The Tomorrow War – review

Brief synopsis: In the future, the human race is near extinction due to an alien invasion. As the war rages on, an estranged father and daughter battle to find a way to defeat aliens and save the human race. 

Is it any good?: The Tomorrow War is a multi-million pound B-movie without the humour or amusingly bad script and actors. Taking influence from the far superior Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) in style, this Chris Pratt starrer is mostly noise and special effects with the story eliciting very little emotion. 

Spoiler territory: biology teacher and ex-military man – of course – Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is hosting a Christmas party in 2022. He has popped out to pick up a few bits and returns to the party. 

He is greeted by his young daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and makes his way to the kitchen where his wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin), is looking after guests. 

Dan is waiting on a call about a job he has applied for, stepping out again as he receives the call. Unfortunately, he does not get the job. A frustrated Dan returns to the party. 

He joins his daughter on the sofa and the two are watching a soccer game that is being shown from Qatar. As Muri chatters away, the soccer game, which is being broadcast live, is interrupted. 

A military unit has appeared out of thin air onto the pitch. Lieutenant Hart (Jasmine Mathews) addresses the world – apparently, the world watches soccer games that happen in Qatar… – she is from the future and the human race is about to be wiped out. Okay, we’ll take your word for it. 

A year later, soldiers are being sent into the future to fight the alien threat known as Whitespikes. Their efforts are proving fruitless and the world’s military is quickly decimated. The world’s collective governments decide to start drafting civilians for the cause. 

Dan struggles to engage his students amidst the tragic events happening around the globe, with only Martin (Seth Schenall), a kid obsessed with volcanoes – it will be relevant later – showing any zeal in the classroom. The rest of the student body cannot see the point in studying with impending doom all around. 

As Dan tries to assure the kids that science can help them find a solution, he receives a text. He is to report to the local military facility. He is being enlisted. 

They fit him with a jump-band, a device fitted on his forearm that allows them to track him and will send him into the future. He is required to serve one hundred and sixty-eight hours. Seven days. Bummer. 

Elsewhere, Emmy is addressing a room of veterans. All of the veterans are injured or maimed in some way. Dan comes to visit her and shows her the arm sleeve. Emmy, knowing the chances of him returning from a mission are slim, wants the family to run.

Dan points out to her that they cannot run from the government. She tells him that they could if he would go and see his father. Dan is reluctant but Emmy persuades him. 

Dan goes to see his father, James (J. K. Simmons). James does not trust the government. Dan and his father are estranged. Probably abandonment issues on Dan’s part. It is hastily explained. He shows his father the bracelet but James thinks he has come to rat him out to the government and the two argue over his abandonment. So there is that. 

Dan returns home and tells Emmy he is going on deployment. He tells Muri that he is leaving. It’s emotional. Not really. At the centre for deployment, a rag-tag bunch of civilians are given the most basic military training in the history of military training. 

Amongst the group, besides Dan, is the talkative and nervous Charlie (Sam Richardson), who befriends Dan, the taciturn Dorian (Edwin Hodge), a man who is on his third tour and Diablo (Alexis Louder), a Dora Milaje escapee hanging out in the wrong film. 

Charlie tells Dan that he is in research and development. They both note that all of the assembled in the room are upwards of forty, whereas those running operations are in their twenties. As they are jumping twenty-eight years into the future, they assume it must mean they are all dead at that point. 

Norah (Mary Lynn Rajskub) asks why they could not just jump to a time before the invasion – like twenty-eight years before perhaps….? – lieutenant Tran (Alan Trong) explains some bollocks about it being two bridges and fragile and always moving forward, whatever that means. 

Norah asks why there are no pictures from the future or images of the aliens. Lieutenant Hart tells her that the powers-that-be thought it would hurt the recruitment process if people knew what they were up against. 

So the seventy percent failure rate or trauma of those that have gone before has no effect but photos of aliens would put would-be soldiers off? Right. 

Later in the hanger, as the new recruits prepare to bed down for the night, alarms start to sound. They are to be deployed immediately. The aliens are attacking the research centre and are about to win the war. The battalion is to be deployed to Miami Beach. 

As they begin to teleport to the future, there is a glitch and they appear in war-torn Miami. They get their first look at the aliens, the Whitespikes. They are multi-tentacled, fast-moving killing machines that can fire spikes from their tentacles. Lovely. 

