‘The Tomorrow War’ script suffers from a bad case of Screenplay 101-itis

Jul 2, 2021, 7:55 AM

Of all the hunky movie stars named Chris (Evans, Hemsworth, Pine, Pratt), Chris Pratt is the funny one, the goofy one, the everyman whose personality trumps his brawn. It was Pratt who turned a Marvel afterthought, Guardians of the Galaxy, into perhaps the most influential of all the Marvel Comics movies. How? By injecting a free-wheeling sense of comedy into the otherwise heroic proceedings.

‘F9’ shows ‘Fast and Furious’ filmmakers can’t even take themselves seriously

In Pratt’s latest movie, The Tomorrow War, which he also executive produced, he is again very heroic but, sadly, personality-free. His character makes a few half-hearted attempts at humor but they fall mostly flat. His character, Iraq-War vet Dan Forester is, most of all, earnest and pained and brave and bland. It’s hard to imagine why Pratt would want to take on this role, which has little use for his natural charm and easy-going personality.

Pratt has said he wanted to find material that was original. And the film deserves some credit, I suppose, for NOT being based on a book, a comic strip, a video game, or another movie. But what it does draw on seems to be every generic sci-fi/creature feature movie convention ever concocted. That’s not what “original” should mean. Good source material would be preferable to this mish-mash of the trite and the overly familiar.

I fault the screenplay more than the actors or director, and that might not even be the screenwriter’s fault. Apparently, the first script was deemed too Children of Men dark and the decision was made to go more Independence Day light. In the end, the film does justice to neither movie.

The plot begins with a promising time travel premise. Humans from the 2050s interrupt our lives as we know them to inform us that the human race is losing a war with aliens. Humanity has been nearly wiped out in the future and what our eventual descendants need are more bodies to fight. Hence, a mandatory worldwide universal draft is instituted immediately. The draftees time-travel to the future to fight the aliens for seven days. If they survive the week, they’re returned to present-day Earth. The downside? Only 30% survive.

Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) has to leave behind his wife and young daughter when he’s drafted, and the rest of the film consists of him battling hellacious aliens called White Spikes. His (and humanity’s) odds look grim when he lands in the future, and they seem to get grimmer and grimmer as the movie goes on. But these giant, fast, creepy-crawler creatures with voracious appetites and long spiky-ended tentacles at least provide the movie with an engaging enemy.

What the film does best is keep the tension up. The audience is on high-alert for the duration of this overly long (2 hours and 20 minutes!) extravaganza. Granted, at times it may feel more like a video game, but mostly the elaborate action set-pieces are pleasingly effective adrenaline rushes.

So, what’s not to like?

The script suffers from a bad case of Screenplay 101-itis. Embarrassingly heavy-handed foreshadowing, too obvious character arcs, abrupt interjections of lengthy conversations about personal feelings in the midst of perpetual life-and-death battles, and an embarrassing “lessons learned” platitude at the end of the movie that’s a real groaner.

The real lesson learned? Stick to the creature feature next time and leave humanity out of it. The future will thank you.

The Tomorrow War was originally slated as a Christmas 2020 release for Paramount. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paramount sold the movie to Amazon Studios, which is releasing it on Amazon Prime on July 2, 2021.

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

Tom Tangney

Last Duel...
Tom Tangney

Poor Marguerite’s story saves ‘The Last Duel’

Tom Tangney says, ultimately, The Last Duel is a proto-feminist take on the Middle Ages with Marguerite's take that brings the film into focus.
3 days ago
James Bond...
Tom Tangney

Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie comes full-circle

The 25th installment in the James Bond movie franchise may be titled "No Time to Die," but "Too Much Time to Die" may be more fitting.
11 days ago
Egyptian Theater...
Tom Tangney

Seattle’s Egyptian Theater hosts SIFF’s first ever documentary film festival

Seattle's Egyptian Theater is hosting SIFF's first ever documentary film festival. Dubbed DocFest, the weeklong festival features 13 separate titles.
18 days ago
Tom Tangney

A letter: ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ the movie

Dear Evan Hansen, The Movie: I'm sorry I didn't like you as much as you wanted me to. I tried, I really, really tried.
24 days ago
nine days...
Tom Tangney

‘Nine Days’ is about as life-affirming a movie as there can be

Nine days to live. That's the premise of this new, refreshingly original movie called "Nine Days." But that premise is not what you think.
2 months ago
Tom Tangney

‘Stillwater’ does not run deep enough

Written and directed by Oscar-winning Tom McCarthy, 'Stillwater' is a contemporary story about a father's attempt to free his daughter from a French prison. 
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles


How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
‘The Tomorrow War’ script suffers from a bad case of Screenplay 101-itis