By Jacob Sahms
If I told you that Chris McKay of The Lego Movie and Robot Chicken directed a movie, you would definitively get the wrong idea about The Tomorrow War. But if I told you that Chris Pratt made a movie that was the cinematic descendant of Independence Day and Edge of Tomorrow, you might begin to get the idea about the Earth-defending, family-uniting, alien-defying summer blockbuster that dropped on Amazon this weekend.
It’s Christmastime 2022 when we meet Dan Forester (Pratt), biology teacher and eternal optimist. As he’s passed over for a prestigious research position, the World Cup is interrupted by human soldiers from 2051 who arrive with bad news: aliens are taking over the Earth, and only human soldiers from the past/present can be enough to turn the tide. Initially, volunteers sign up to travel to the future and fight the Whitespikes, enormous monsters with the complexion of a dinosaur on hormones with the ability to shoot, you guessed it, paralyzing white spikes. But when only twenty percent of the humans return from their week of service, a worldwide draft commences.
Forester finds himself drafted, alongside Charlie (Sam Richardson) and Dorian (Edwin Hodge), under the tutelage of battle-scarred soldiers from the future. The present-day soldiers realize that they’re drafted because they’re not alive in thirty years and therefore don’t cause any kind of time paradox conflict. They battle, they lose, and Forester comes face-to-face with his future, struggling to make sense of what chance Earth has to survive.
There are a few twists here, that may or may not surprise you (depending on how many sci-fi, time-twisting films you’ve seen). But Betty Gilpin admirably plays Dan’s wife Emma, and J.K. Simmons may steal every scene he’s in as James, Dan’s father and an anti-government Vietnam vet who is more jacked than anyone short of The Rock, with double barrels of humor and wisdom.
The film is hard core in its sci-fi alien violence, with a smattering of profanity mixed in. But the film is also laugh out loud funny, poignant, and unifying in its reminder that humans should stick together — and see the battle as one that must be fought side by side. It’s a popcorn-munching, adrenaline rush of a film that should’ve been seen in theaters but won’t be because of COVID-19. That’s okay; it’s a movie that we need right now, to get over the things that separate us and be united by the things that bind us together, like family, and love, and hope.
Speaking of hope, Hodge’s Dorian barks at Forester after one particularly hope-crushing defeat, “Nothing we do here matters.” While we’re not battling aliens (that we know of), there are too many times when humanity/countries/churches throw up their hands and buy into the false assumption that this is as good as it gets and that nothing we do can change the course of the situation. Instead, we are reminded throughout Scripture of the way that God’s overwhelming love for us always rises to a different occasion, the “magic older than time” that Aslan explains to Lucy. Hope is one of Christianity’s greatest weapons against poverty, sickness, human trafficking, and more. Hope is the thing that demands we never give up, but keep pursuing faithfully the future that God has laid in front of us.
In The Tomorrow War, those who hope are the heroes. That’s what sets them apart, and it should set us apart, too.