Tomorrow, When the War Began is a 2010 Australian action drama film based on the novel of the same name by John Marsden.
We are quickly introduced to a 17 year-old Australian girl named Ellie (played by Neighbours’ Caitlin Stasey), who tells her story of how Australia was invaded by an unidentified foreign country. We follow Ellie as she and her friends go off on a camping trip to an extremely remote area lovingly labeled as ‘Hell’.
At night, Ellie wakes and witness dozens of jets flying overhead. The group are quick to dismiss this occurrence as a routine Air Force exercise, however, once the group returns home to an empty town with faulty communication systems, they soon realise that all is not right, and wackiness ensues.
I am quite surprised that so many of my friends in Canberra were such fans of the Tomorrow When the War Began series of novels. Whether it be due to it being on the local schools’ English curriculum, or just a teenager fad of the early 90’s, a lot of Canberrans in their late 20’s have been waiting with baited breath for the movie. Back in my school hey-day’s, circa ten years old up, I collected all of the classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the complete works of both Edgar Allan Poe and HG Wells. The only ‘teen / young adult book that I really read along with my peers were the Space Demons series which, I guess if they made those into films, I would watch simply for nostalgic purposes.
So all of that being said, I wasn’t particularly inspired to the movie. I knew it starred a young lady from Neighbours and that its trailer looked terrible; complete with ‘iffy’ computer graphic explosion. The movie posters, and even the chosen font of the title, look as if it is trying too hard to make it look like it was an action film that was worthy to verse off against its bigger, American counterparts. So when I did go to see it with dangerously low expectations accompanied with Felix who is a big fan of the novels to boot, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this movie.
We are quickly introduced to the character of Ellie, played by the beautiful Caitlin Stasey. In under a minute, we see Ellie working on her farm, being an old hand at a tractor, chain-saw and finally on a motor-bike. Like Ripley from Aliens, we can quickly see that this young lady is perfectly able to look after not only herself, but also the group of friends that she is destined to lead.
There is good use of tension, great cinematography, and excellent action sequences, of particular note a car chase which includes a garbage truck versing off against 2 army dune buggies. Although the film does have its share of action scenes in it, it could have been marketed as a tight little coming-of age thriller, as the scenes of the necessary and essential guerrilla tactics and stealth activities practiced by our inexperienced young cast of would-be soldiers build up a great amount of tension and fear for their safety.
The characters are a good multi-cultural cast, doing their best to ground what are otherwise stereotypes; i.e. – the Aussie bloke, the strict Christian etc....Of note is actor Chris Pang, who brings an old-wise-soul to his character. The characters dance the line of adolescence and its dramas along with their growing responsibilities and requisite fears, as demonstrated in a darkly comedic monologue from a hermit-like stoner: amusingly telling his story of survival with extremely grim undertones.
There is however unnecessary narration throughout the film which dangerously verges on exposition. The whole movie is served as a flashback, a recorded recount setting up the series and bringing us up to scratch with what is facing our young heroes. However, there is also needless exposition of character’s feelings throughout the film which is completely unnecessary, as the young actors are well equipped to ‘show’ us these emotions. There is also some extremely clunky dialogue that is delivered at no fault by the actors who do their best to deliver it in a believable way.
Of particular note, the novel series and therefore the film, shares the same set-up as the 1984 movie Red Dawn, which is an intense, emotional and violent American movie starring the late Patrick Swaze and Charlie Sheen. The movie depicts around about 2 years of the lives of a group of American teenagers as they perform guerilla type resistance from their surrounding mountain environment against invading forces. Obviously Tomorrow is marketed to the young-adult audiences and concentrate's on its characters' emotions,intertwining relationships and romances as opposed to all-out carnage and more mature themes, but comparisons will be made between the two just from their remarkably similar set-up
It is a very common marketing strategy for movie studios to rush out a smaller film on the big-budget marketing wave of a similar, yet bigger budget film. Examples of this strategy include Robin Hood which was released before Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (both in 1991), Ants, which was released before Disney’s A Bug’s Life (both in 1998), and Deep Impact which was released before Armageddon (both in 1998).
The Red Dawn remake was to be released later this year. The remake was going to be given a 2010 release date however troubled MGM studios has halted all release dates of their films which includes the next James Bond film. This might have affected Tomorrow’s marketing strategy some-what and may have had an impact on the movie’s success.
Interestingly, Red Dawn’s cast includes Australian actors from the television series Home and Away. It will be interesting what fans of the Tomorrow movie and novel(s) will think of this more adult-orientated film. Will they be loyal to the book that they grew up with and the movie that they dreamed would be made, or is the theme of an oncoming invasion that triggers an apocalyptic WWIII the main draw-card? Hopefully is the former, as the movie’s 2 sequels are being filmed back-to-back to be released in 2012 and 2013, with the rest of the series, along with the second series of novels, The Ellie Chronicles, being planned to be produced as a television series.
I have not read the novels, so I was watched the film with fresh eyes unencumbered from the novels, with no preconceptions of how the characters should look and act. The movie is a solid, tense action movie let down by exposition and clunky dialogue.
3.5 miffed teenagers out of 5
Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and check out the trailer.
Luke McWilliams September 2010