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Tomorrow When the War Began: The series that deserved more

Genre: Australian Action-Adventure War

Book Author: John Marsden Film director: Stuart Beattie TV Show director: Brendan Maher

Year(s) Released: Film release 2010; TV show release 2016


Tomorrow When the War Began book series, written by John Marsden, had been given both film and television series adaptations in the 2010's. To me, both were enjoyable to watch on the screen, and I couldn't wait to see more of this Australian based war series. Unfortunately, as it turned out for both the film and tv series, they were not given a sequel or second season - and honestly, it's a shame it didn't. Understandably the reason why was because it didn't do well at the box office and just didn't gain enough money or establish enough viewers to keep it going.

Again, this is just my personal take, but both adaptations had great casts, soundtracks and an interesting, gripping narrative that had so much potential to expand even further. What could have been had they been made in today's modern era of streaming platforms, or if it had released to wider success.

Anyway, I decided to make this post because, well, I can so don't mind my ramblings. There will be some minor spoilers ahead FYI, and with that out of the way let's jump in.

Yeah Kevin, no need to bloody swear

From left to right; Fiona, Corrie, Kevin, Robyn, Lee, Ellie and Homer

The Film

Tomorrow When the War Began hit Australian and New Zealand cinemas on September 2, 2010. In April 2011 it released in the U.K, and finally Feb 2012 in the US.

I was 14 when I first watched it, and I freakin' loved it. I remember my heart beating so fast when Kevin's dog Flip was running from an explosion. That entire scene alone was so bloody intense to me at that age, and it stuck with me. I saw this with my sister at our local cinema, and one that we actually both worked at at different times (Sadly that cinema no longer exists due to the pandemic, but I digress)

Anyway, months after I watched the film for the first time, I bought it on DVD as soon as it released at JB HI FI. It's safe to say since 2010, I have watched it a bunch of times. It's currently, at the time of writing this, streaming on STAN. I mention this because at the time of writing this article I have the film on in the background. I know, how fitting!

The film takes place in Wirrawee, a small fictional rural town in Australia. In the books it's set in Victoria, but in the film it's set in New South Wales. The story follows high schoolers Ellie and her group of friends; best friend Corrie, Corrie's boyfriend Kevin, Ellie's neighbour Homer, New to the group friend Fiona, Ellie's love interest Lee, and religious friend Robyn who all decide to go camping. Innocent enough, right? Camping, friends, the Australian wilderness - the only real threat would just be snakes (that can swim) right?

Well as it turns out when they return back home from this camping trip, they discover a shocking revelation and shit quite literally hits the fan. Their town has been invaded by an unknown country, and soon teens are faced with this reality. There are various obstacles they must overcome in order to hit a dent in this invasion. While the film deals with a lot of heavy themes and obstacles, there is still a good blend of comedic dialogue and moments from time to time. Most notably, these actions and dialogue usually comes from Ellie's cheeky, rebellious neighbour, Homer. It also ponders the question; what would you do if you were in their situation; would you run and hide? Or would you fight back?

The cast and soundtrack were also incredible. The cast featured Caitlin Stasey as Ellie (Please Like me 2013), Phoebe Tonkin as Fiona (The Originals 2013), Deniz Akdeniz as Homer (The Flight Attendant 2020), Lincoln Lewis as Kevin (Gallipoli 2015), Ashleigh Cummings as Robyn (Puberty Blues 2012), Rachel Hurd-Wood as Corrie (Clique 2017), Chris Pang as Lee (Crazy Rich Asians 2018), Andy Ryan as Chris (Love Child 2014) and a short appearance by Colin Friels as Dr Clement (Mystery Road 2018).

Now the soundtrack. Seriously, the films first song is Steer by Missy Higgins followed by a montage of Ellie's day to day, and showcasing the town of Wirrawee (and some foreshadowing too) and it's just bloody perfect. Not to mention some of my favourite tracks including Wolfmother's Cosmic Egg , The Temper Trap's Fader and Hearts on fire by Jet. It's just so bloody good.

From left to right; Kevin, Homer, Ellie and Robyn

The TV Show Unlike the film however, the series adaptation had the opportunity to expand a bit more on characters backstories and narrative.

From left to right; Kevin, Fiona, Ellie, Lee, Corrie, Robyn and Homer

Released in April 2016 on ABC3, 6 years after the film release, the series was greenlit for six 1 hour episodes. Once again in this war story, the teenage friends come back from a camping trip, only to come back home to their rural town of Wirrawee, and learn that an unexpected invasion has taken place. Cut off and alone they navigate their way around getting caught and trying to survive while trying to save their families who have been captured.

I do wish there had a bit more emphasis on all the teens friendships and backstories though. Despite their circumstances however, such is the case with the film, there was still a good blend of humour and laughter amongst them.

The show expanded a lot more in the narrative through flashbacks and more characterisation for each character. The series this time around also gave the invaders a voice; and rather than just being nameless soldiers like the film, this had a much more in depth dialogue with them.

Once again, the acting department was on par, with Molly Daniels as Ellie, Narek Arman as Homer, Jon Prasida as Lee, Madeleine Clunies-Ross as Fiona, Madeleine Madden as Corrie, Andrew Creer as Kevin, Fantine Banulski as Robyn and Keith Purcell as Chris. Recurring characters also included Sibylla Budd as Fiona's mum, Deborah Mailman as Corrie's mum and James Stewart as Colonel Lee.

And of course one of the most important sections (at least to me); the soundtrack! If you haven't guessed already soundtracks are my bread and butter; I love them... just in case you didn't notice. Ahh the soundtrack, once again, was also spectacular in this adaption featuring my personal favourites Shotgun by Adam Cousens and Under the Cherry Tree by Telemetry Orchestra. With genres ranging from folk, alternative rock and indie songs they all weaved in perfectly with the story and the intended demographic.

From left to right; Lee, Ellie, Robyn, Fiona, Homer, Kevin and Corrie

While overall I was impressed with the series (which I recently re-watched) I truly wish we had been given more; as it was on the track of developing this great series further. Ah, one can only dream of what could have been.

Overall, it deserved a sequel, it deserved a second season, and to have had more Australian content out in the wild would have been fantastic. I've always found the story interesting and compelling, and it's a shame it didn't reach a larger audience. Now, if you'll excuse me I'll be listening to the soundtrack on repeat for a while. Again.



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