Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Tomorrow War Review: He's Your Daddy

If you could get a glimpse of your future, would you take it? In "The Tomorrow War," a conflict breaks out with an alien enemy so relentless, so brutal and horrific in appearance, that the world's governments won't even show draftees what they look like for fear it would keep desperately needed soldiers from the battlefield. The future is terrifying — but for us in the audience, it contains a thought-provoking, thrilling, just plain cool slice of sci-fi that you won't want to look away from for a moment.

The film begins with a Christmas party at the house of Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), where dozens of Americans are enamored by a televised soccer game. But no, that isn't the most unlikely science fiction in the scene — because in the middle of the game, a bunch of soldiers teleport onto the pitch. The commander, who was apparently hooked up with a microphone before transporting, stares into the on-field cameras and delivers an impassioned speech.

"We are you, 30 years in the future," she explains. "We are fighting a war. Our enemy is not human, and we are losing. In 11 months' time, all human beings in the future will be wiped from the face of the Earth, unless you help us."

The next thing we see is news broadcasts from 12 months later, so ... mission accomplished? Not really; talking heads inform us that the world's armies have been getting beamed into the future, and subsequently receiving a smackdown. In response, a global draft of civilians has been instituted — but they aren't faring much better, and now the world's population is down to about a half million people.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and somehow futuristic mankind has developed a sort of "Time Travel for Dummies." In the present day, the soldiers who beamed back to recruit us are aiming to send their next batch of recruits (including Dan) to the front lines. These recruits are told they will beam down a few feet off the ground [Cue Ron Howard's "Arrested Development" voiceover: "They will not."].

Dad, you're embarrassing me

"The jump link tech is held together with chewing gum and chicken wire," says another fighter from the future. "We barely managed to make one rudimentary wormhole. If it wasn't for an extinction-level event, we'd be jumping lab rats. We can jump you to 2051, and we can jump you back. Period."

The bad news for most of the several hundred people involved in the jump is that the wormhole opens in the skies over Miami, raining would-be soldiers without parachutes as if it were the turkey drop from "WKRP in Cincinnati." The good news for Dan and brothers-in-arms Charlie (Sam Richardson from "Veep") and Dorian (Edwin Hodge from "Mayans M.C.") is that they just happen to land in a rooftop swimming pool.

What they encounter feels like the science fiction equivalent of the Omaha Beach scene from "Saving Private Ryan." Chaos, bloodshed, people screaming in pain — dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Fortunately for the future, Dan has a military background that allows him to quickly and confidently take charge, leading a small group of survivors (including Mary Lynn Rajskub, aka Chloe from "24"! Well, for about five minutes) to make their way through Miami before it's bombed into oblivion. To paraphrase one of the soldiers: It's a good thing Will Smith isn't alive to see this.

Our heroes awaken to discover themselves under the command of the Colonel (played by Yvonne Strahovski) who barked out orders like "You have three minutes to get out of there!" into a headset while they were fighting the aliens. Dan quickly realizes that she's his daughter Muri all grown up, and the two set aside family reunions for the most part so they can get to work saving the world.

"The Tomorrow War" has enough world-building to make your head spin, between the sci-fi elements, the time travel elements, and the plethora of ways we are told characters might die in the future or might possibly not if things are changed. But what's important in a film like this is that it lays out its rules clearly and then abides by them, and for the most part this action spectacle from Adult Swim vet Chris McKay ("Moral Orel," "Robot Chicken") sticks its landings. Of course, it's also key that the aliens are cool — and these are some of the best to come down the pike in a while. A mix of HR Giger and "Resident Evil," these beings have tentacles and ooze green blood if you locate their hard-to-target weak spots — but perhaps most imaginative is the arrowhead-like rocks they shoot at their enemies.

"One day they were just here," says futuristic Colonel Muri, explaining that these creatures have rendered entire land masses devoid of human life in barely three years, rendering the human population threadbare. "They have no use for prisoners, government, technology, nothing. We are food, and they are hungry."

Man, I wish Groot was here right now

It's a good thing, then, that "The Tomorrow War" has such a wonderfully delicious cast that includes the always-appetizing J.K. Simmons (who finally gets to show off those guns everyone thought he was building for Batman movies) as Dan's off-the-grid dad and Betty Gilpin (so terrific in "GLOW") as his left-in-the-past wife. Pratt himself has never been better, and this is among the top movies he's ever made. Caught between a dad who deserted him and a futuristic daughter telling him he's destined to repeat the cycle, Pratt really inhabits the character's complexities — but he also has plenty of moments when he can tap into his comedy chops and lighten the mood with such relevant futuristic questions as "Do the Miami Dolphins ever win the Super Bowl? What year, specifically, and what was the spread?"

Such information would be a great help to Dan, as it turns out, because after a week his "deployment" automatically concludes and — if he's still alive — he goes home. This leads to the final third of the movie, during which Dan must team with his estranged father and whatever soldiers are left to stop the inevitable. "I was trying to save my daughter," he says, explaining the mission. "If I need to save the world to save her, I'm damn sure gonna do it."

To explain more would be taking too much fun out of the rollercoaster that is "The Tomorrow War." It's a film that begs for repeat viewings, and it's hard to imagine there will be a better science-fiction film released this year. Wildly inventive, infectious fun, be sure to check it out ... your future might just depend on it.