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The Tomorrow War, a review

My 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime (they keep offering me free trials, even after I’ve cancelled multiple times) gave me a chance to watch The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, and J. K. Simmons. I’m not going to say it was a total waste of 2+ hours, but it was mighty close.

Too long, didn’t read: I would only recommend The Tomorrow War to people who love Chris Pratt and don’t need their movies to make sense or have cool action scenes. If you just want Chris Pratt to be heroic, here you go. There’re some great J. K. Simmons moments, and the acting is generally good, but the writing is horrible. I give this 2 xenomorphs way smarter than people out of 5. I watched this so you wouldn’t have to.

The Tomorrow War official poster with Chris Pratt looking suitably heroic

Without spoiling too much, in The Tomorrow War, soldiers from the future come back to beg the modern world’s help to fight a war against aliens in the future which humanity is most definitely losing. A worldwide draft is instituted and Chris Pratt’s character—a former soldier and scientist—is conscripted for his seven-day tour of duty.

Yes. Seven. Days.

And that is just the start of the problems with this movie. Without getting into spoilers, it fits six pounds of stupid into a five-pound bag. That might be a bit harsh—though only a bit—but this movie is the ur-example of the idiot plot. This story only works if literally everybody—every. body—is an idiot.

People say “just turn off your brain and enjoy,” but the level of brain disconnect it would take for me to enjoy this movie would leave me comatose at best.

This movie is ostensibly about time travel, but ignores the very basics of causality. The people’s lives in the future were not affected by the draft to support their war, meaning that in the timeline of the people in the future, no contact was made in the past. This means that whatever future the people sent forward are fighting for, it is not their own. We have multiple incidents in which actions should have affected or influenced the timeline, but do not. The very plan to win the war revealed just before the half-way point ignores this—it cannot win the war the people are fighting.

Also, the story suggests that absolutely no one would investigate the situation in the future, or that any governments or private organizations would take information provided from those who survived the war in the future and return after their SEVEN DAY tour of duty, and seek to provide input to future strategy or seek to alter conditions in the present to increase the likelihood of success in that future.

The entire strategy consists of sending people into the future for seven-day rotations. That’s it. There is no military leader—or, frankly, anyone who thought about that strategy for more than five minutes—who would agree to this plan. It is simply wasting lives. This makes the first years of the World War I look like an example of flexible and practical planning.

And have I mentioned the training regime? No? Because there basically isn’t any. There aren’t uniforms, there aren’t plans, there’s some basic firearm drills and then people are dropped into the war.

Built to fail.

None of this makes any sense. It is literally throwing bodies at a problem. Some people might argue that the military is stupid or slow to adopt new ideas or whatever. I would disagree, but even if you believe that, this is counter to the evidence of the last couple of decades, in which the US has been involved in two different wars and countless conflicts. Its plans may generally fail, and its goals may not shift, but it has tried multiple strategies and has sought to adapt to the situation on the ground.

And this might be okay if the action scenes were cool. They aren’t. Sometimes a plot won’t make sense but the action is amazing, so I’m okay with it. Sometimes the action is pedestrian but the story is gripping, and I’m okay with that. This movie has got neither. It’s a lot of spraying and praying that is effective when the movie needs it to be effective and ineffective otherwise. There’s very little tension in the movie, and what tension there is comes from the ability of the excellent actors to sell their situation.

The aliens are very much like the xenomorphs in the Alien franchise, altered to avoid copyright. I can’t help but think the writers—who really seem to have enjoyed that franchise—should have watched Aliens a few more times and much more closely. It seems all they took from that movie was that swarming aliens that can eat you are cool, and having soldiers fighting them is even cooler. It’s just not enough.

So, is there anything good about this movie? The cast is solid. Even the child actor does a good job. They just aren’t given anything to work with. J. K. Simmons gets the best lines at the end of the movie, and while his character’s arc is obvious from the moment he is introduced, at least it makes sense—which is a rarity in this movie.

That’s it. The actors do a great job with what they are given. This probably means the director did a great job getting good performances, but they should have also taken that kind of care with the story.