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Biggest Unanswered Questions In The Tomorrow War

Sci-fi thriller "The Tomorrow War" poses a fascinating question: If you had to go back in time and recruit a soldier to assist in a future war with the extinction of humankind on the line, who would you call on to save the world? In the world of this movie it's Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a military veteran-turned-high school teacher.

In "The Tomorrow War," time travelers arrive at the 2022 World Cup from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future, a war between humans and aliens is raging, with humans on the verge of extinction. In a last-ditch attempt to halt the inevitable, the future needs to transport present-day soldiers and civilians to their frontlines. Enter Dan, who's transported to 2051 to assist a scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) who turns out to be the grown-up version of Dan's daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong).

Dan assists Future Muri in finding the cure to kill the aliens, but just before he's teleported back to the past, Future Muri falls to her assumed death — a dark metaphor for humanity in 2051.

As this is a sci-fi movie that's intertwined with a man who must save the world by confronting his past, Dan is forced to reconnect with his estranged father James (J.K. Simmons). Fellow soldiers Dorian (Edwin Hodge), Charlie (Sam Richardson), and unborn people from the future must assist Dan in saving the world.

As with any sci-fi this ambitious, a few questions remain unanswered once the credits roll. So, with the warning that many, many spoilers lie ahead, here are the questions to ponder in "The Tomorrow War."

Why do future weapons stink?

Although the question might sound like we're picking nits, it's valid given the complex premise. While time travel can be fickle and messy, it's also intricate and unfathomable. If humans can figure out a way to time travel, then surely higher-tech weapons would be available — you know, for the humanity-defining war against extraterrestrials.

Dan and his fellow soldiers are given two guns that seemingly fire modern-day bullets, then they're thrown into battle to fight an enemy they know nothing about. Tasked with eradicating formidable aliens multiplying at an unimaginable rate, future humans are outnumbered and using weapons that seem like they're throwing pebbles at an attacking animal. Luckily, Future Muri is a genius and comes up with a toxin to kill the aliens — and Dan takes the toxin back to the past, locating the creatures when they lie dormant and killing them before the war can take place in the future.

If the future can build a wormhole, surely it can create better weapons. Maybe lasers that incinerate the aliens? The conscripted soldiers and civilians are expected to believe that time travel exists, while at the same time accepting that military-grade weaponry uses the same ammo thirty years later.

Why is Muri Forester the only character in the present and future?

In the future, the global population is in trouble because of the war against aliens. The future responds by recruiting soldiers from the past, but not every person who's drafted has military experience (or even knows how to load a gun). The only qualification appears to be that draftees have to have already died by 2051, the year of the war. Two of the same people can't exist at the same time, we are told, or else a time paradox will ensue. 

The future has somehow created a machine that can determine if and when someone died (yet, once again, they can't create anything more groundbreaking than bullets?).

Oddly, Muri Forester exists in both timelines. She's a child in the present and an adult in the future. But why is Muri the only character that naturally appears in the present and future? All the present-day characters that appear in the future are dead. All the future people can appear in the past because they have yet to be born, which keeps the time paradox at bay. 

On the one hand, the world's population (currently about 7.6 billion in real life) is down to half a million, which means only a tiny sliver of humans are still alive. On the other hand, Muri being the only character who appears on both ends of the time-jumping seems odd, almost as if it's not a coincidence.

Does Muri Forester become a scientist?

Future Muri Forester becomes a scientist in honor of her father. In the future, she's the world's last hope. 

However, since we watch Dan successfully lead a mission to kill the aliens once he returns to the past, does Muri's life trajectory change? The aliens supposedly no longer invade Earth. Which likely means that although Muri wanted to follow in her dad's footsteps, she will no longer grow up with the same sense of urgency to become a scientist and save the world.

Since any change during time travel can have a catastrophic effect on the timeline, there's no guarantee that Dan grows apart from his family, dies in a car accident, or inspires his daughter to save the world. Which, actually, might all be good things.

How does James Forester have the arm tracking devices?

After Dan is drafted to fight in the war and the military places a device on his arm, the military makes it clear that his wife will have to take his place if he decides to run. Dodging the draft is a major offense, even in a sci-fi movie like "The Tomorrow War." 

That said, when Dan asks his father James (Simmons) if he can take the device off his arm, this appears to be something he does with regularity.

How does the old man pull this off? Shouldn't the government have detected the devices being taken off other people? Whom do the devices belong to? Why does James have them? While he seems like a crafty person who lives off the grid, the movie dances around the fact that he has collected these arm devices, despite the military telling Dan that if he runs or takes off the device, they'll find him — which makes it sound as if the consequence is inevitable. These devices must be super high-tech, as they help enable a person to transport to and from the future.

How does Dan's future change?

When the military is testing Dan to see if he's an adequate soldier for the war, a Certificate of Death is revealed that says he'll die at age 47, seven years from the present. Because of this realization, Dan is considered a match for the future war.

Since it's implied that past events change the future, what happens to Dan after the war is stopped? Does he still die in seven years? Also unexplained is what made him become such a different person, becoming unhappy with his life, divorcing his wife (Betty Gilpin, "GLOW") and doing exactly what his father did to him: leaving. His daughter reveals all this information, but never delves into the motivations that made them happen.

Since "The Tomorrow War" ends on a happy note, it's assumed that Dan rewrote his future. He won't abandon his family, won't get into an accident that leads to his death — although, how do you avoid an inevitable car accident? Just stop driving? Would life eventually make it happen anyway, "Final Destination"-style?

What we do know is that Dan's death certificate was created, and the date of that event is still seven years in the future. That said, Dorian's story was rewritten. Instead of dying of cancer, he died while blowing up the alien ship. So, maybe Dan doesn't die in a car accident, but instead lands that dream science job he's always wanted? 

