The Tomorrow War (3 stars)

The Tomorrow War

Chris Pratt heads up an enjoyable sci-fi actioner focusing on a future alien invasion

'If there's one thing the world needs right now it's scientists,' intones Chris Pratt in this sci-fi actioner from the director of The Lego Batman Movie, Chris McKay, which salutes scientific endeavour in between blowing shit up. That will certainly win it fans in a pandemic and The Tomorrow War takes things a step further by unsubtly but earnestly riffing on the subject of climate change, as it asks those in the present to fight for the future. It's a bit of a hodgepodge of better, and worse, movies – including Armageddon, Starship Troopers and the Terminator and Alien franchises – but remains defiantly entertaining.

Playing military man turned science teacher Dan Forester, Pratt keeps a lid on his comedic tendencies and he's more benign here than in the Jurassic World series, making for an affable action hero. It's the year 2022 and Dan has just lost out on a much-desired research post, settling down in a sulk to watch a match from the Qatar World Cup, a game that's interrupted when soldiers from the future beam onto the pitch with a desperate plea for assistance in a war that hasn't yet begun. They're fighting ferocious alien invaders the 'white spikes' and are losing hope.

When the world's military options are exhausted, the conscription of civilians begins and Dan is jumped to the year 2051, much to the horror of his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and young daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). He finds himself fighting alongside comic relief Charlie (Sam Richardson), Edwin Hodge's formidable, three-tour veteran Dorian, and under the command of Yvonne Strahovski's colonel.

The film's tendency toward pomposity doesn't always sit well with humorous interludes and there's a lot that we've seen before, but the exciting action and apparently insurmountable odds create more than enough peril, while the contrast between the multi-limbed monsters' pale skin and their blood-red eyes and slavering jaws lends them a certain gruesomeness. The spectacle and tension can be quite thrilling after spending a year largely deprived of such bombastic fare and it's a great shame that this hasn't had a cinematic release to further its impact. If Gilpin and JK Simmons (playing Dan's estranged dad) are underused, then Strahovski is nicely cast and she shares some emotional scenes with Pratt.

Motoring through the twists and turns and featuring some hilariously cursory technical explanations, outrageous contrivances and chest-puffing heroism, The Tomorrow War is hardly rigorously thought-through, yet the nature of its story probably justifies the extended runtime and it wears it well. Don't scrutinise this one too closely, simply let its combination of lauding smarts and practising stupidity wash over you and you'll have a fine time.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 2 July.

The Tomorrow War

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 2h 20min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Chris McKay
  • Cast: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J. K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson
  • UK release: 2 July 2021

With Earth facing an alien invasion, scientists find a way to draft soldiers from the past.