Chris Pratt leads the cast of the $200m blockbuster The Tomorrow War, which is now on Prime Video – here’s our review.

Well, some news. According to the new sci-fi blockbuster The Tomorrow War, the cheery stuff is that by Christmas 2023, nobody seems to mention a pandemic. Families are mixing, there are festive lights up, and there’s nothing people want to do more than, well, watch the World Cup Final in Qatar. I can tell you without going too spoiler-y that Brazil reach the final, and have a bizarre opportunity to win the trophy when one player finds himself in an awful lot of space.

Furthermore, Brazil seem to be played Scotland in said defence, and the latter’s defence is significantly enhanced when a whole host of futuristic soldiers drop out of the sky to stop Brazil going through to score. They break up the attack, but with the slight sting in the tail of bringing the news that everybody’s going to die.

In a setup that thus’d make Roland Emmerich think his own Christmases have arrived wholesale, we’re told that people in the future need soldiers from the present, else pretty much everybody’s going to be wiped out by an alien invasion.

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That’s, genuinely, around the first 15 minutes of the film, a breathless surge of blockbuster filmmaking, crashing over logic and simply having as much fun as it can. To add to the huge futuristic disaster movie bingo, there’s an estranged father (J K Simmons this time, facial hair present and correct), a dad not spending enough time with his daughter, and lines such as “someone get a harpoon on that tentacle”. It just needed Gerard Butler to turn up, and the set would be pretty much complete. Heck, you get Theresa May and Gordon Brown as it stands, and I’ve not written that sentence on this site before.

None of this, incidentally, is made up. This is genuinely the opening segment of the movie.

This then is the astonishingly expensive The Tomorrow War, a film that was set to be one of Paramount’s huge summer tentpoles, until it flogged the film to Amazon’s Prime Video service. It’s a move that denies the movie the big screen it craves, and likely to accompaniment of sugar-filled drinks and E-number packed sweets it needs too for optimum effect.

Still, we make do with what we have, in this case Chris Pratt as a seemingly everyday teacher, who just happens to have a military background. Zach Dean’s script, I should note, is dense with revelations and explanations, some of which are more fun than others. It’s helpful that it’s married to Chris McKay’s direction, bringing much of the frantic, breakneck energy that underpinned his The LEGO Batman Movie to this.

This is actually tremendously demonstrated early on, when our present day recruits are sent into the future and arrive in quite hostile fashion. A sequence I found shocking and impactful, it’s a flat-out standout of the movie. For a good while thereafter, McKay can’t move us fast enough through what happens next, right up to the point where we meet the aliens the whole shebang is about.

Here’s where McKay fails his Michael Bay exam too, as he slows things down and tries to ratchet up the tension. Not that he holds off for long, and a fast, furious firefight – not the last – then ensues.

Much is done to keep the whole thing jollying along, even when it inevitably starts to flag. I’m game for another film that digs into early 2000s geek television and finds roles for two of its heroes of that time: Mary Lynn Rajskub (24’s Chloe, with a new haircut) and Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck’s Agent Sarah Walker). It even has a stab at explaining the rules of time travel, devoting a scene to pretty much a Q&A session about it. You’ll still be picking holes by the end, but I had to admire it having a bash.

You’ll be noting the touchpoints of a whole host of other movies too while watching this one, and there’s a sporting chance that the production team here have a DVD shelf not dissimilar to mine. To cite the films would be potential spoiler territory, so instead I’ll say this is proper throw everything at the wall old-style summer blockbuster territory.

The surprising letdown though I found to be its lead. Chris Pratt is neither short of comedic skill or scene presence, but his character here doesn’t feel like much of a character at all. I think he needs there to be one for him too: here’s not the kind of actor who coasts through, a la Stallone or Schwarzenegger, on a pre-conceived notion of what the audience is going to get. I almost felt I knew less about him by the end than I did at the start.

It doesn’t help either that The Tomorrow War feels like it finds a natural endpoint, and then picks its tools up for another 20 minutes. Perhaps, and I’m no filmmaker, cutting off much of the final finale could have saved 10% of the budget, and made the movie itself 10% better.

I can’t grumble too much with what we get though. Pretty much every critique you’ve got of the film will stick, and it’ll be exiting your head even as the first credit pops up on screen at the end. But lord, is it fun at its peak. A proper slice of Friday night hokum. It’s just a shame it’s not going near the big screen it was clearly designed for.

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