Very spoilery on whether you should start hoarding food with a 2051 expiry date. (My three-star review)
Well, the 21st century’s loss is the Dark Ages’ gain. The creatures, or White Spikes, which appeared overnight in Northern Russia in 2048, had actually been buried in the ice and snow since the eruption of a volcano on the Chinese—Korean border in 948 AD. (Sadly we never see Rob and co finding tiny White Spikes in monks’ illuminated manuscripts, or epic poems revealing St George’s dragon to be one.)
Dan, Charlie and Dorian, having survived their seven-day tour of duty and jumped back to 2022, start trying to work out where the creatures came from so they can be destroyed before the war even starts. It’s the only way Dan can save his adult daughter Muri (Colonel Muri Forester to give her her title), a military scientist who has managed to create a toxin that kills not just the common or garden male White Spikes, but the rarer, aggressive, hard-to-kill females.
At attack by the creatures in 2051 has left Muri dead though, slipping off the edge of the burning sea rig where she had been conducting her experiments; Dan, unable to save her, was then instantly jumped back to 2022 after which the jump portal stopped working. He returns to the present determined to fulfil her wish that has much toxin as possible be made in preparation for the coming war, even though she knew that wouldn’t save her.
Dan cannot bear the thought of his daughter dying, and discusses with his wife Emmy where these alien monsters might have come from. They come up with the rather obvious suggestion that the creatures had actually been here far longer. He ropes in Dorian and they visit Charlie in his lab, who identifies the white stuff under Dorian’s White Spike claw as volcanic ash from around China or Korea. Then it’s a quick visit to teenage volcano expert Martin from Rob’s high school biology class, who explains about the Millennium Eruption of 946AD. The ash will have reached Russia and become part of a layer of ice 1000 years ago, which explains how it got under a White Spike’s claw as it escaped its snowy prison.
They realise the aliens had been under the ice in Russia for over a thousand years, emerging in 2048 when global warming caused the ice above them to melt. As Charlie says: “they didn’t wait it out. They thawed out.” The US defence minister refuses to pay for a mission to Russia to find and kill the still-frozen creatures and so change the future, so Dan approaches his estranged dad James (JK Simmons) who has a plane.
Meanwhile around the world riots are breaking out as populations discover that with the time jump facility no longer working, and no one able to move forward into 2051 or back from there, their terrible future seems set.
Lt Hart (Jasmine Mathews) who worked with Muri, Dorian, Charlie, who hid for much of his seven-day tour of duty, Dan, James and a small team of soldiers fly to Russia. Noticing electrical anomalies on the ice, they find a massive crater and blow it up. They find the crashed, cavernous spaceship but the dead crew are a different species (yes it’s all very Alien-y!) It’s clear the White Spikes weren’t the crew but the cargo, possibly as some kind of weaponised planet-clearing force. Whatever, presumably no one missed their crashed vessel, as we haven’t seen hide not hair of the aliens since.
The female White Spikes are in stasis, held in womb-like pods. The team inject them with Muri’s green toxin, which causes the creatures to wake, screaming, before they flop out of their pods onto the spaceship floor where they die. Then more wake up and start to fight back before they can be injected with the toxin.
Charlie and James are outside the ship, waiting to kill any creatures that make it out. Charlie chainsaws one, but with so many coming at them, Dorian and Hart tell Dan to get out while they hold the creatures at bay, and if necessary blow up the ship manually. Dorian is the one to explode the spaceship, shouting that he will die his way, echoing similar sentiments he shared with Dan earlier in the film.
Dan, Charlie and James make it onto the ice, and start tracking the paw prints of the one White Spike that has got away. Just when they think they’ve killed her she reappears. Eventually James cuts his hand to attract the creature, which can smell blood. He apologises to his son for his behaviour over the years and prepares to die, but Dan jumps on the White Spike to save him. Eventually Dan manages to get a vial of the green toxin into her mouth, and she starts to die, exuding yellow gunk, before falling off the ice cliff and splattering far below. He and James lie exhausted on the ice, soon joined by Charlie who has also survived.
Back in the US, the defence secretary is claiming the credit for ending the tomorrow war before it can even begin. Dan arrives home with his dad, introducing him to Muri. In a voiceover he explains he’ll never tell her what at the other adult Muri did, and what happened to her. “My best future was always right in front of me,” he says.
As with most time-hop movies The Tomorrow War leaves a lot of what-ifs, which will be annoying for some and easily batted away by others. We never find out why, if the future can be changed, world leaders didn’t do that initially. We also don’t discover what happens to the people from 2022 now stranded in a 2051 that no longer exists, or whether a paradox is created if the time jump technology used in 2022 is actually from the future — at some point it surely has to be invented.
The Tomorrow War is streaming on Amazon Prime: