To be honest, I had never heard of the bestselling Tomorrow series (total of 7 bookss) by John Marsden until the film of the first book, Tomorrow, When the War Began, started making waves in the headlines. I was intrigued by the teaser poster, which has a girl with her back turned, looking out into the vast, empty plains. It gave me the feeling that this was going to be a promising blockbuster, and I was utterly shocked when I discovered that it was Australian.
Anyway, I went and checked it out over the weekend, harbouring some moderate expectations. And I am glad to say, at a basic level, the film delivered — an intriguing story, teenage angst, and a fair amount of action. While it was clearly not at the level of most Hollywood blockbusters, with a budget of just $20 million, I think Tomorrow, When the War Began was a solid domestic effort.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about a bunch of teenagers from a small Australian country town that decide to go camping, and while they are away, Australia is invaded by an unknown foreign enemy. How will they respond? Will they hide, or will they fight back? (I think we all know the answer).
The film is written and directed by Stuart Beattie, who worked on 30 Days of Night, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Australia and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. As Marsden’s book was first published in 1993, several changes were required to make this a ‘modern’ adaptation. I haven’t read the book yet (recently bought a copy), but from what I have heard the film is quite faithful to the original source.
What I enjoyed about the movie was that it was, for the most part, pretty entertaining. There’s nothing like a story about a bunch of average youngsters of various backgrounds and personalities who find themselves tossed into a perilous situation and must band together to overcome their prejudices and weaknesses in order to give themselves a chance to become heroes. We’ve seen it done before plenty of times, but for me, it never gets old, as long as it is well executed.
Yes, most of the stuff that happens in the film beggars belief, but it didn’t bother me at all. I accepted the gaps in logic and just went along for the ride. Even though there were very few surprises throughout the film, I still found many sequences to be tense and exciting.
And of course, we’ve got quite a cast of stereotypical characters — the strong, independent protagonist Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), the naive but loyal best friend Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), the local bad boy Homer (Deniz Akdeniz) the wimpy jock Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), the dumb blonde Fi (Phoebe Tonkin), the token hardworking Asian Lee (Chris Pang), the token religious freak Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings), and the token stoner Chris (Andy Ryan).
I didn’t have a big problem with the characters themselves, but it pains me to say that the acting from the young cast was somewhat uneven. Without naming names, I will simply say that some of the acting was cringeworthy (though the majority of it was passable). Again, I can’t discuss the book as I haven’t read it yet, but I would put some of the blame on the dialogue. Corny? Yes. Realistic? Not even close. The interactions between some of the characters also felt strained and unnatural. I could see what they were aiming for but they couldn’t quite pull it off.
So that was my impression of Tomorrow, When the War Began. A solid Aussie action flick (gosh there are so few of them), but ultimately nothing special. Nevertheless, the film has been doing very well across Australia and New Zealand, which means sequels could be forthcoming. If so, let’s hope they can turn it up another notch.
3.5 stars out of 5
(A couple of nice touches in the film were the little jokes about the book and the subtle references to Australia’s invasive past)