How do people from the future get stuck in the present?

People from the future are young in the present timeline because, as Dan and Charlie conclude, they haven't been born yet. However, when the wormhole closes, it appears that future soldiers are stuck in the present as the portal can't be re-opened. This is why the only way to stop the war from occurring is to find where the aliens are hiding during the present day.

So, are future soldiers stuck in the past, even though they've never been born? Wouldn't that wreak havoc on innumerable timelines?

Time in this universe is like a river that flows in one steady direction. And the jump link — the wormhole — places two rafts on this river, which are thirty years apart. Both rafts continue to travel along the river — time continues to pass — yet the jump link only allows people to jump from one raft to the other.

Although this concept explains why people can't time travel to different periods — they can only travel to the period where each raft is located — it doesn't explain how unborn people can get stuck in the past ... when the future they came from no longer happens. "The Tomorrow War" is careful not to create a time paradox, but it avoids this question. Once Dan stops the aliens from attacking, the future is presumably erased.

People can't live in both timelines at the same time. Presumably, not all the future soldiers, die as only a handful were part of Dan's mission. So, can the unborn soldiers who survived be born again in the future? Wouldn't that create a time paradox?

What happens to the wormhole?

Can the wormhole open back up? If it can, what will the future look like? Can the unborn soldiers return to their correct timelines?

The future should still exist in this reality — the portal simply closed, and it can presumably be opened again. Or does the fact that it closed mean the future is lost forever and there is only one raft left on the river?

The jump links are 30 years apart and keep moving forward. You can only jump from one raft to the other. More rafts can't be built because they're held together poorly. The future barely managed to make one rudimentary wormhole. If they weren't about to be extinct, they'd still be testing it with lab rats. Now that there isn't a global threat, surely the scientists will have more time to understand the wormhole, make it safer, more reliable, and expand on it. 

This wormhole helped save the world, so that's not a technology that sound minds would forget. It seems quite likely that the remaining people in the future could resurrect the tech and once again connect to the past. If these people are intelligent enough to create a wormhole in the first place, they should be able to do it again — and this time, perhaps add more destinations as well.

How does Dan's secret crew fly into Russia undetected?

Thanks to Dan's volcano-loving student in the present timeline, his crew locates where the aliens are hiding. 

As it turns out, the aliens have been here the whole time and dug upwards to the surface after being frozen for about a thousand years. They are due to complete this process at some point around 2048 in Russia, so Dan and his crew must preempt that by ambushing them in the present day. To do so, they fly to Russia undetected, which seems like an implausible feat even more you consider that in the film, humanity is on the edge of collapse and rioting in the streets in the belief death will be coming soon.

Now, JK Simmons is a smooth guy, and James might be a very talented pilot. But seriously, how did he fly a plane into Russia without a single person detecting it on the radar? 

His previously-established skills in staying off the grid and helping others do the same is supposed to make this believable, but it still seems to be a stretch. "The Tomorrow War" is a film about heroes who find a way to win at all costs, but this heroism seems like it had a little movie magic sprinkled on top.

What are the pilot creatures that aren't white spikes?

After Dan's crew locates the aliens ship in Russia, they break into it and discover two dead pilot creatures hanging from the ceiling that aren't white spikes, but they certainly aren't humans either. 

Unlike the aliens we've have been battling, which are carnivorous and only appear to eat and reproduce, the pilot creatures appear more advanced. They're capable of building and flying a ship and, it appears, keeping the white spikes safe in some sort of preserving "Matrix"-like goo. Of course, they weren't that good at flying, however — they most likely crash-landed on Earth.

Perhaps these creatures created the white spikes or are a mutation of them? The audience will most likely never know — Dan and his crew can only guess at their identity, and we're in the same boat.

So many questions surrounding the aliens

When it comes to the white spikes, countless questions remain: How did the spaceship crash in Russia? What were they looking for? What were they running from? Was Earth even their target?

Humans have long been obsessed with possible life out there in the universe, and "The Tomorrow War" firmly says it exists. But the more you speculate about such things, the more follow-up questions present themselves. 

The aliens may have been looking for resources, as they treated our world like an all-you-can-eat buffet. But what would they have done once they ate every last human and animal? Remember, it only took them three years to have us on the verge of extinction, so these guys are hungry.

Also, what's up with the things they fire at their adversaries? Do their bodies naturally create these sharp, arrowhead-like objects? Do they ever run out?

Is there more than one female? It seems odd that the entire planetary invasion would only have one. Did her scream attract the others to the lab where she was being held captive? If so, how far does her voice travel? 

Perhaps most importantly for a potential sequel: Are we really sure every last white spike was killed? Visibility in that snow was pretty bad, and blowing up their ship seems too scattershot to guarantee their extinction from Earth. If the female white spike was temporarily able to escape, who's to say another one didn't unknowingly flee? Who's to say there wasn't another female white spike on board — or even worse, a second ship buried elsewhere?

What other life is out there?

Perhaps the biggest unanswered question from "The Tomorrow War" is a fun one: What other life exists in this universe? 

The white spikes have tentacles that shoot spikes, fangs that chew through human flesh like soft cheese, and an exterior virtually immune to bullets (the neck and belly are their only weak spots). They are predators, and humans weren't their first meals — which implies that they eat other creatures as well; after all, they have sharp teeth for a reason. 

In all likelihood, there's another life form beyond the white spikes, and perhaps the pilots, in the universe of "The Tomorrow War." So, while humans celebrate, they might also want to cross their fingers — and hope that Dan Forester is around to help for longer than seven more years.