Being a longtime sci-fi fan, I would have liked “The Tomorrow War” more.
But sadly, like many other science fiction readers, I am still continually disappointed in most of Hollywood’s treatment of the genre. The failure of “The Tomorrow War” to break that chain is just one of the many ways in which it comes as no surprise.
The movie doesn’t deserve some of the harshest reviews it received, as it works quite well as escapist entertainment. But it could have been, and should have been, so much more.
It is quite disheartening that you no longer need to be an avid sci-fi prose reader to be considered a “true” sci-fi fan. One of the many negative consequences of this long-term trend is that some fans do not realize how hackneyed and hackneyed the premises and stories of many supposedly “original” films of the genre are.
“The Tomorrow War” is no exception.
The basic idea of a “time travel war”, recruiting infantry over the centuries, is nothing new. In fact, it was the main premise of one of the best time travel novels in history, “The Big Time” by Fritz Lieber.
Even the film’s title is hackneyed, immediately reminiscent of an even more classic novel, “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman. Long before Paul Verhoeven’s overrated “satire” of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers,” Haldeman provided a much better liberal-progressive critical response to Heinlein’s novel, one that Heinlein himself called the best war novel. of the future that I had never read.
If you have also read it, it is unlikely that you will disagree.
Although Haldeman’s novel used time dilation rather than time travel as a primary plot device, it is similarly employed to depict military personnel separated from home and family both in time and space in a battle with an alien threat, an exaggeration of the experienced reality. by many real life military families.
The main difference is that Haldeman uses it specifically to represent the social and psychological alienation of the American soldier, especially as a metaphor for the American experience in Vietnam, but in “The Tomorrow War” it is primarily a means of getting into action.
The film showed signs in its first half hour of tackling these major issues, but quickly dismisses them. This is just lazy screenwriting, and it also shows a somewhat dismissive view of your audience.
Sci-fi fans are among the most intelligent and thoughtful audience members, yet some film and television producers annoyingly persist in thinking that they are exclusively interested in action scenes and special effects. The success of shows like “The Expanse” shows that they are equally interested in good storytelling. Movies like “Interstellar” show that you can have elaborate special effects to support a very clever script.
“The Tomorrow War” is also an excellent example of a very annoying trend in contemporary popular culture. He proudly wears his pro-science message on his sleeve, but annoyingly dismisses scientific plausibility and overlooks potentially fascinating scientific details.
Believe it or not, most viewers are already interested in science and appreciate movies that respect this fact. No matter that time travel is one of the few sci-fi gadgets destined to remain a permanent impossibility, why not equip your time traveling infantry with parachutes or other landing gear when they are suddenly left fall in the heat of battle?
Shouldn’t your technical advisers have reminded you of something not so small called the law of conservation of momentum?
Of course, their science consultants probably reminded the filmmakers that they simply chose to ignore them.
Other scientific illogicalities abound in the script. It would certainly make more sense to put Chris Pratt’s science professor and Sam Richard’s Ph.D. geophysicist on a futuristic Manhattan project (the premise of the 1955 classic “This Island Earth,” where aliens recruit Earth scientists to serving in the name of their own war effort) rather than sending them into active combat.
We have a scene where Pratt and his adult daughter (Yvonne Strahovksi) work together to develop a biochemical means to defeat aliens, but instead of discussing the science involved, Pratt asks about the Miami Dolphins.
Talk about underestimating the intelligence of your audience!
This is also another film in which a precocious teenager is responsible for the crucial information that saves the day, when the film’s well-trained professionals should have been able to figure things out themselves. The only thing worse than a script that underestimates the intelligence of the audience is one that also underestimates the intelligence of its characters.
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A specific problem with this movie is Pratt himself. He is an immensely sympathetic actor, but it is becoming increasingly clear that his range is limited. He plays his role in this movie similar to how he does his characters in the Marvel and Jurassic World franchises, and his character ends up being as predictable as the movie itself.
He consistently delivers performances of quick, robust, and competent wit, but no more than that, because that’s no more than what the roles demand. Pratt could do better, but what I see in his work so far is shyness, an unwillingness to vary his approach or choice of roles.
You need to start challenging yourself right now if your career is to survive, in the same way that Matthew McConaughey managed to do it. Otherwise, his career is destined to suffer the same fate as Chris O’Donnell’s.
Science fiction is, at best, the most intellectually provocative of the genres, encouraging us to think and challenging our preconceptions even while entertaining us. Unfortunately, “The Tomorrow War” left me thinking more about what classic sci-fi novels should fit next rather than spending a lot of money and talent on underdeveloped scripts that end up being frustrating retreads from earlier stories.
I’ve already mentioned Haldeman’s “The Forever War”; In the nearly 50 years since its original publication, its racial and sexual politics (describing a future where homosexuality is the norm while heterosexuality is discouraged and where the majority of the population is mestizo) are no longer considered radical but perfectly acceptable. and it would no longer be a difficult proposition for producers or a difficult sale for the public.
Are you interested, Hollywood? Then start reading …
AA Kidd is a freelance writer and university instructor in Canada, where he is proud to volunteer for the Windsor International Film Festival.
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