In The Tomorrow War, Chris Pratt plays Dan Forester, a former military man who has settled into a cozy domestic life, teaching high school biology and hosting bustling holiday gatherings where he and his immediately family ignore all their guests to watch televised sports. Its during one of those holly-jolly affairs that the whole planet receives the startling news that time travel is possible, because a battalion from around thirty years in the future materializes on the field of a World Cup match to announce that the human population from their era has been devastated by invading space creatures. More than a warning, the bulletin from the middle of the twenty-first century doubles as the announcement of a very retroactive draft. Uncle Future wants them.
From that beginning, The Tomorrow War careens through empty-headed action dolled up in science-fiction makeup. Dan is naturally one of the early recruits, cast into the pending war zone with a ragtag crew, some of them providing low-simmer dramatic conflict and some providing comic relief (Sam Richardson does the heavy lifting with the latter responsibility). Chris McKay directs most of the action with the numbing plainness of a first-person shooter video game; as the flailing aliens and blown to shards by a barrage of gunfire, it’s almost surprising that scores don’t materialize atop the digitized gore. There’s a leaden, poorly develop analogy to the current dangers associated with climate change, and the drama lazily relies on shortcut familial discord. The film is witless and markedly drab. There’s no clearer indication that the filmmakers are squandering every possibility before them than the fact that the most inventive actors in the cast — notably Betty Gilpin and J.K. Simmons — are given the least to do.
The Tomorrow War was once intended to be a splashy attempt by Paramount Pictures to launch a new bigscreen franchise without the benefit of a fully stocked toy chest of fantastical concepts beta tested in comic books or other media. The upending of film exhibition over the course of the past year understandably scuttled those plans, and they shunted it off to Amazon. Under the best of circumstances, this is a project worth giving up on. There’s just no future in it.