• by Wes Singleton

The Tomorrow War -C

Rated PG-13, 140 minutes

Where's Marty McFly when you need him? The forgettable new big budget sci-fi action thriller "The Tomorrow War" needs Marty's spark of energy to help defeat some nasty aliens in the near future. A much better script would've also helped, instead relying on the charms of a big star, Chris Pratt, and some admittedly intense visuals that keep it from being a total waste of time.

Time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: almost 30 years in the future, mankind is losing a war against an alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians to be transported to the future to join the fight. Determined to save the world for his daughter, Dan Forester ("Guardians of the Galaxy's" Pratt) teams up with a scientist (Yvonne Strahovski of "The Handmaids' Tale") and his estranged father (Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons).

"The Tomorrow War" is a sluggish, simplistic and overlong popcorn sci-flick directed by animator Chris McKay of "The Lego Batman Movie" and "Robot Chicken" in his live-action feature film debut. Clearly, a lot of funds were spent on the film's production, and it comes as no surprise with McKay at the helm that the impressive visuals and action set pieces are the film's highlight and carries the film above a story that lacks complexity and focuses way too much on the battle rather than the origin of the deadly aliens.

The script comes from Zach Dean, a promising writer who surely had a better story and dialogue than this; even the nasty aliens have a ring of familiarity to them that reminds of "Alien vs. Predator." The ridiculous opening scene plays out of something of "The Lord of the Rings" delivering a stilted message to the masses about a future alien invasion. And, for playing such a smart guy, Pratt's character comes across as a bit of a doofus, taking him until very late in the film to figure out how to really kill the things (one word: volcanoes).

"The Tomorrow War" is entertaining enough I suppose, but it still wastes the talents of many, including Strahovski, "GLOW's" Betty Gilpin, Edwin Hodge, comedian Sam Richardson, and especially Simmons, as Pratt's macho estranged father, whose very brief role is as deep as the yellow M&M he voices in those candy commercials. Also, as with many time-travel films, some of it (well most of it) is a little confusing, but as long as you don't think about it too much, you'll be OK.

Near the end, Pratt's character says deeply "second chances are hard to come by" - well, maybe after a rewrite they are. Marty McFly with his super DeLorean and Doc Brown would solved it and kicked some butt in much less time it takes Pratt and "The Tomorrow War," which is about 20 minutes too long. It's mindless, escapist entertainment that works in the moment, but the real tomorrow war will be remembering it the next day.