FilmSlashTV: A war story for the kids

Feb. 23, 2012 | 2 Comments

If you're going off to fight in battle, scooters are not the best transportation. (Courtesy Ambience)

If you're going off to fight in battle, scooters are not the best transportation. (Courtesy Ambience)

BY BURL BURLINGAME / bburlingame@staradvertiser.com

Beyond the tense problems suggested by the title, this is the first of what may be a very long series of films, as it is based on a seven-volume young-adult omnibus that is ridiculously popular in Australia. The second is being filmed this year.

Auwe, it may not be something to look forward to.

It’s a big story, but snappily summarized. Australia is invaded, and Aussie teenagers become guerillas, shedding their suburban and rural personas to become default soldiers. A lot of stuff happens, but that’s pretty much it.

You saw it before, when Cubans invaded Colorado in “Red Dawn.” Even though that film focused mostly on ludicrous macho fanatsy, it now looks like a masterpiece compared to “Tomorrow.” That’s because writer/director John Milius understood that violence carries a psychological toll. “Tomorrow” is less realistic than “Red Dawn,” if you can wrap your head around that without making it pop off.

Here, it’s reduced to playing army. Ellie, a bright and physically capable teen about to bloom into adulthood, goes on a camping trip with six friends, all of which are not just immendely attractive, they all seem to be pre-hormonal. As they’re on walkabout in the outback, they see airplanes flying overhead at night but think not much of it. When they return to civilisation, their pets are dead and parents are missing.

An invading army from “The Coalition” has seized Australian seaports in lightning raids, paralyzing the country. The invaders’ home country isn’t specified — I think that’s on purpose — although there seems to be an Asian influence. The swiftness of the assault caught the Aussies by surprise, and the civilians have been rounded up and put into camps.

So the kids play commando and blow up a bridge, a move signalled from the very first reel when one of the kids declares he hates the bridge. Why would anyone hate a bridge? Anyway, that’s when the movie ends, as the now-armed kids strike Charlie’s Angels poses in the sunset.

Because it’s the first in a series, don’t expect a story arc. Despite some semi-exciting battle scenes, the film feels episodic and disjointed, and the ensemble never really clicks. That’s too bad, as the cast includes the excellent Caitlin Stasey and the lovely Rachel Hurd-Wood, now all growed up from her “Peter Pan” days. “Tomorrow” also never develops a consistant tone. The best bits involve an accelerating sense of gloomy panic as the kids try to cope with unforseen circumstances. In this regard, “Tomorrow” is mopre of a disaster movie than a war movie. And it’s probably good that, at first at least, they react as kids would.

It also feels dated and has logic gaffes. What’s the point of placing an entire population into camps, which would place an enormous logistical strain upon the invaders? Also, it’s hard to believe such an invasion would surprise a whole nation in the age of Twitter. Maybe “Tomorrow” occurred in the past.

“Tomorrow, When The War Began”

Opens Friday at Consolidated Pearlridge

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Burl Burlingame is a features reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at bburlingame@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter.

  • Anonymous

    Have you actually read the books?!!!!

  • bobbson

    I largely share your opinion, but jesus, man, do you know how to run a spell checker?