Maybe I was just Mr. Grumpy pants when I was watching this film.
Perhaps I just was not giving The Tomorrow War a fair opportunity to try to be a semi fun time travel film. I do confess that I can overthink a lot at movies, but it did not take me a long time to realize this film should have stayed in the future. The very, very distant future.
The film itself starts off in present day (well, technically 2022), where we meet Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a former soldier turned Biology teacher (all respect to Chris Pratt, but who would ever expect Chris Pratt as a High School Biology teacher?). He is watching a soccer match with his wife (Betty Gilpin) and young daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) at a Christmas party when, all of a sudden, a portal opens up on the soccer field. In pops a handful of soldiers, saying they are from the year 2051. These future soldiers explain that they are losing a war against an alien force and need more fighters.
Fast forward a year later, and the “draft” has not been going so well. There is no time to train the draftees, and even though they are serving for one week, only 20% survive. When he is drafted, Dan is still teaching, staying a family man, but with one exception: He wants nothing to do with his dad (J.K. Simmons), a Vietnam vet. We soon find out that, in order to avoid a paradox, those drafted are the ones who are already going to have died before the titular war has started. When we get to the future, Dan teams up with a Colonel (Yvonne Strahovski), who is…I won’t spoil, but it is not that big a shock when you find out.
The concept of this film is respectable enough: having modern day adults fighting for the future of their children and grandchildren. It’s the mechanics of how it is executed that make it faulter. For example, when we first see the future soldiers arrive, they do so by walking on the soccer field. Yet when we see the rest of the time traveling portals, they are dropping from the sky. It should not take too long to understand why so many of the draftees don’t make it back alive (especially since the film opens on Dan Forester and company jumping forward in time, and we see where they are landing.)
(Note: I was later informed that I missed the part where it was said they screwed up the location of the landing just as Dan was being transferred.)
I have already gone into the plot the best I could without going too far, but it is especially where the film faulters the most, in that the plot is all over the place. It takes the audience nearly as long as Forester does to find out what the heck he is supposed to be doing in the future other than fight aliens. It also does not take a genius to find out who Dan is going to begrudgingly need help from in the final act of the film.
Parents, the film does have some bad language that is standard for a PG-13 film, including one F bomb. There is no sexual content aside from suggestive dialogue. The aliens may seem scary, but are nothing that will frighten anyone as young as a preteen.
From what I remember, my first introduction to the concept of time travel came from either Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) or the first Terminator films (I somehow did not discover Back to the Future until later on in life). The idea of time travel has always been something I have been a fan of (a self-proclaimed Whovian here!), when it is done right. They can be action, such as Tenet (2020) or Avengers: Endgame (2019). They can be romantic, such as Your Name (2016) and About Time (2013), but each one does what they can to stand out on their own.
The Tomorrow War is so mediocre I took this sentence out of the preceding paragraph, so as not to have it grouped with the aforementioned films.