Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Tomorrow War


It's a new movie on Amazon Prime that you may have heard of ... Chris Pratt, time travel, aliens, fate of the human race ... it checks a lot of typical sci-fi boxes.


I kind of want a prequel to tell us about this guy now.

Longtime 40k player take: It's Imperial Guard vs. Tyranids

But I have to admit ... I liked it better than I expected to ... a lot better.

The premise: Current day Chris Pratt is an ex-special forces sergeant who is now married, has a daughter, and teaches high school biology while trying to get a more scientific research type gig.  He's happy but frustrated. Then a terminator bubble/gateway pops open in the middle of a soccer match and humans from 30 years in the future walk through and announce that humanity is being eaten by aliens in their time and they need help. That help involves sending humans from "now" forward to "then" to help shoot aliens for a week, after which they return home ... if they live. Somehow the entire world agrees that this is legit in fairly short order so a worldwide draft is set up and people get notified at random that it's their turn to go. They get a brief training period - a week or less - and then they get sent forward 30 years to shoot aliens. 

As you might guess, this does not typically go well. Humans are still losing and the survival rate is something like 20% for the draftees. 

This is where I have some questions:

  • They do go out of their way to cover the potential paradoxes in that only people who are dead prior to the current future time are drafted - no running into yourself.
  • They also explain that they can only travel a fixed distance so it's only 30 years forward or back - to the day. This avoids some other questions and considering time travel was developed during an apocalyptic war it makes sense that  there might be some limitations.
  • I'm still not sure how it works from our end - apparently you just need the one transmitter in the future and you can jump back and forth. Seems pretty loose but ok. 
  • Location is never defined - apparently you can drop a shipment wherever you want and pick up form wherever you want. So it's kind of a teleporter too. This isn't discussed at all in the movie but it's hardly a dealbreaker. 
My biggest problem with the film is the aliens. A completely non-technological species the size of a horse ... there's just no way. There's no way they are going to take over almost the entire planet facing modern military technology. 
  • They have tentacles that can shoot a spike to maybe pistol range. Wheeee! It is not particularly lethal because we see multiple characters get hit by one and survive so they aren't poisoned or anything. They are also not terribly accurate as we see many, many spikes embedded in walls or cars or other objects and they are not always surrounded by bloodstains. Plus we see a lot of missed shots during the action scenes. 
  • Typical assault rifles can shoot 600 rounds per minute or more. Even with a 30 round magazine that's a lot more lead in the air than the aliens can toss and Planet Earth does not lack for bullets. They also have a much greater range, hundreds of meters, than anything we see from the aliens.
  • A lot of time the movie acts as though assault rifles and pistols are the only weapons humanity has against these things. Sure, in a room maybe - but how did they get into the room? I don't think we see a single grenade used in the entire thing. We do see an M2HB in action so that was nice. 
  • If the aliens had some superior technology or were spewing out some contagion I could see the problem but they don't - no heat rays, no black smoke, no force fields or super-tough alien metal ... they are basically animals. Mean animals that eat people sure, but still just animals to all appearances. They don't even have acid blood as an up-close hazard! We don't see them reproducing by laying bunches of eggs or anything like in some other movies so we don't know how any of that works. 
  • If they have overrun so much of the world then presumably they have exhausted the food supplies on those other continents in the course of this 3-year war, right? Once the Russians are gone, what do the monsters in Russia eat? Given their size and activity level they would need to eat a lot.
  • Back to how do these things overrun the world - They are roughly horse-sized. They are bright white in color. They are not particularly stealthy - no predator camouflage here. So again, how do they overrun any reasonably defended position? Helicopter gunships don't have to be  50 feet off the ground and in jumping distance to do what they do. We have infrared, night vision, thermal sights ... they're not going to sneak up on anyone really.


Now despite all this I still liked the movie. I just had to let go and take it as a given that somehow some way a series of colossal screw-ups meant that humanity was losing and losing badly to these things. I kept waiting for the big conspiracy-expectations-subversion-twist that the aliens were really from an experiment gone wrong on earth or some government or corporate bad guy was responsible for them but there was none of that - thank goodness. The movie stuck to its' original premise and that made me quite happy. There are some interesting twists along the way but nothing that is flat-out stupid beyond the core premise of the aliens over-analyzed above.

Well other than the final defense of the last human holdout. Seriously - it's in the middle of the ocean and they are totally surprised when a huge wave of creatures swarms up out of the ocean. They apparently had no early warning system set up, no picket ships, no mines in the water ... it's laughable and whoever was responsible for that should have been fired - if they weren't eaten.  

This movie does steal/homage from a LOT of other films. Alien, Aliens, Apocalypse Now, Terminator (it's sort of a reverse terminator in concept anyway), The Thing, Independence Day, Starship Troopers, ... even Stranger Things feels like an inspiration for some of the scenes here. 

Chris Pratt's family figures in significant ways, not just a motivation to "get back". The supporting characters are given just enough personality and capability to cover why they are there and to make it enjoyable while they are. The special effects look pretty good. 

It's not Star Wars. It's not super-deep. It is one of the better sci-fi action movies to come out in quite a while though and that surprised me. If you like this kind of thing it's definitely worth a couple of hours of your time. 

No comments: