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The Tomorrow War

Year: 2021
Production Co: Skydance
Studio: Amazon
Director: Chris McKay
Writer: Zach Dean
Cast: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Sam Richardson, J K Simmons, Betty Gilpin

As I write this review I'm only just watching Parks & Recreation almost a decade after it first came out and it's interesting seeing the persona Chris Pratt's early career was all about - a shlubby, unkempt manboy. I think he always had designs on being a ripped, scowling action hero despite his comic chops, and it's that wish fulfilment that's on offer here as Pratt stares balefully, never smiles, runs around shooting CGI monsters and doesn't do much else.

He plays Dan, a teacher and former soldier who loves his cute preteen daughter and wife dearly but when we meet him he's got his fingers crossed about a job in an Army Research facility, falling into a funk when he misses out on it.

That same night, while watching an international soccer game at a party, he and his family and friends are shocked to see battalions of apparent soldiers appear on the soccer field in camo garb carrying scary weapons out of thin air. As the world watches, stunned, their spokesperson announces that they're from the future – humanity has figured out how to send people back and forward though time, and that they've come back 30 years to ask for help fighting a war against alien monsters, one they're badly losing.

A little while after, the technology to send soldiers forward for the war effort is entrenched and a worldwide draft has been instituted, and with Dan's military background it's not long before he's called up.

So in short order he, comic relief Charlie (Sam Richardson, the hero from Werewolves Within) and a bunch of others report for basic training before they're whisked off to a huge pad where a wormhole opens above them, flinging them to the year 2051 and letting them go high above the streets of a devastated Miami because of some programming error. Bodies splatter onto roads and rooftops but Dan is one of the lucky ones, landing in a rooftop pool and surviving to see the ruined city around them.

It's already too late to defend Miami so their mission changes to the rescue of a group of scientists in a lab somewhere who have a clue about defeating the monsters. And it's while the team infiltrates and extracts the Macguffin they've come for that we meet their antagonists. The creatures, called whitespikes, are scary and effective enough but as far as CGI monster/animal/alien creatures for humanity to battle go, they're mostly indivisible from those of The Great Wall, Edge of Tomorrow and a dozen other Alien rip-offs.

When the military bombs the city with only seconds to spare, Dan and his few surviving teammates are flown to the Dominican Republic for their proper debriefing and assignment, and the stoic female officer Muri (Yvonne Strahovski) who handles him turns out to be his daughter, now grown up. I'm not sure if that's a spoiler – if it is, it isn't very well hidden and I guessed it from the first trailer.

The effort to develop a toxin that will kill the creatures has borne fruit, and Muri leads Dan to a hole in the ground where they're trying to trap a female of the species, which are larger and much more dangerous than the males.

They secure the monster but are besieged with males coming to her rescue, only just getting out by the skin of their teeth and landing on a remote beach where the film can have its emotional Hollywood moment between father and daughter.

From there the action zips along to an oil rig offshore where they conduct further experiments on the queen and where the time travel equipment is also located (because that'll never go wrong). When the proverbial hits the fan, Dan is thrust back to the present, the link with the future broken and the world assuming the war in the future is now lost.

But Dan and his surviving friends figure out a much darker origin for their enemy, and he leads a Han Solo-ish fool's errand to the far northern slopes of Russia to put an end to the threat once and for all.

It's all a very old school adventure movie throwback with inch-deep themes and a ham fisted relationship drama attempting to prop up anything without any aliens or explosions. It's a series of set pieces loosely threaded together using a plot, all of it made with lashings of VFX and paper thin characters not designed to last much beyond the end of the flick in your memory. But although it's bloody silly and takes itself way too seriously, it's just buoyant enough to be fun.

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