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The Tomorrow War: From the stars to epic action, critics choose sides over Chris Pratt’s sci-fi blockbuster

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Jul 1, 2021, 4:54 PM EDT

Time travel, aliens, and a desperate sci-fi stand to save the world: The Tomorrow War may not premiere at Amazon until Friday, but critics already are waging a battle of their own over the new alien epic starring MCU and Jurassic World mainstay Chris Pratt.

Reviews are rolling in for the futuristic tale of an Earth besieged by hostile aliens, and — wouldn’t you know it? — it seems that no two takes are alike. Reactions are seriously divided on this one: Some critics loving the popcorn-munching, swashbuckling fun that Pratt and the cast wrest from writer Zach Dean’s script, while others are totally panning the movie as little more than a forgettable trudge through familiar sci-fi tropes.

Pratt plays dad Dan Forester, an everyman high school teacher who teams with genius scientist Col. Muri Forester (Yvonne Strahovski) and an estranged father (J.K. Simmons) to answer a battle call from humans who hail from the not-too-distant future. There’s a deadly alien threat looming over humanity in the year 2051, and the only way to stop it is to go back in time and recruit the people of Pratt’s present-day time to join in the fight.

Sounds like a fun setup… but since the critics are waging a pretty polarized war of their own over the film’s finer points, we’re rounding up all their early takes here in one convenient spot.

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In roughly descending order of praise, here’s a sampling of just how far opinions are ranging over director Chris McKay’s new space jam:

"The Tomorrow War might not fully deliver on its brilliant premise, but it's still an epic and original sci-fi trip that's worth taking…Given it was originally set for a cinema release, the scale is impressive and it's a testament to its strongest moments that you'll wish you could have seen it on the big screen...The Tomorrow War might not totally get everything right, especially with its pacing, but it's a thrilling sci-fi adventure all the same." Ian Sandwell — Digital Spy

"The Tomorrow War is a big, dumb, sometimes tedious, sometimes fun civilization-vs.-aliens showdown that sends a bunch of ordinary people through a wormhole into the future to save the human race…Chris Pratt, likable as he can be, is basically a bulked-up puppy dog, and The Tomorrow War is one of those Chris Pratt movies that taps into his slightly moist regular-guy earnest gumption…It’s a lot of deluxe pablum you’ve seen before, but all you can eat of it." Owen Gleiberman — Variety

"The Tomorrow War is not by any means great sci-fi, nor is it even significantly good sci-fi. The film is half an hour too long and starts to feel like a slog by the end of the first hour. The sentimentality threatens to veer into melodrama at points, which Pratt struggles to handle. But The Tomorrow War has got a trashy popcorn vibe to it that it wholeheartedly embraces, and a cornball machismo that you can’t help but get taken in by, even if just for a second. And honestly, who can be mad at a movie that features a surprise J.K. Simmons?" Hoai-Tran Bui — /Film

“The first hour of The Tomorrow War is really quite dumb fun. The second half pumps the brakes on the wacky sci-fi and just goes in for gross-out action…Originally The Tomorrow War was meant for theatrical distribution, but Paramount wisely tossed the ball to Amazon for a direct-to-streaming situation. It works far better at home, where you can run to the kitchen for another can of beer when there's a break in the action. There's no reason to be embarrassed for liking a movie this stupid in the privacy of your own home.” Jordan Hoffman —TV Guide

“There are large swathes of this movie where characters obsessively describe rather than illustrate the dangers of the White Spikes, an alien menace that, in 28 years’ time, will wipe out the human population on Earth…A few decent supporting actors, like Sam Richardson and J.K. Simmons, almost jump-start the movie’s otherwise pokey, pompous feel-good narrative, but even their Herculean efforts aren’t enough to save The Tomorrow War.” Simon Abrams — The Wrap

“Unfortunately, The Tomorrow War isn’t allowed to be the dumb, ‘just go with it’ summer spectacle it should have been, a la Independence Day. Instead, McKay and Dean force it to be a self-aware and ‘smart’ time travel drama, with feelings big enough to crack generational war trauma issues, among lots of things that go ‘boom!’ and ‘pew, pew, pew.’” Tara Bennett — Paste

Directed by McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie) from a screenplay by Dean (Voyagers) and starring Pratt, Simmons, Strahovski, and Sam Richardson, The Tomorrow War debuts Friday, July 2 at Amazon Prime.