The Tomorrow War Is Not What You Would Expect
The Tomorrow War has a fantastic premise, talented actors, and stellar effects, yet it never comes together properly. The enthusiasm for its own appeal wanes, and it becomes a shell of a movie, running on formula and tropes.
The major culprit for this is the outward appearance of being a horror-lite alien invasion movie, but really being an allegory for climate change. Climate change is a topic worth exploring, but it overwhelms this film. The allegory loses subtlety and cohesion at a rapid pace. Subtext morphs into pure text. The movie is not built for it.
The Movie Has A Message And It’s Saying It Loudly
The overexposed hand of the writer even extends from this and becomes endemic to the entire back half. The plot detail payoffs and character arc culminations happen with the subtlety of a brick. For a movie with people ripped in half on screen, it doesn’t seem to expect the audience to be old enough to get its plotlines. Characters announce, out loud, their arc resolutions, and it’s cheesy as all heck.
But I said there were positive things in this movie, and I meant it. The biggest draw is the aliens, the “White Spikes.” The extended buildup, the suspense right before their first attack, and their visual design are all masterful. One of the scariest monsters ever done outside pure horror. They are believably world-ending.
The Tomorrow War Has The Coolest Alien Designs
And this makes the battle scenes tense and engaging. The danger is concrete, and you feel it along with the characters. If you wanted to see Starship Troopers’ first bug fight with modern weapons and much closer quarters, this captures the same sensation. The Tomorrow War is the best version of itself during the first skirmish. I want a whole movie like that—but that’s not The Tomorrow War. Instead, the plot went into hyperdrive and became a different kind of alien invasion movie.
This manifests in two ways, locked in a feedback loop. The Tomorrow War has a tone problem and an odd approach to pacing. The first is by far the more significant detractor. Levity works in something like Marvel’s campy world, especially in stuff like Spider-Man, but people die a lot in The Tomorrow War. They die fast and brutal and screaming. And then, once the corpses are off-screen, someone makes a joke. This is the same film that spends a lot of words emphasizing how doomed humanity is. The same one focused on the horrors of war, battlefield injuries, and societal collapse.
The Movie Strikes A Darker Tone Only To Butcher It
The quick pacing, however, is less an overall bad choice and more a symptom of a large story already too long. Its quick-fire approach is necessary for engagement. We know that our main character gets drafted, so anything delaying that feels mostly pointless. But, once we get things rolling, and that one amazing skirmish scene happens, it devolves into vignettes. A deluge of vignettes that almost loses the main character in the shuffle of “important things that must happen for the plot to end.” Some of them don’t even feel like they come from the same movie.
Now, you may have noticed I’ve yet to discuss the characters in any depth. That’s not for an overly negative reason. The cast is fine—the child acting is good. Chris Pratt is enjoyable as always. I didn’t dislike anyone’s performance. There are odd lines of dialog and under-explored motivations, but it’s serviceable enough. The point of this movie is to get across a message through the lens of an alien invasion, and I rooted for the characters to not die to aliens. That’s about all you can expect.
And the expectations you go into The Tomorrow War with matter a lot. I went in assuming interesting time paradoxes. I had it spoiled there were dark moments. That’s what I expected, and The Tomorrow War didn’t fully commit to either of those. It’s a summer action movie full of explosions, snarling monsters, and broadly likable characters. Watch it if you like the alien invasion subgenre, but you’re not missing much if you skip it.
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