There is a question that hangs heavy over The Tomorrow War. It’s not “What do these people from the future really want?” although that would have been an interesting avenue of inquiry if the film had taken a different track. It’s not “Where do these ravening aliens come from?” although that question drives the plot, at least for the back third or so. No, it’s “Why is this fucking thing almost two and a half hours long?”
For real, at a tight (well, tighter) 110 minutes or thereabouts, The Tomorrow War would be a serviceable, if somewhat generic military sci-fi actioner that does the job it sets out to do efficiently if without much flair. And there’s an audience that looks at the film in its actual released form and sees that — I’ve seen ‘em on Twitter. From where I’m standing, however, The Tomorrow War is flabby, turgid, and muddled. There are moments that rock and elements that intrigue, but the former lose their impact through repetition (this movie well and truly proves that “more” is not a synonym of “better”) while the latter get lost in a lot of … well, just a lot of stuff.
But first, let’s meet our hero, high school science teacher, and former Green Beret (of course) Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), who’s in a bit of a rut career-wise. Still, at least he has a loving wife, Emmy (an underutilized Betty Gilpin), and cute daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), although he’s alienated from his father, James (J.K. Simmons), who’s a bit of a Ruby Ridge-ish anti-government survival nut.
Dan’s personal problems take a backseat, though, when a platoon of time-travelers appear during the 2022 World Cup (!) and announce that, 30-ish years in the future, all of humanity is on the brink of extinction due to an invasion by aliens called Whitespikes (if they explained why, I missed it), and they’re here to start recruiting past people to help fight the war in the future. This is, at least as portrayed in the film, accepted more or less at face value (lord knows how), but when the world’s militaries are absolutely decimated, a global draft is instituted to keep throwing people into the meat grinder. Cut to a year later, and while protests against the draft are on the rise, Dan’s number comes up, and he’s off to the war in 2051 (or possibly 2052, as the clock in San Dimas is always ticking, as the film takes a moment to explain).