Dan immediately takes charge of proceedings having been contacted by the future director of operations, colonel Forester (Yvonne Strahovski). The rest all follow his lead. That was easy. Forester tells them to go and rescue the research team in a specific location. 

Dan finds them but they are all dead. Forester tells them to leave as they plan to bomb the area. Aliens attack and Dan and the battalion escape to the streets. In the streets, the battalion ends up in a pitched battle with the aliens. Norah and Cowan (Mike Mitchell) sacrifice themselves for the rest of the battalion. 

Dan and Charlie wake up the next day on a military base in the Dominican Republic. They see Dorian and he tells them he is going to die of cancer in six months, which is why he keeps going on tours. Dan meets colonel Forester and finds out it is Muri in the future. She is a little cold towards him. 

Muri tells him she brought him there for a reason but he does not need to know the reason yet. She tells him that they have a special mission to get to the queen of the aliens because as a female she is immune to the toxin that she had created, even though it works on the males. 

Dan wants to know what happened in his life but Muri refuses to tell him. A team have trapped the queen Whitespike. Muni wants it captured so as she can create a fatal toxin. The alien fights, killing multiple soldiers but eventually, they capture it. Muri is not happy when Dan helps, telling him he could jeopardise the mission. 

She tells him why she is cold towards him and how he left her and her mother when she was a teenager. A few years later he was dead. Awkward. Later, at a different military base, Muri is working on creating the toxin with the heavily sedated queen in the room. Because that seems really safe…

Dan comes and assists her. Muri continues to run tests, the results improving every time. Muri tells Dan why he is there. He needs to take the toxin back to the past and recreate it. Muri finds the formula. This, strangely, brings the queen to life and she summons all of the aliens to attack the base. Why they did not attack before is anyone’s guess. 

Muri and Dan head for a helicopter as the aliens’ attack. The queen comes after them having been freed by her subjects. The aliens kill everyone on the base. Dan is close to returning to the past. Muri gives him the toxin. The queen grabs Muri. Dan grabs on to Muri and tries to save her but is sent back to the past. 

Dan tells Hart that they need to replicate the toxin and send it back to the future. Hart tells him that the jump link to the future is broken. Later, Dan speaks to Emmy about their daughter in the future and their failure to find a solution. 

Emmy who, it turns out, thinks a bit, works out that the aliens could be on the planet earlier. Of course, they could. Dan goes and sees Dorian, who had collected an alien spike on his first mission. Charlie examines the spike and finds volcanic ash on it. They need a volcano expert and….yes really, they talk to Martin. 

With Martin’s help, they work out that the aliens are frozen in the Russian tundra. Dan goes to see his father and asks him to help pilot a covert mission to Russia because he has a plane. A military plane. They head to Russia and find the aliens in an underground cavern, all in hibernation. They begin to inject the toxin into the aliens but the screams of the dying ones wake up the rest. 

Dorian tells Dan to leave. He will blow up the ship. No one else leaves. Dan goes after the queen. Dorian blows up the ship killing all the aliens and the crew except for Dan, James and Charlie. Dan and James battle against the queen. No idea where Charlie is. 

James and Dan keep fighting but Dan eventually kills the queen. Charlie reappears. Dan returns home and introduces Muri to her grandfather. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Tomorrow War is a passable, if not particularly creative, alien invasion film. It is too damn long but not unwatchably so. Directed by Chris McKay and written by Zach Dean, The Tomorrow War is almost an alien invasion film by numbers. There are scary, violent aliens, global stakes, the world pulling together, a heroic everyman and the repair of relations.

This is a film that just ticks boxes without ever giving the audience anything different. The hive/queen device is so overused in alien films and a lazy trope. I actually do not believe they pay anyone to create ‘aliens’ anymore as in every film they are now generic, screeching, multi-tentacled, razor-teethed fiends. 

Chris Pratt brings a five out of ten Pratt performance, barely needing to get out of second gear for this. Yvonne Strahovski is as good as ever but does not have anything to do. As I say, The Tomorrow War is not terrible but is not very good either. If you are a lover of alien invasion films you might enjoy this, otherwise, at a bum-numbing two-hour-and-twenty-minute runtime, you might want to give this one a miss.

Coming 2 America

Sequels have always been seen as an easy way to make money in Hollywood. Even before the seventies penchant for adding a number to the end of a title to denote it being a sequel, Hollywood and the wider film industry were producing sequels, rehashing and reusing the same characters of a successful story in another film. 

