The Tomorrow War (2021)
"I hate to agree with conspiracy Santa..."
Based on some very lacklustre trailers, tepid promotional artwork, and it's direct to streaming nature, this had me sharpening my critical knives prior to viewing. I'm unexpectedly happy to report that it's more than worth your time if you're a fan of the genre. Although it never gets much beyond it's premise of Chris Pratt Vs Aliens, it never takes itself too seriously and has more than a bit of fun with it's other obvious cinematic references. There's a whole host titles which have material plundered from them including Stargate, Edge Of Tomorrow, Aliens, Apocalypse Now and (of course) Independence Day. If you're to borrow from elsewhere, that isn't a bad selection to go with. Elements of wishy-washy sci-fi flick Battle : Los Angeles are also present and correct, but fortunately this is streets ahead of the Aaron Eckhart misfire.
The action setpieces are sporadically very impressive, and you can't fault it's ambition as it has very a global feel to the proceedings. The rousing score by Lorne Balfe is a nice addition, and doesn't get lost in the mass of explosions and gunfire.
Director Chris McKay handles himself well given the super generic nature of things, ensuring that it's always anything but dull considering it's 138 minute running time.
The Dolby Atmos track is used to great effect during the more combat heavy moments, and as beasties screech and military hardware flies overhead. ,
Chris Pratt is, well Chris Pratt, but it's a definite step up from his vanilla raptor whisperer Owen Grady, with less wisecracks, and way more badassery. Speaking of which, J.K. Simmons, looking twice his usual size, gets to make his presence felt, despite having limited screen time. He's a joy to watch, and genuinely looking like he could wipe the floor with characters twenty years his junior. Nice to see 24's Mary Lynne Rajskub pop up in a supporting role too.
It's certainly all very silly and is never very taxing on the old grey matter. Any kind of detailed analysis, and it falls apart. One exposition scene at a high school had me chuckling away at it's outrageousness.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first act as the dread builds with characters being conscripted to fight, up against completely unknown factors, with the odds stacked against mankind. The film surprises with a strong second act, and it's sudden shift into different territory with it's third. It all works a treat though, and ;left me smiling as it got suitably (and inevitably) bonkers. There's a particularly glorious death scene for one character that stays in the mind, and makes full use of some heavy cg work. There's also a little world building late on, and I'd happily watch a sequel, but as a standalone adventure, it works to a tee. The title is still lame, but then it's still preferable to the original choice - Ghost Draft.
Make no mistake, this is all far from high art (and has some very unsubtle political messages), but as a big budget action sci-fi, it delivers on spectacle, thrills and I wouldn't have felt short changed from a cinema visit.