What happens when a studio relies too heavily on an actor’s popularity, one who is heavily immersed in several franchises, to carry a derivative action flick in the hopes that his presence draws in a global audience?
Yes, we’re talking about Chris Pratt, the loveable, wise-cracking Peter Quill in the Marvel Universe. He was also in Jurassic World, and I dare you to remember his name.
In The Tomorrow War, the first live-action feature by Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay, Pratt plays Dan Forester, a high school science teacher and Army vet unsatisfied with life. Where he might’ve been a schlub called to action, he instead has a protruding six-pack that feels gratuitous for a character amid a mid-life crisis.
Humans from the year 2051 travel to the present day, warning of an alien invasion on Earth in the future. They need civilians from this exact moment in history to jump to the future for a week and help stop the creatures. So, of course, Forester is called into action, leaving his wife, played by the sidelined Betty Gilpin, and his 9-year-old daughter.
In a rush of adrenaline that shows the cinematic potential of the film released on Amazon Prime, Forester is transported to the future, falling through the bleak sky and landing in a rooftop swimming pool. Upon arrival, he must combat the creatures known as White Spikes and is enlisted by Colonel Muri Forester (Yvonne Strahovski) to help save the world.
The Tomorrow War is not without its fun. The White Spikes are brutally indiscriminate in their hunger to destroy humans within sniffing distance. Strahovski is exceptional, convincingly bringing heart to the story at the frontlines. But Pratt barely registers an emotion outside of squinting gazes and heavy sighs. Moreover, a rudimentary script by Zach Dean, filled with expository dialogue, doesn’t dare to dig deeper into this otherwise exciting conceit.
Away from unexpected reunions three decades into the future is Betty Gilpin’s Emmy, waiting at home, ignored and forgotten. What if she was recruited instead, and Dan was left to stay at home? The gravity of Gilpin’s instincts as an actor is what’s missing here.
Dare to be different, studios.