Movie Review: The Tomorrow War (2021)

TL;DR – Soldiers from the future travel 30 years back in time seeking to recruit the help of humanity to fight against aliens. Dan, ex-military soldier come scientist, is drafted to take the perilous journey into the future. There he discovers his daughter, grown-up and also a scientist. Together can they come up with a way to stop the aliens killing every last human being on earth?

Review (warning: spoilers)

Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) drives home while talking on the phone for what appears to be an interview for some science job in a lab. He mentions he has leadership experience from doing military tours and running two combat missions in Iraq. He is in the final round and desperately wants to be chosen even if it means missing out on watching the game with his daughter and abandoning his wife to a house full of guests because they are hosting a Christmas party. It is December 2022 but there will be no early presents for Dan as the selection panel informs him that they have gone with someone else. Dan takes out his disappointment on a rubbish bin knocking it over.

Entering the house dejected, and in no mood for partying, it is his daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who comforts him by saying she wants to be the best like he is the best at science. He then tells her daughter that to be the best you have to say, “I will do what nobody else is willing to do.”

The game on television is a World Cup soccer game, and it is at this moment that everything changes as (play ominous background music) a portal opens in the middle of the field and a bunch of soldiers emerge. Lieutenant Hart (Jasmine Matthews) taps into the stadium speakers (using some sort of advanced sci-fi tech) and announces to everyone at the stadium and all the viewers watching the game around the world that they are from the future. Thirty years to be exact. She announces that she comes from a future where humans are fighting a war against aliens called Whitespikes and they are losing. She has come back in time to recruit people to take back to fight the war and concludes, “You are our last hope”.

Thus, the introduction to Tomorrow War completes. Soldiers in 2022-23 start making the jump into the future but the casualties are high and most do not make it back. This leads to two things: 1) the global announcement for a worldwide draft involving civilians that will be sent to fight the future war and 2) rise of anti-war protests across the globe.

Dan is found teaching biology in high school and all his students have lost hope. They do not see the point in going to school and learning if they all wind up dead in thirty years time. Dan says there is still hope, but it will require scientists to come up with a solution and to continue to innovate to find a way to defeat the aliens.

He is then called to a building where he undergoes tests for conscription. By shoving his arm into a device that scans his DNA and shows his future, he is told that he will die in seven years time. You find out later that to avoid some sort of time travel paradox, people who go that far into the future are already dead and those from the future who travel to the past are not already born (thus avoiding the situation of oneself meeting oneself in another time). The machine then fuses a metal band, that reminded me of those gladiator wrist bands, to his arm that allows the government to track him wherever he is and perform the portal jump (he is also informed that any attempt to tamper with the band or evade the draft will result in his imprisonment or his spouse or his dependent of legal age taking his place). Happy days…

Things do not go as planned when he makes the jump into the future along with an army of other civilians-turned-soldiers. Dan manages to survive the jump out of sheer luck along with a small group of others and is contacted by Colonel Muri Forester (Yvonne Strahovski) over comms. Yes, little Muri is now all grown up and a Colonel battling the Whitespikes though Dan does not know this yet. Muri orders Dan and his makeshift group of soldiers on a rescue mission to save a group of scientists and retrieve a dozen vials of some sort of blue liquid. Suffice to say, by the time, Dan and his crew find the scientists they are not alive, but he does manage to get the dozen vials.

The action sequences are pretty impressive and the Whitespikes are suitably monster-like and ruthless. Where the film struggles is the idea of civilians who receive little to no combat training are thrown into the future against aliens that are very good at killing. Why the government and the people from the future think that throwing more humans into the meat grinder is a good idea is beyond me. But plot hole aside, and with the body count rising exponentially, Dan manages to survive his first encounter with the Whitespikes and meets Colonel Muri.

The emotional pull in the film is meant to be between father and daughter. A now adult Muri, tells her father that by the time she turns twelve, he separates from her mother, then at fourteen he files for divorce and then on her sixteenth, he was in a car accident and died in hospital. This revelation is met with confusion and disbelief. Dan is adamant he would never leave her and her mother. That is pretty much all that gets revealed. Muri does not explain why he leaves the family other than to indicate that he was never happy. The inference is that he was driven more by his career but never achieved success in this space and thus Muri and her mother suffered as a result.

Queue more alien swarms, big explosions and endless gunfire. The rest of the film has Muri coming up with a toxin that can wipe out the Whitespikes and when she succeeds she tells Dan he needs to go back in time with the toxin and mass produce the stuff. Dan says he will but will come back to this future to wipe out the Whitespikes and save her, but the good Colonel Muri is swarmed by aliens as he teleports back to his own time.

The helicopter views of the alien swarms are impressive. The closer quarter fight scenes between Dan and company and the Whitespikes are more mixed; some sequences are well done such as when they capture the “mother” alien, other sequences like when they are trying to escape from the Whitespikes is not so effective because watching civilians act like soldiers beggars belief. The film is not helped by the premise that the entire world in 2022 agrees to send as many people as they can into the future to fight a war they do not know actually happens. Governments suddenly all get along and unite to send soldiers (and then later civilians) into the future war. This happens as a series of news clips in a space of a couple of minutes at the beginning, so you have to suspend all belief in quick time because the director thinks you are not interested in any exposition, and you just want to see aliens being blown up and humans having their bodies dismembered.

Sadly, action does not equal plot.

6 out of 10

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