I only fuck with brothers and sisters when it comes to aliens from space.
"I only fuck with brothers and sisters when it comes to aliens from space." Amazon Studios

This weekend, Amazon Studios released a horrible monster of a film called The Tomorrow War. It stars Chris Pratt and a bunch of aliens who eat humans and shoot darts from, I guess, openings on limbs. The story: In the future, humans are badly losing a war with these huge and very fast matriarchal aliens who are, by all appearances, technologically primitive—though they have a spaceship that can travel the great interstellar nothingness of space. Anyway, the humans in the future need more bodies for the war, so they use a time machine to go to the past to recruit humans. One of the humans is Dan (Pratt). He is unhappy about his job (high school science teacher) and hates his father for reasons that are not really convincing. He goes to the future and fights these damn aliens.

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Everything about this film screams the Edge of Tomorrow, a brilliant 2014 science fiction film that stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. It, too, has large and fast aliens, a war between aliens and humans, and time travel as one of the war's arenas. But the aliens in Edge of Tomorrow are more impressive because they are less ugly and more vulnerable.

In Pratt's Tomorrow, an alien needs sooooo many bullets to kill it; in Cruise's Tomorrow, about a third of the bullets are needed to bring one of these damn things down. But most important of all, Pratt's Tomorrow's concept of time travel is caught in the same grandfather paradox cage as The Terminator and, for that matter, Back to the Future. Cruise's Tomorrow reduces the terrain of time to a few minutes, and this shortness makes time traveling far less fantastic. There is really no need to watch Pratt's Tomorrow when Cruise's Tomorrow is infinitely better.

But The Tomorrow War is not the only new big-budget film to badly recycle the key materials of a great work. We can also include Antoine Fuqua's Infinite. Its source is shamelessly The Matrix, with Mark Wahlberg as Neo—the new Jesus. Now, Fuqua is not a bad Hollywood director, and I have no doubt that he could make a decent Matrix movie from a Wachowskis script. But somehow he got stuck with a script or producers or something (God only knows) dead serious about taking as much as possible from the original and reprocessing with as little imagination as possible.
Not ripping off  Blade Runner but The Matrix, right?
"Not ripping off Blade Runner but The Matrix, right?" Paramount Plus

And what about Steven Soderbergh's No Sudden Move? Surely, this film stands alone. The director is too smart to recycle another film in the low fashion of Infinite and The Tomorrow War. But I must report the truth. And the truth is it does not stand alone.

No Sudden Move's source is not as popular as Edge of Tomorrow or The Matrix, but it does star a Hollywood A-list actor, Denzel Washington. He plays Easy Rawlins, a black private detective whose main concern in life is meeting his mortgage. Carl Franklin directed this film, Devil in a Blue Dress, which is based on a Walter Nosley and is now considered to be a masterpiece of '90s neo-noir. Everything that No Sudden Move wants to be (an exceptional neo-noir) is found in Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress. No Sudden Move even stars Don Cheadle playing an emasculated version of his unforgettable character in Blue Dress, Mouse.

This is the film they should be watching, Easy.
"This is the film they should be watching, Easy." Sony Pictures

Now, what is all this about? Does the current bad recycling business have something to do with the long pandemic shutdown? If so, it's not that production quality has deteriorated over this unprecedented time, but, most likely, that the tastes of consumption have.