It is a rare thing, the sequel that is as good or better than the original, especially if the original film is regarded as a good film. The better sequels tend to be made shortly after the original. The Godfather two, one of cinemas most lauded sequels, was released two years after its predecessor. 

Rocky two came three years after its parent film and The Empire Strikes Back, named in the old style of sequels where the title did not just gain a numbered appendage, also came three years after a genre-defining Star Wars. 

Some sequels have worked with a larger gap between films. Terminator 2: Judgement Day was released seven years after its epic originator. However, the intervening years saw such technological advances in film that the sequel proved to be an impressive spectacle. Unfortunately, subsequent efforts in the series have seen not only diminishing returns but also a definite lessening in quality. 

In terms of genre, dramatic action films tend to be easier to make sequels or series of. The characters are set and the story tends to be good versus evil, a relatively easy premise to work with. The comedy genre is not, generally, a good genre for sequels, especially if the film is a hit or classic. 

Scary Movie was amusing but was followed by increasingly wretched sequels. Similarly, the Police Academy films stretched a silly idea to the point of punishment for the eyes and mind. Great comedies are even harder to make sequels of. The likes of Airplane, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Ghostbusters have all spawned underwhelming sequels.

That is not to say they were bad sequels or not funny, it is just that trying to recreate funny is a difficult skill. Thirty-three years on from its classic originator, Coming to America, stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, plus many of the original cast, reprised their roles to make a sequel, Coming 2 America. 

Like many fans of the original film, I was not thrilled to hear about a sequel to one of the most quotable comedies of my life. Coming to America is, rightly, thought of as a comedy classic and probably Eddie Murphy’s best film. Playing multiple roles, as does Hall, Murphy was at the height of his powers, having made his name on 48 hrs, Trading Places and two films in the Beverly Hills Cop series. 

Directed by John Landis, who was mostly known for directing Michael’s Jackson’s Thriller, even though he had directed many films before that including Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places, starring Murphy, and An American Werewolf in London, the film that would get him the Thriller gig, Coming to America is gold. 

With a story by Murphy, Coming to America had an almost entirely black cast and was a comedy that contained very little of the comedy staples laid down in the previous decade’s blaxploitation era comedies. There was no hoes, no drugs, no thugs, no shucking and jiving, none of the expected staples of ‘black’ comedy. 

Set in the fictional land of Zamunda – think Wakanda without the technological advancements – Coming to America was a very different black comedy. Whereas before, Eddie had been the funny, wisecracking, black guy in a white world, in Coming to America he was still a funny black guy but he was displaced in a black world. 

Coming to America was a hit both domestically and worldwide, with the humour in the film still bearing up more than three decades on. So, what about the sequel? Unsurprisingly, it is not as good as the original. Many have quickly come out to deride it as being a poor, money-grabbing, unfunny effort. That is not true. 

Coming 2 America, whilst not been as funny as the original, is better than one could have hoped for with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Wesley Snipes’ General Izzi is a great addition and Leslie Jones as Mary Junson, mother of Murphy’s Akeem’s illegitimate son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), plays to her stereotype but it works well within the context of the film. 

The film keeps the laughs coming but still manages to fashion a pleasant story, romcom, in amongst the silliness. Fowler’s role as the would-be heir to Zamunda is a difficult role for any actor to undertake, especially as he was always going to be in Murphy’s shadow. Fowler bears the burden well, with the story split between him and Murphy’s Akeem. 

There are some clever nods to the original film with one particularly funny reprise coming from Vanessa Bell Calloway. The barbershop is back, even though all of the patrons of the shop were old men in the first film! And, for me, the return of Sexual Chocolate is a real boon. 

Like many sequels, Coming 2 America will always suffer when compared to its predecessor, the original being such an unknown quantity at the time but becoming a classic over time. If one can watch the film in isolation, something made easier by the fact that one does not need to have seen the first film to understand this one, it is an amusing comedy in its own right. 

With a one-hundred-and-eight minutes runtime, Coming 2 America is slightly over the rom-com standard ninety minutes but is about ten minutes shorter than its predecessor. The film moves at a good pace with the only dips being when the story strays into rom-com territory, though the dips are slight and do not detract from the comedy too much. 

It was always going to be a herculean task to match the magic of the first film or to even make a film that does not offend or alienate the rose-tinted vision of the original’s many fans. Coming 2 America just about manages it.