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THE TOMORROW WAR: 3 STARS. “all peaks with very few valleys.”

“The Tomorrow War,” the new Chris Pratt sci fi action film now streaming on Amazon Prime, is a unicorn. It’s a big-budget blockbuster not inspired by a comic book or video game. The story resonates with echoes of “The Terminator,” “Alien” and any number of father-daughter dramas, but while it may feel familiar, it’s a rarity, an original movie that doesn’t set itself up for a sequel.

Set in December 2022, Chris Pratt is Dan, biology teacher, Iraq War vet, husband to Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and father to young daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). One night, they’re gathered around the television watching a game when the match is interrupted by visitors from the 2052 with a “cry for help across time.”

“We are from thirty years from the future,” says the spokesperson. “We are at war and our enemy is not human. We are losing. In eleven months, all will be lost unless you help us. You are our last hope.”

The planet goes into a panic. A worldwide draft is instituted and soon Dan is enlisted to jump thirty years forward to fight an alien species, named White Spikes, he knows nothing about. The tour of duty is only seven days, but few survive. “You are not fighting for your country,” he’s told. “You’re fighting for the world.”

Dropped into the future in the middle of an alien hotspot, Dan’s military training kicks in. With the help of Col. Forester (Yvonne Strahovski), he survives but when they put their heads together, they realize the key to beating the aliens isn’t warfare, it’s science! The real solution is a poison serum that neuters the beasts. But, the question with time twisted logic is, can they make enough of it in time to stop the war before it even happens?  “We are food,” Forester says, “and they are hungry.”

I have written around a MAJOR spoiler. Time travel stories have the benefit of playing around with their character’s  timelines but you’ll hear nothing about that here. Suffice to say, Dan makes a life-changing discovery while stationed in the future and it affects everything he does from that moment onward, and I suppose, in the time that has already happened. (Time travel movies can get complicated.)

Moving on to the broad strokes.

There is a lot going on in “The Tomorrow War.” It has Marvel-style large action scenes mixed with horror—the White Spikes, and their weird gooey puke yellow blood, are plentiful and relentless—family drama—”I’m no hero,” Dan says, “I just want to save my daughter.”— and even a child genius who provides a key piece of information in the war against the aliens. Director Chris McKay and screenwriter Zach Dean jam pack every scene with something, whether it’s Pratt’s zippy one-liners or a city crumbling during an airstrike or doing battle in a cave with an angry White Spike.

It feels like all peaks with very few valleys.

To lure us in and make us care about the characters, there have to be moments where things aren’t blowing up. McKay provides some of those but Dean doesn’t give us much in the way of character arcs in those quieter moments. Things happen to the characters, constantly, but rarely is anything of consequence revealed about them. “Glow’s” Betty Gilpin, for instance, is present, and has a name, Emmy, but is given very little to do except be Dan’s wife. More character work may have given us a reason to care when bad things happen.

Having said that, there are some fun moments of over-the-top alien action. A showdown between Dan, his father (J.K. Simmons) and a seemingly indestructible White Spike is a wild ride but generic characters and the predictability of the story blunts much of the film’s excitement.

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