Updated: Jan 8
As a dude with a love of scifi action movies, who grew up on "The Terminator" and "Aliens," I can honestly say that finding good movies is kind of a chore. Add to this epic level quest shit a wife who isn't the biggest fan of the genre, with a family life that precludes me watching a ton of movies and getting my fix for the genre can be challenging to say the least. So when I get an opportunity to watch a movie by myself, I want it to be a good one that leaves me semi euphoric and that hits me where it counts.
"Tomorrow War," while it has spiffy special effects and really good acting- Totally filled that ticket with a vengeance.
Spoilers- you've been warned. Proceed at your own risk (or watch the movie now and then come back and read this later, you're call).
Now, to be totally honest- why the hell would you send people from the past to the future to fight a war when you can just PREPARE like the dickens for thirty years and ambush the invaders when they make planet fall is beyond me. But, to be fair to Hollywood, this isn't all that far a stretch when you think about it a minute. Having bodies to throw at the problem is always nice, and the way that the time travel works remains consistent as to WHY they don't have time to just train up all the people they're sending forward to battle the invaders. This leads to some pretty major SNAFUs that I'll detail in a different post (maybe even in a renewed Leadership Podcast), so I won't hammer on the mundane details of the things that are iffy, and instead give you my thoughts on why this movie is Grade A scifi fun.
First off, you need to understand what the movie is. Yes, it's an alien invasion movie. In that regard it's just like Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, Starship Troopers, and any other man versus alien/bug movie you can think of. But what it does that is unique is blend lots of elements that we've seen before in a way that grabs your attention and makes you want to finish the film. If I had to boil it down into a single sentence, it'd be this: Time Cop (TC) meets Starship Troopers (SST) meets World War Z (WWZ). No joke. It has all these elements within the context of the film. But why is important.
The protagonist Dan Forester, played by Chris Pratt, is a loving and doting family man and combat vet now teaching high school biology. He's got a mundane job with a rather unique set of skills. In this way he's like Brad Pitt's character in WWZ and Van Damme's character in TC. He's got a daughter he must save, and a life he wishes to protect and he's willing to go through anything he has to in order to succeed. Forester's drive comes from without as much as from within as he digs deep and barrel's into the impossible to save the life of his daughter. Given a second chance to save the day, the main character takes it with predictable results (because Dad's are freaking animals when they're kids are threatened).
Also like WWZ and SST, the alien invaders are swarming monsters that are very immune to small arms fire (unless they're shot in specific points) that have the added benefit of a ranged attack (YIKES!). Swarming fast attack bugs with spine throwing weapons... That's a pretty deadly enemy, and they reproduce fast enough to be a tangible threat. One review claimed they were the kinds of aliens that a 10 year old would design. I disagree (more on that in a little bit).
Following the SST template a little further, everyone in the film is armed with basic rifles, and sidearms. They have limited, if any, training and they're being thrown into the mix against an enemy they don't truly understand (because, reasons- more on that later). Like Rico and his cronies in the invasion of Klendathu, our heroe's are thrust into a shit show from the word go and are all but massacred in rather short order by Murphy and the enemy. Yes, right away bad luck strikes and turns many a drafted soldier to paste (they start with an "all is lost" style moment). Yet, there's a strong call to duty within the context of the film that doesn't come across as "YUT YUT AMERICA!" but still points to the ideal nature of what we want our warrior class to symbolize. Couple this with a script that doesn't follow too closely the Star Wars template of success, and you have a pretty damned good combination for a good nail biting experience.
Duty, honor, courage- the whole litany of things that we should idolize when we think of the warrior on the battlefield are brought forward for us to think on. Sacrifice for our fellows even when our best interests would be served by cutting them loose and running for our lives. Steadfastness in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Positive thought when all around is dark. These are what we look for, and in Chris Pratt's character we find it- just like we did with Razchak and Rico. Never Quit is there in spades.
As to the actual antagonist force, the "White Spikes," as they're name implies, they're white and they throw spikes. As is a trope within Scifi movies, they are analogous to bugs, but only just. Yes, there are "queens" for lack of a better term, but at this point the analogy breaks down. We actually got some thing kind of unique. Sure, there is a "mothership" that needs to be destroyed, but it doesn't feel forced. It's not a "destroy the mothership" so much as it's a "get to the beach head and close it." Unlike Edge of Tomorrow, or Battle LA, or Independence Day, or Star Wars, when the ship is destroyed that doesn't end the problem, and it doesn't come about in the standard way.
Yes, the alien ship is destroyed, but there is a still a chance after the ship is knocked out that the invasion could go off anyway thanks to an escaped alien. Yes, this follows other tropes, but in this instance it doesn't feel forced. This is partially due to some rather well delivered humorous elements stacked against other absurd elements that feel real. I can totally see governments of various nations refusing to work together when all seems lost and prick politicians spinning webs of bullshit to cover their ineptitude (see reality on that one). I can also see governments hiding the reality of the situation from the general public to get people to actually go along with the "big ask."
One scene every geek with get occurs near the finale which I will simply call "the high schooler saves the day" scene, and leave it at that. Suffice to say that this scene breaks the forth wall in a clever way, points out the absurdity of what we're watching play out, and asks us to go along with it. It's a great little snippet that does a lot within the film, and who can say no to a high school volcano enthusiast getting to be the hero?
In summation, this film uses tropes and cliche's well, in a style that at times echoes serious anti-war movies, Marvel flicks, and brain bending time shit to tell a story of a father's love for his daughter. Being a dad myself, there were moments where I must have gotten something in my eye... It tugs the heart strings, it punches your adrenal glands, and leaves you with a solid ending that, while it hits you over the head, is a message we all need to hear.
For these reasons, I give "Tomorrow War" a solid five stars.
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