The Terminal List and The Tomorrow War: Chris Pratt’s Continuing Journey of Safe, Boring Choices

For someone whose star shines so brightly, Chris Pratt has a knack for making the dumbest decisions.

Were you surprised to discover that the new action series The Terminal List is something completely different from The Tomorrow War?

Both Amazon Prime Video titles star Chris Pratt as some sort of action hero, with generic names and cool marketing campaigns that are indistinguishable from each other.

To clarify, Tomorrow’s war was a big budget Amazon Prime movie in which Pratt starred as a military veteran and father of a daughter who must fight her way through his enemies. The terminal list is a high-budget Amazon Prime series in which Pratt stars as a serving military Special Ops soldier and father of a daughter who must fight her way through his enemies.

In Tomorrow’s warthose enemies are aliens and in The terminal listthose enemies are a conspiracy of government, business and military.

The two are actually quite different in story and tone, but you’d never know if you hadn’t spent more than 10 hours combing through both.

Tomorrow’s war was overwhelming and insane while The terminal list is boring and long-winded – there’s no reason the latter should have been an eight-part series, it’s so thin and unappealing, it should have been a one-off movie under two hours.

The terminal list spends an entire hour-long episode with Pratt’s character in the woods dodging a platoon of soldiers. The action ranges from Pratt grunting on the ground to Pratt grunting while running through rough terrain. It’s the opposite of compelling or exciting.

The fact The terminal list is so generic and interchangeable with Tomorrow’s war points to a wider creative slump for the A-lister: Pratt makes terrible career choices.

Okay, maybe terrible career choices have a few different facets. Maybe they aren’t bad choices if Pratt only cares about money. In that case, sure, do it. Make as many uninspired and artistically bankrupt movies and TV shows as you want.

But if Pratt cares at all about the depth and breadth of his work beyond the most mediocre and forgettable criteria, then he fails on most fronts. Pratt’s choices don’t challenge him dramatically or comically. He is risk averse and only chooses ‘safe’ roles in ‘safe’ projects that don’t require anything from him that he hasn’t done before.

Let’s take a look at his career.

He started in teen dramas Everwood and the OC before he hit it big as the lovable doofus Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation

After years of goodwill generated by portraying a teddy bear on TV plus some supporting appearances such as Zero Dark ThirtyHair and The five-year engagementPratt finally made the leap to leading man status.

First there was like Emmett’s voice in The Lego moviewhich although it wasn’t his face, his amazing voice performances won him legions of new fans.

It was Guardians of the Universe that really cemented his star. As Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Pratt had found the role that best suited his talents yet. He had the comedic timing for James Gunn’s script and direction, a touch of titillating for the arrested Star-Lord development personality, and enough action skills to be believable. And the dramatic demands were not insurmountable.

He also got really hounded and everyone started to pay attention to Pratt as more than just a sympathetic comedic relief.

That was in 2014. And since then Pratt has had nothing left to expand on, preferring to fill his release schedule with franchise entries like more Marvel movies, the Jurassic World trilogy, a Lego sequel, and a Magnificent Seven redo.

His appearances in passengersTomorrow’s warThe child and The terminal list make it clear that you are not looking at Jim Preston, Dan Forester, Grant Cutler and James Reece, you are always looking at Chris Pratt who is Chris Pratt.

And he’ll bring that same Pratt-iness in voice roles in Garfield and Mario – more examples of Pratt’s safe career choices.

If there is one thing The terminal list that can almost be risky, because the character he’s playing does enough horrible things to make you feel like he’s no longer the hero of the story – although that might not be intentional and just a result of bad writing and plotting.

Pratt is not alone in this, even among the four Hollywood Chrises. Chris Hemsworth is also risk averse in the projects he chooses. Outside of the Thor movies and the two movies he made with Drew Goddard (one of which, The cabin in the woodshe did in his pre-MCU days), his picks are the same boring, non-challenging roles.

Hemsworth’s upcoming role in Mad Max: Furiosa can prove this isn’t true – hopefully.

But look at Chris Pine and Chris Evans and you see a variety of projects that indicate a greater creative and intellectual curiosity than their counterparts.

Pine did Taylor Sheridan’s great western Hell or high water, playing a desperate man driven to rob banks. He also played a spy in the cat-and-mouse espionage and romantic thriller All old knivesand starred in and produced the mid-century crime drama I am the night

Evans played merry against type in Rian Johnson’s Blades off (and rocking a cream cable knit sweater), played a father in the quiet, soft drama Gifted and embodied a very different kind of father in the Apple TV+ series Defending Jacob

Pratt may be the nicest person on the planet, and certainly many of his co-workers suggest he is, but every time he drops another project it doesn’t spark any excitement. You want to support his work, but he makes it so difficult.

We expect only the most generic, IP-driven and uninspiring work from someone who should be doing more. Maybe he can start hiring better agents.

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