In The Tomorrow War, there aren’t many victories for most of the film, which makes it even better that director Chris McKay changed the conclusion.
WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for The Tomorrow War, now available on Amazon Prime.
In The Tomorrow War, there aren’t many victories to be had for the majority of the film as mankind in the future gets absolutely ravaged by the Whitespikes. They have no clue where the aliens have come from in 2048, leading to humanity almost going extinct with the resistance on its last legs in 2051. However, rather than shape a bleak ending after the deus ex machina is found, director Chris McKay and Co. changed the conclusion for the better.
Chris Pratt’s Dan jumps to the future and develops a toxin with his daughter that’ll kill female aliens and help eradicate the species. But when Dan goes back to the past to mass produce it after the base is attacked, he’s stuck there as the time travel tech is now shot to hell.
This leads to Dan decoding one of the aliens’ spikes and figuring out that their ship’s in the Russian cold in 2023 and global warming will thaw them out 25 years later. Dan’s team then sets off charges to blow up the mothership and he uses the toxin to poison the last Queen. But McKay suggested the plan was to go for a gloomy ending — although he never mentions it what that would have been — which explains why the Whitespikes rise up and how inevitable the future is.
The thing is, that’s overdone and this change works better as it emotionally redeems a pretty basic film. Dan’s team of underdogs save the day and gain recognition, even after the U.S. government refused to help them, and more so, Dan succeeds in the mission with his dad, James. This patches up their frail relationship and James is finally introduced to Dan’s family, carving out a cathartic triumph and sense of family, as cheesy as it is.
It makes sense as so much of the film has emotional beats that center around the deaths of loved ones — especially heroic folks who make sacrifices as soldiers in the war. People are sent to the future to die and Dan has lost family and friends this way. Thus, having his team in the finale get chucked as civilians to die would feel like overkill, like the film has no creative surprises left.
By killing the aliens this way and reuniting Dan’s loved ones, it also doesn’t force a sequel angle. Franchises like Skyline, Independence Day and even The Predator did the opposite, trying to milk a series, but The Tomorrow War has a definitive ending that can still be organically extrapolated for future stories.
Ultimately, this happy ending offers up closure, which sits well in a pandemic-struck era. It might be the typical ’90s sci-fi/action finale with the hero getting the family time he needs and a protected world at last, but that’s a cool shot of nostalgia because Dan gave so much and does deserve respite with his young daughter. He changed history so she won’t grow up to be killed by Whitespikes and that alone is a fitting way to wrap the story and add warmth to the audience’s lives.
The Tomorrow War is Amazon Prime’s go at a big bad alien flick. The movie stars Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Sam Richardson, Betty Gilpin, J.K. Simmons and Edwin Hodge and is streaming now.
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