Chris Pratt is fighting for our future.
That’s basically the premise of his new Amazon Prime adventure, The Tomorrow War. He’s also one of the last nice guys in Hollywood.
The film stars Pratt as a former soldier turned teacher who, like most of the world, is minding his own business when a group of humans from the future emerges, just as a Brazilian player is about to score in the World Cup, to tell humanity that aliens will invade in about 30 years and are threatening to wipe us all out. I wish they’d have waited until after the poor guy scored the goal, but war for the survival of humanity is an urgent thing.
Future humanity needs present humanity to fight the aliens. They’ve figured out a means of time travel and a way to avoid time-travel paradoxes. I’m in.
The Tomorrow War is a summer action flick full of horrifying aliens, action combat, perils, and thrills. It also contains a couple of stories within the story and a kind of false ending, and, since it is a summer film, a plot hole or two that don’t get in the way too much.
I mean, it’s not like we’re dealing with the gaping plot messes within messes of the Star Wars sequel films, which, in my mind, no longer exist.
Pratt’s a very solid action star now, a long way from the pudgy Andy on Parks & Rec. He can carry a Marvel subfranchise, the Jurassic World franchise, and pretty much anything else he decides to do. Spielberg and Lucas could hand him Indiana Jones’s whip and a fedora at this point and I wouldn’t object. The Tomorrow War sees him fight to save the world and his family, with none of the heavy-handed political messaging that Hollywood can’t seem to avoid now. That by itself makes The Tomorrow War a pleasure to watch. Maybe I’m jaded now, but just the absence of politics in movies makes me love said movies. A movie that actually agrees with any of my beliefs amounts to a unicorn caught piloting a UFO.
Throw in some of the ugliest, most inhuman monsters this side of an NEA luncheon for Pratt and the humans to fight, make them dangerous and feral, fast and powerful, and hungry, and you’ve got suitable alien enemies. Godzilla might even look away after getting his first look at them.
Tomorrow War’s monsters are truly, wonderfully horrifying. They have the ability to launch projectile bone spikes out of vine-line appendages at bullet speed. Nasty things. They bring some of the Aliens and Starship Troopers vibe to The Tomorrow War in the right way. The “whitespikes” are nightmare fuel. The monster designers outdid themselves.
In addition to non-stop action and just enough of a plot for the war to make sense, The Tomorrow War has a nice little story about family and redemption tucked into it. Dan Forester (Pratt) is both a father and a son. That can get complicated. The family here isn’t dysfunctional, Dan isn’t abusive or horrible despite the absence of his own father (played very crustily by J.K. Simmons). The daughter Muri isn’t a wiser-than-the-adults cynic by age 9. They care about each other in a real way. But they’re imperfect. And they help each other. They’re scared when the inevitable draft to the war comes. The draftee survival rate isn’t good. The family story gives the war story much more meaning, much more to fight for.
If anyone from Hollywood happens to read this, that’s a nice thing to see. We care about our families.
It’s also nice to see Americans of all backgrounds getting together, arming up, and going to battle with waves of aliens. Pratt, Betty Gilpin, Jasmine Mathews, Sam Richardson, Yvonne Strahovski, Edwin Hodge, and others all deliver strong performances.
There’s some Independence Day in this film — simple, straightforward, “let’s watch humans (mostly Americans) unite and deal with a terrible alien menace and fight to win.” There’s no whining here. No “oppressor-oppressed” nonsense. No “but they’re just misunderstood, ravenous aliens.”
People. Guns. Really ugly and hungry aliens. Some assembly required.
Critics have mostly panned the film (55% on Rotten Tomatoes). Apparently, they want lectures where we used to get adventures. But everyday folks are giving it a better score (81%) and it’s doing well on Prime—very well, according to a thankful Chris Pratt.
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The Tomorrow War is a satisfying, fun throwback to better times. Watch it. I’m on my second viewing as I write this.
Enjoy your nightmares.