Here are two new drops on Amazon Prime that highlight the diversity of shows that fall under the SciFi genre. One is a futuristic monster movie starring Chris Pratt, the other an ambitious anthology that relies on solo play.
The Tomorrow War (Amazon Prime) – Looks like this movie answers the question of what are you doing while Jurassic and Guardians are on hiatus. For Chris Pratt, the answer is to star in what is essentially a monster movie, The Tomorrow War. Of course, the title will have us assume there’s a time travel / sci-fi premise to the tale, and you wouldn’t go wrong; but basically it turns out that this is really a futuristic monster movie in the tradition of 1990s movies like Alien and Predator. In Tomorrow War, it is the appearance of the white tips that we anticipate and savor as they appear on the screen. Think Abominable Snowman turned into a fast-paced alien-like CGI creation, and you’ll get close to what director Chris McKay conjured up with his special effects team.
Did I mention time travel? The premise has to do with the character Chris Pratt portrays spending time with his family in 2022, when a football game they are watching on TV is interrupted by time travelers entering 2051, asking to help, as the future sees an invasion of these white tips and the human race is about to be eradicated. There is also Daddy publishes times 2 to lengthen the duration of this monster outing. To be fair, everything is watchable; but you can’t help but think that Pratt is all the time off between the big movie franchises he’s starring in. To make matters worse, Pratt is asked to step away from his clever, beaver-hungry characters from these two franchises, and be a more sympathetic and vulnerable character – you decide if you think he’s successful, because I have felt it was too much to ask of him, or that he was just nonchalant.
Solos (Amazon Prime) – Eight high profile episodes, but that can be a challenge for most viewers. It’s about as honest as it gets about this anthology which would have shows like Black Mirror as inspiration, but with some drastic differences. All of the episodes are set in the future, and the operating principle of the show’s producers is to harness well-known actors to act solo throughout each episode. They have on board Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Anthony Mackie, Constance Wu, Dan Stevens; and therefore my hopes were high for a number of episodes. But unfortunately, while actors may be willing to engage and put effort into their appearances, I have to be blunt that 1) storylines don’t often have the kind of pull to hold our attention, and / or 2) some of the performers go too far with the material available.
The Helen Mirren episode is one of the most successful episodes – although she is strapped to the seat of a spaceship, she uses her hands, gestures and facial expressions wonderfully to stay animated and keep us captivated in his performance. The weakness here would be the runtime, as there were several times when they could have ended things satisfactorily, but didn’t. In the Anthony Mackie episode, he interacts with his clone, and it’s a great way to push the boundaries of the concept of a solo actor. The final episode actually goes to Duo, as Morgan Freeman and Dan Stevens star in this one. Soliloquies have always been a challenge for audiences when they last far too long – and here you have a concept that deliberately extends soliloquies. Ambitious series, but I cannot say that it is fully successful.
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