“Is that Chris Pine?” My mom asked while we watched the Tomorrow War trailer two weeks before its release. “No this is Chris Pratt, the guy from Parks and Rec,” I answered back. She responded back “wowww he looks different.” I can’t be prouder for someone making the acting 180 from dumpy Andy on Parks and Rec to poised and ripped protagonist James Daniel Forrester. The Tomorrow War was poised to be an action blockbuster and tentpole type movie for Amazon Prime *cue suspenseful sound effects*… it actually lives up to this hype with originality, action that is somehow visceral and PG-13, and a shining cast of characters.
The story takes place in 2040. While the world is watching the NFL during the holiday season they get an impromptu visit from time travellers from 30 years in the future who warn them of an impending war with an set of unknown aliens that is pushing humanity to the brink. The reason for this post-apocalyptic visit is that they want to recruit humans from 2030 to fight the battle in 2050 through a futuristic time portal. Sounds like a blockbuster clusterfuck right? But they are able to hit on every note and walk that tightrope of a kick ass blockbuster movie and C grade streaming sci fi movie with heart.
Chris Pratt shines and brings some type of depth to his character James Daniel Forrester, who is watching that aforementioned plea from the future during an NFL game right after realizing he did not get a highly sought after scientific lab job and that he’ll be a high school science teacher for at least the foreseeable future (talk about a shitty day). But from this point to the very end of the movie, Tomorrow War is able to execute what a lot of action movies do not get right nowadays and that is pacing. The pacing for this film doesn’t take you in too quick or too slow but hits a sweet spot. The director of Tomorrow War, Chris McKay, is known for directing The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Movie (which are great movies and not just for kids) and he brings over that level of pacing to the live action movie genre. While other action movies try to get you over the top right away *cough cough* Fast and Furious, Tomorrow War builds you up to these huge moments and it really makes you appreciate the movie more. One of these moments is when you see the deadly aliens the humans in the future are facing, the Whitespikes.
For the first 30 minutes of the movie we just hear references to the Whitespikes and how the future human world is getting their asses handed to them in this war. But the actual reveal of the Whitespikes really hits that sweet spot of surprise and terror. While a team led by Daniel Forrester is going through an office building staircase they see glances of the aliens. Then as the team starts to panic and hear more of the aliens come, we actually see a Whitespike in all its glory. This is one of the rare times while watching a movie where the alien or monster is more terrifying than what I had imagined. The Whitespike is not only a visual horror but it is also a utilitarian horror on the battlefield as well. It is huge, has tentacles, sharp teeth and shoots spikes out of its back (hence the name Whitespikes). These creatures are also very aware of tactics and how to out maneuver the humans, which makes them even more menacing. The only thing that these aliens lack is understanding more of the reason of why they came to Earth and the details of their origins could have been explained better. But during the human-menacing first encounter with the Whitespikes it is complemented not only by the shock but the scale and quality of the set pieces throughout the movie.
The set pieces for Tomorrow War somehow stand out due to the weird twists that the actors end up arriving on them. A great example is the group of soldiers with the protagonist from the past arriving in the battle ridden future and the soldiers arriving via the sky akin to a load out battle arena on Call of Duty: Warzone. You see soldiers catapulted into the portal and arrive out of the sky plummeting to their death, falling into pools and breaking limbs. It sounds juvenile but it is so damn visually appealing. Even later on in the movie they have set pieces that really compliment the Whitespikes and allow us to get a real scale of what is happening in this future time period. Also you have all of the characters reacting to these set pieces in very realistic ways (“Well if you think this is bad, you don’t want to see what happens next”) but the characters themselves really shine as well.
The cast of characters that is included in this movie is not only entertaining but they all are able to stand out and define their niche within the context of the movie’s story telling, a feat that is way harder to achieve then it sounds. Actors like Sam Richhardson are able to be funny but also very relatable to the audience by performing these heroic feats while closing his eyes out of his fear. It is also nice to see a big tentpole movie like this cast so many talented black actors: Sam Richardson, Jasmine Matthews and Edwin Hodge play substantial roles within the plot of the movie and are able to make the movie even more relatable. While Tomorrow War isn’t perfect it takes me back to an age of 90s action movies where the set pieces and action captured your attention but they are able to update the formula and are able to cast characters that lend to its relatability similar to an Office or Parks and Rec style comedy.