I’ve always found soccer boring. So I chuckled when this movie started with a party in which Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is watching the World Cup final, and even though he’s upset about not getting a job he wanted...he sits next to his daughter on the couch and smiles. The game is interrupted when humans from the future show up in a wormhole in the middle of the field, talking about imminent doom from the White Spikes, a band I saw at the Casbah before they broke big. Oh wait. That was the White Stripes. It’s all so confusing. Anyway, these “white spikes” aliens were pretty scary looking. They looked like those weird microorganisms you see in a microscope when they’re photos are blown up to a bigger size. They have octopus-like limbs that shoot white spikes at the victims. It’s always fun when filmmakers come up with interesting looking aliens.
These humans from the future don’t want soccer players to come join them to kick the aliens into oblivion. It’s regular citizens that will soon be drafted to fight. And remember how Snake Pliskin was shot with a device that tracked him when he had to escape from New York? In this, the military equips the recruits with a metal sleeve so they can’t just go AWOL. They also tell you that only 30% come back after their seven day tour of duty. [one of my pet peeves in movies was done here; the military personal acting so rude when Forester tried asking simple questions]
Now, me being a “glass is half full” kinda guy, I would’ve been less angry I didn’t get that job in the beginning of the movie.
Forester goes to see his father (J.K. Simmons) whom he’s estranged from. Simmons, who is brilliant in everything he does, talks about how the kid only shows up when he wants something. You see, he has a special set of skills. He can remove the sleeve from his son’s arm. He also provides some levity (his line about Stevie Nicks, a jar of pickles, and baby oil...still makes me laugh as much as his great lines in Palm Springs earlier this year).
Of course we know Forester is going to end up fighting the good fight. We’re told he’s an Army veteran who served a few previous tours, and is now a high school teacher. We also know that he’ll come to realize why his dad had such a hard time upon returning from Vietnam. We can also easily figure out why the nerdy guy that wants to talk about volcanoes in class, will have something to add later in the film. Look, this is all rather predictable, cliche stuff. In fact, the title and premise even sounds like Edge of Tomorrow (a terrific sci-fi action picture). It also borrows a bit from Interstellar, with a dash of 12 Monkeys, World War Z, and Terminator. Here’s what’s funny, though. I hated Independence Day, and all my friends (and fellow critics) liked it. Yet I’m sure most of the critics won’t care for this. And I get that. It’s long, and the 3rd act is a bit of a mess. But I will declare this on this Independence Day -- Tomorrow War is the better film.
The reason this was serviceable are three of the lead actors. Simmons, whom I’ve never seen give a bad performance, makes any movie he’s in better.
Pratt, who I’m not the biggest fan of, as I’m tired of his goofball Star Lord or Office character...pulls off a “regular guy” who is also a tough guy. And there’s Sam Richardson, who my wife joked when he first showed up at boot camp, “Oh, the chubby black guy making jokes. He’s going to be the one they kill off.”
He brought some good comedic relief, and I was reminded of his small but great role as one of the fathers in Good Boys.
The other African American soldier is tough, and has been back numerous times to fight the aliens. He even wears a white spike around his neck. He’s played well by Edwin Hodge (ThePurge).
It was disappointing that interesting comedian/actress Mary Lynn Rajskub (24) wasn’t given all that much to do.
Director Chris McKay (The Lego movies) does a decent job with this film, which was originally slated for theatrical release. It’s a shame it didn’t make it to the theatres, because it would have done well. Just thinking about the scene where the drafted soldiers are being dropped into the future, in a much different way than they were told, would be worth the price of admission.
So while you know exactly where this picture is going, it’s still cheesy summer fun. And since you can watch it at home instead of theatres, I’ll refrain from calling it a popcorn flick (unless you want to microwave one of those crappy bags).
2 ½ stars out of 5. You can catch this on Amazon Prime.