Critics can’t handle white people, apparently.
When Will Smith punched an alien in Independence Day and welcomed it to Earth, it was glorious – a firmly tongue-in-cheek evocation of how America sees itself, as the globe’s bare-knuckled saviour. When Chris Pratt repeatedly shanks an alien in The Tomorrow War, while angrily whimpering “die”, it has the look and feel of a bar brawl – not exactly glorious, though an unintentionally fairer representation of America’s true nature.
This sci-fi wreck, which Amazon acquired from Paramount Pictures for an eye-watering $200m, certainly likes to think of itself as being as patriotic as the films of Roland Emmerich. Much like Independence Day, it’s about a global war against extraterrestrial invaders that only the United States seems to be actively participating in. Here, the battle’s actually being fought 30 years in the future, with reinforcements from the present being drafted and forced to dive down a time-tunnel in order to join the fight.
The Tomorrow War hopes audiences will thus also be reminded of Edge of Tomorrow, Alien, Back to the Future, and, for less logical reasons, Pratt’s own Jurassic World franchise (the aliens have adorable little T-Rex arms and shriek like velociraptors). In fact, think of anything else, The Tomorrow War begs – anything that might distract from the vast, spinning black hole of purpose at its centre. It has no idea of what it is, what it wants to do, or why it should take up nearly two and a half hours of anyone’s time.
The film is written by Zach Dean, whose experience is primarily with grimy crime stories, and directed by The LEGO Batman Movie’s Chris McKay. Both of them seem so creatively at odds that Pratt, as their star, acts like his brain’s being split in two, his eyebrow so violently cocked in confusion that it threatens to leap right off his face. At first, his character, Dan Forester, seems like he’s a variation on the Golden Retriever-like goofball he played on Parks and Recreation (and, to some degree his Marvel character, Star-Lord).