Can We Talk About the Tomorrow War Controversy?

Can We Talk About the Tomorrow War Controversy?
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Can We Talk About the Tomorrow War Controversy? Because I think it would be especially poignant for a site like THiNC. to wade in on this particular topic. I’ll opine in two different waves. First, we’ll talk about Tomorrow War from a spoiler free standpoint – generally thinking about the movie, and the problems that many are bringing up. And then I’ll send away all the people that haven’t seen the film yet, and we’ll talk very specifically about what it is that they don’t like.

If you live under a rock. Chris Pratt starred in (and was the executive producer on) a film called Tomorrow War that just released on Amazon Prime a couple days ago. It is sort of an Independence Day film without Will Smith and the cheesy patriotism. Like Independence Day though, Tomorrow War tries to save the world from an onslaught of aliens, and the world seems on the tip of extinction. But, the future decides they need the fighters, resources, and ingenuity of the past… and so they jump from 2052, 30 years into the past, in order to get one last attempt to save the day.

Spoiler Free Controversy

Stories like this one right here, are a dime a dozen right now. And they are all saying the same thing about The Tomorrow War. They are saying the movie ended 90 minutes in. And the final 45 minutes are derivative and irrelevant. But why? Well, it’s because the screenplay is setup in a very controversial, inside-out way. And as a fan of “controversial” and “inside-out” screenplays, I figured I should probably talk to you, at least at a high level about the screenplay.

The Tomorrow War is the simplest of possible time travel movie setups. The mechanics are hard-locked into a very welded down time traveling method. 30 years in the future, our children call, asking for help from their parents and grandparents. (More on this in the spoiler sections.) Got it. So hundreds of people at a time, spring into the future, in order to maybe help tip the tide of the war. But if you’ve watched any number of time travel movies, you know that they are either Free Will, or they are Deterministic. You can either change the future, and bring with the changes a pile of anomalies, or you learn you are locked in, and nothing is changeable. Stealing this diagram from the amazing film, The History of Time Travel, you can see, a non-spoiler version of the timeline of what The Tomorrow War setup sort of looks like. Standard history, and an alternate timeline… right?

The movie spends its opening 90 minutes totally invested in the naturally historical line, the one above where Lincoln is shot in the theater. Right? But then, it begins to focus on the second timeline, an alternate history. And because of this, many viewers are saying that the movie had an ending… and then didn’t. Well, yeah. That’s how time travel movies work.

The second glaring issue that people are bringing up is the final episode of the film. They are saying that it is derivative. They are calling out Alien as the predominant movie that this section is stealing from. And while I can see homages to Alien here… I think the bigger problem than the design choices to Alien… is the fact that the cadence of the film in the first 90 minutes is Aliens. And the last half hour, feels more like Alien. But, to be honest, the homage that I saw, that no one else is calling out for the last third of the film, is more like The Rock, or worse, Fast and Furious 9 for heaven’s sake. It is jarring this sweeping change and the resulting ripples to the ending.

Look up again at that timeline image I have above… in that story, you lose the connection to John Wilkes Booth… right? He was there in your story, and then he wasn’t. Similarly, I think that viewers are choking on this idea of alternate timelines and the natural impact that they have to your story. The Edge of Tomorrow sort of had this problem too – that the main characters were cheating ultimately. But they fixed it by saying they had one last chance to kill the hive, mother beast, thing. But change was built in to that storyline’s DNA. Try, fail, repeat. Try, fail, repeat. It embraced that detail. But with The Tomorrow War, having it be a late breaking, seminal change, really is throwing people for a loop (hahaha, see what I did there?)

Personally – my non-spoiler take on this movie? I watched it with family after watching the Fire Works on July 4th. LITERALLY THE PERFECT MOVIE FOR THAT. The alien designs are cool. The fighting is full tilt. The characters are funny. The storyline is really inventive. But that ending feels a little funny… but it 100% makes sense. And, there is one scene, that could have been added that would have made all the nay-sayers go away. But they didn’t go there. (Go watch the film, then come back and read to the end. I’ll even show you how they could have fixed the movie in one easy move. It would have cost them some hair dye, and a little face make up. Boom. Voila, everyone stops crying.) That is where my non-spoiler walk through has to end. Go see it. It’s free on Prime. Everyone owns Prime (at least a month or two out of the year anyway! haha.) so go watch it. I totally recommend it.

The Tomorrow War Spoiler Filled Discussion

I’m serious… go. Okay. Now that it’s just you and me… let’s talk about this film in way more depth.

In 2022, at the final game of the World Cup, people from the future land on the pitch, and appeal to the world to help fight a war with them against aliens that have almost wiped out the planet. The world agrees to send people forward, but very few survivors come back with each group we send forward. Dan Forester is called up, and he joins his crew to try and help in any way that he can. He refuses to abandon his duty even though his father could have removed the time traveler bracelet. But the moment they jump, everything goes wrong. The location is wrong, and a large swath of those in Forester’s squad die. Soon after, they are tasked with saving the scientists that are hiding in a nearby building. When they are found dead, they are tasked with retrieving the hard drives and vials in the facility. Eventually they make it out alive, but most of the remaining squad die in the ensuing battle with the aliens.

