This “Amazon Exclusive” sci-fi action movie is not un-entertaining but rather than just being a big daft derivative movie with people shooting aliens it keeps feeling like it is on the verge of having an interesting idea. It is also an oddly disjointed film with distinct phases were it feels like somebody decided to make a very different movie.
The first act is the most interesting. Chris Pratt is implausibly a military veteran who is a scientist except he is a school teacher. He has a lovely wife (Betty Gilpin) and a precocious daughter who loves science. Their lives and the lives of everybody on the planet is interrupted when a big glowy space-time portal erupts in the middle of the world cup final (a nice touch) and out from it come time travelling soldiers from the future.
The soldiers bring a warning: in the near future Earth will be invaded and will lose a war against an alien menace. The situation is so dire that humanity of the future need to draft soldiers from the present to fight the aliens in the future. Now, that doesn’t make a heap of sense as a way of using time travel to win a war but go with it because the film does do something with this reverse-Terminator plot.
Not just anybody can be drafted or rather the people who get drafted are really just anybody. For time-travel plot paradox reasons, the eligible draftees are people who, based on future records, would have died in between now and the future war. The up shot of that is a clever subversion of military science fiction tropes. The barely trained invasion force are just a bunch of very everyday people of all ages and sizes in mix of uniforms and civilian clothes who get zapped into the future and dropped into a war zone in future Miami fighting aliens called White Spikes (which given how much that name sounds like White Stripes, you’d think they’d use Seven Nation Army as music but they didn’t).
I really liked this sequence because the set up is so obviously weird that it screams that everything is some sort of shenanigans and maybe the future war isn’t what it seems to be.
Except – spoilers…there isn’t a big twist about how its all some sort of weird plot. There is a twist about who gets to command Chris Pratt’s character and it is a decent one but not unsurprising. I shan’t reveal it.
After the big fight in Miami, the film shifts into a different gear and the whole idea of this kind of rag-tag army of suburban mums and office workers sort of gets forgotten. I’d like to have followed that idea. It’s also weird that Pratt often looks oddly like Tom Cruise rather than the less chiselled version of Pratt which would have fit the film’s theme better.
The aliens are just the zerg-rush tentacled killing machine style of creature that overwhelm bases etc etc. It’s a nice design but they add to the seen-it-all-before aspect of the film.
The other aspect of the draft premise is that the present draftees serve for seven days before being zapped back to the past. Chris Pratt survives his brief period in the future but returns home knowing that humanity is doomed. Can he save the future? Of course he can and the film shifts into a different gear as he, his estranged Dad and a guy he met when he was drafted go off to find the secret of the aliens because nobody else has thought to do that this whole time despite everything and the whole resources of the Earth being focused on winning a war against the aliens.
There are some good actions sequences and some touching moments. The plot makes no sense and sadly the original ideas are ones that the film itself doesn’t appreciate.