“The Tomorrow War”
Cast: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Sam Richardson
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
And they’re invading Earth, again, as usual.
Plus, we’re time traveling, again! To the future, where some stupendously hideous, man-eating creatures have laid waste to the planet, and where humans are on the verge of extinction, as usual.
Sounds familiar, again!
The new sci-fi flick “The Tomorrow War” retreads some well-worn ground.
However, a likable cast keeps it from feeling entirely like the pieced-together photocopy of several different genre-defining films it actually is.
We learn that in 2022, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrives from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: 30 years in the future, mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species.
There’s a lot going on here. In addition to the aliens and a nerdy time travel wormhole thing, we’ve got some family drama (the ever-popular “crazy dad abandoned the family years ago” issue), along with alien genetic material and toxins science lessons. There’re also some not-so-subtle jabs about the dangers of climate change and global warming.
And if you thought those creatures you could barely stand to look at a few weeks ago in “A Quiet Place Part II” were grotesque, well they are veritable beauty pageant winners compared to these hard-to-kill, multi-legged, dagger-shooting, long- and high-jumping, wall-scaling, race-car-speed galloping, swimming, gymnasts called “Whitespikes”.
They seem to be able to do everything but fly. Humans are helpless and hopeless against these monsters, which are too terrifying for even nightmares.
Star Chris Pratt is his usual charismatic self. And additional comic relief is provided by Sam Richardson (TV’s “Veep”) and Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”).
Indeed, most of the elements are here for a decent film. But something is a little off. In addition to the familiarity of it all, there’s perhaps too much ebb and flow in the progression of the story. While initially ascending quite steadily and quickly, we get to a point that feels like it should be the end of the film, only for things to be sent back to almost a starting point from which the film has to rebuild momentum.
It’s all incredibly anticlimactic, and the second eventual ending isn’t nearly as satisfying, as so much energy and potential has been spent.
There is, however, one very interesting nod to this country. The few remaining human fighters in the future world have set up camp in the waters off Port Nelson in The Bahamas!
No offense to the (only couple dozen, apparently) residents of Port Nelson – and especially to my actual Rum Cay relatives – but when was the last time you uttered the words “Port Nelson” or even thought about this tiny settlement on this sparsely populated island?
It takes man-eating aliens for people to take notice! Tsk, tsk!
A movie-loving colleague of mine mentioned how the trailers for “The Tomorrow War” reminded him of 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow” with Tom Cruise. And that’s an interesting observation.
There are quite a few similarities. “The Tomorrow War” tries to incorporate humor in much the same way as “Edge of Tomorrow”, but it can’t match the older film’s level of wit, and is merely mildly amusing. And of course, “Edge of Tomorrow” didn’t suffer from the peaks and valleys we experience here.
But despite being a bit overly long, and not knowing how and when to end the film, and not bringing anything new to the big screen, “The Tomorrow War” is at times intense, scary, and actually fun, proving the crowded sci-fi/alien/time-travel table can still provide reliably satisfying snacks, again and as usual.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.