When Forester is saved, he soon after meets Colonel Forester… Colonel Muri Forester, and realizes this is his daughter, and she is all grown up. The two work together to create a poison that the female aliens are not easily able to counteract. But not before the sea base is swarmed by aliens attempting to get their female free. (Apparently they work like bees and will do anything for queen bees? I don’t know.)

Here is where the conveniences in the screenplay begin multiplying exponentially. Muri needs to die. Because an audience can’t deal with a hanging chad of a character set adrift in an invalidated timeline. Right? (Best example of this is the movie Time Lapse – but I’m not following this particular rabbit trail.) So Muri is shot with a dart by the queen. That’s bad. So bad, that she really can’t make it out to the helicopters… which had already left anyway. But the movie is going back to 2022 whether elder Muri wants it to or not. So, not only is she shot, but she also falls from a precipice with the alien. And Dan jumps off the ledge after her. I mean, a father has to prove he’ll die for his daughter even if it is just a pyrrhic victory. Doesn’t he?

When The Tomorrow War Jumped the Shark

When The Tomorrow War shifted back to 2022 it head-faked its audience so badly that it took their knees right out from under them. That is my opinion anyway. The first ninety minutes are 100% standard Hollywood fare… if cool standard Hollywood fare. Two thirds of the movie down, and it decidedly set the tone as more of a World War Z sort of film than anything with any brains to it. (Though World War Z had quite the clever trick to it when we cut to the chase.) And then, OUT OF THE BLUE, the film careens off the rails. We get the sequel to The Tomorrow War and all for the single price of one movie ticket. (Or one Prime subscription anyway.) Only trick though? We have a quick expository moment wherein Forester and his wife figure out that the aliens have been here on earth for millennia, and then we are on snow mobiles careening through the arctic circle, looking for an “ice cube” in the ice. It all is too fast. It all is unwinding with such a rapidity that our suspension of disbelief can hardly keep up with it.

Then suddenly, they’ve cut their way inside the alien spacecraft, and are calculating a way to administer the poison to the alien pods. We have also learned that the aliens were actually something of an Agent Orange for the planet earth, and were intended to wipe out the human inhabitants… except, the ship delivering them must have crashed. But the point here for this moment of the film is that all the alien hounds have to die. If even one escapes, the future war could happen all over again. And so they die.

The Mechanics of The Tomorrow War

The first problem I see is that most people don’t understand the mechanics of the film. The people from 2052 are talking to 2022 and they are asking for help. And they are specifically asking for a certain subset of people. Specifically, DEAD PEOPLE. I know from my own personal viewing experience that several of the people I watched with didn’t get that detail at first. Why? Because the future did not want to cause a time paradox by introducing people in the future who might encounter themselves. So, instead, they only invite people who are dead in the future. Dan Forester dies in a car accident later in life, but before the events of 2052.

The second key detail we have to keep in mind is that the time traveling capabilities are limited. You jump on Monday in 2022, stay til Saturday in 2052, you arrive home on Saturday of 2022. The devices are locked at a 30-year interval. Okay. But when the devices are destroyed in the future, time travel will not be capable in the future anymore. (Which sets up our alternate timeline derivation.) But in the future, he did everything he could to save his daughter, but the odds were definitely against them. And zap. Dan is chucked into the past again. But this time, he has the vial of his daughter’s work. Remember that? She had just found the Weed Killer that the female alien wasn’t resistant to? It was Muri’s plan all along – but it wasn’t her father’s need to know. Not until the end. She tells him her plan is to send him back to the past, find the aliens, kill them with the serum, and save the world from a horrible potential future. A war is ended before it is started. Voila! But that is really unsatisfying. It abandons Muri the colonel… and it discards her heroic efforts to save the world.

The Tomorrow War Fixed In One Scene:

Come on. That is clever. I got Chris Pratt aged and everything!! Personally, I would hate it if The Tomorrow War fixed the movie by showing Muri as a woman, with her father aged naturally. Why? Because it would really be a pedantic solution. I’d prefer my movies to not talk down to me. I guarantee you that they thought about it though. But at the same time, the vociferous outcry against the film is probably due to the simple fact that the movie feels like it abandons Muri’s thread, and abandons it to a bolt on Fast and Furious installment. Which, it basically does.

Thoughts on The Tomorrow War

It was the perfect post-firework film and I actually thought it was a lot of mindless fun. I didn’t see the daughter/father thing coming, and found that an interesting diversion. An entire generation hailing back to their fathers, and their grandparents? I thought it quite a sweet sentiment actually. I will say that there was one detail that totally drove me to drink throughout the entirety of the film. The guns never needed to be reloaded! Sure, eventually they switch to their handguns when their P-90s “run out.” But the reloading man! Anyway, it was a fun movie with a few interestingly clever little twists to it. I’m glad that the film messed with the timeline and at least attempted to do something different. But it’s also probably what pissed everyone off. But I tip my hat for the attempt. We can’t just keep redoing the same movies over and over again, and the first 90 had been done about a billion times before. So kudos to you Tomorrow War.

Will there be another installment in The Tomorrow War world? Maybe a Day After Tomorrow War? Or The Fortnight War? And when asked directly, director Chris McKay said, and I quote: “So yeah, I think that could be a lot of fun. And with this cast, too, we’re just getting started.” So, here’s to the sequel!! (Which will literally never happen. I cannot imagine it. But we shall see.)

Edited by: CY