those same results in a stilted voice, even though this takes place 30 years in the future — three decades after we already have natural voice technology from Siri and Alexa. Check.
- A soundtrack with overblown music in action sequences and minor key horns in sad scenes. Uh-huh.
The clichés don’t stop there — they extend to the supporting characters:
- Betty Gilpin is The Wife Who Has Nothing To Do.
- JK Simmons is The Father Our Hero Has Major Issues With.
- Ryan Kiera Armstrong plays The Daughter Who’s Wiser Than Her Years.
- Edwin Hodge is The Seen It All Before Soldier With An Attitude.
- Sam Richardson is The Comic Effect Sidekick.
- Yvonne Strahovski is The Brilliant Scientist/Commander Of The Future, who has a connection you’ll see coming long before Pratt’s character does.
I do credit “The Tomorrow War” for having a diverse cast with lots of women in positions of power, and for not falling into one old movie trope — the South Asian character who’s an IT expert, able to do things with technology no one else can. And kudos to the producers, who somehow got Amazon to acquire the film earlier this year for a reported $200 million from Paramount Pictures.
Sure, it’s loud and has plenty of CGI effects for director Chris McKay to play with as Pratt and his co-stars do their best with a formulaic script by Zach Dean. But in the end, “The Tomorrow War” offers nothing we haven’t seen before in “Aliens,” “Independence Day,” and even “Tremors.”
That’s why I’m only giving it a 4 out of 10. Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.