The connection between Amazon’s spectacular action epic The Tomorrow War and The Thing, though subtle, is undeniable. Starring Chris Pratt, J.K. Simmons, and Yvonne Strahovski, The Tomorrow War is a rip-roaring ride through a futuristic alien vs human conflict and is certainly a treat for sci-fi fans. With enough spectacle to make even the smallest home screen feel like a full-size cinema, as well as nods to contemporary favorites like Edge Of Tomorrow, there’s plenty for genre-lovers to sink their teeth into.
However, despite the impressive array of 21st-century visual effects, some of The Tomorrow War‘s most crowd-pleasing moments actually focus on the past. Specifically, the film goes out of its way to reference one of the 1980s most iconic horror hits, with nods to other genre landmarks along the way. Even with the variety of modern filmmaking methods on display, it’s clear that John Carpenter’s classic sci-fi chiller The Thing is a major influence on the production.
Perhaps most notably, The Tomorrow War features a showdown between humans and aliens in an inhospitable frozen landscape – just like the original 1982 masterpiece. In addition, Pratt’s Dan Forester and his team unearth the alien spacecraft buried underneath the ice, hidden in almost exactly the same way as the UFO from Carpenter’s movie. This clear visual connection serves to link the two stories, providing a welcome Easter egg for sci-fi lovers.
In fact, The Tomorrow War goes a step further than simply referencing the first Thing movie by recreating narrative elements from the film’s 2011 prequel. Just like in the more recent movie, human characters explore the alien ship in an attempt to destroy their foe. Although the designs of the two UFOs are distinct, it’s difficult not to call to mind Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s encounter with the parasitic alien as Pratt and co. explore their own version of a dangerous spacecraft. These shared narrative threads highlight just how far-reaching the legacy of The Thing universe continues to be.
While Carpenter’s shapeshifting alien menace is the most obvious reference in The Tomorrow War, it’s far from the only genre nod. For instance, it becomes clear during the film’s climax that the alien antagonists that the heroes have been fighting are actually bio-engineered organisms designed specifically to function as weapons. This plot twist is reminiscent of the xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror Alien, which hapless scientists are constantly trying to turn into a weapon.
On the surface, The Tomorrow War could easily be dismissed as a lightweight blockbuster. However, these nods to some illustrious cinematic predecessors prove that there’s actually more going on beneath the surface. Regardless of the response to the film itself, there’s no doubt that The Tomorrow War knows where it came from.