A former boy genius (George Clooney) and a gifted teenager (Britt Robertson) set out on a dangerous mission to unearth the secrets of “Tomorrowland,” an enigmatic location caught between time and space. Lead by the mysterious recruiter Athena (Raffey Cassidy), the three do their best to uncover the secrets that could potentially unearth the worlds biggest mystery. The answers seemingly lay in the middle of the secret city.
Brad Bird enters into Tomorrowland with the best of intentions. A veteran behind the camera, Bird looked to bring with him the meticulous attention to detail he had with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and the empathetic emotional dynamic that served him well with The Incredibles. What we’re left with is a visually stunning overly preachy sermon about the environment.The story begins with our would be heroes providing a speech to an unknown audience. Clooney plays the gruff but lovable protagonists with a bit of a glass half empty mentality, and while attempting to start our narrative he is interrupted by Britt Robertson’s Casey saying “try to be a little more upbeat.” This is the best line to describe the film. In a weekend where the apocalypse is at the forefront and disaster movies seem to be king, we get what is essentially Disney’s very chipper version of a dawn of the apocalypse story.
There is certainly no surprise that Disney serves up the impending doom with a hefty side of cheery optimism. A company that has cut its teeth and built it’s empire on the smiling faces of the youth, would be the clear contender to counter program their end of the world against the searingly desolate disparity that is Mad Max’s wasteland backdrop. What Disney hopes the audience will do, is choose to take their apocalypse sunny side up.
Tomorrowland is a clever good natured PG adventure film with a solid cast and decent script. Intent on relying heavily with visual stimulation, the film does everything big. The characters, landscape, story, and heavy handed morals are all, in typical Disney fashion, larger than life. Veteran leading man George Clooney seems properly cast, able to masterfully switch between curmudgeonly old man, to sympathetic sweetheart. He helps drive some of the more stagnant moments of the film acting as a sort of guiding light to his younger co stars. The handling of Clooney’s Frank Walker, was solid, but even Frank can be a bit cartoonish at times, though that is likely how the character was written. Robertson runs into a bit of the same problem. A charming young actress, with solid chemistry between herself and Clooney, she is just a bit too much a one note character hell bent on positivity. Not to say that positivity is a negative trait, but the best protagonists have layers and are able to gather a range of emotions that Robertson’s Casey just does not possess. She does just fine with the role presented to her, and she follows the script, but there was potential for adversity to fit into the story and make her arc far more interesting. Bird skims over that possibility choosing to keep the films spirits at maximum height all the way through. Perhaps the most interesting performance comes from the youngest star. Cassidy’s Athena is delightfully mysterious. Able to balance childlike sensibilities with the relentlessness needed for her character was impressive. Cassidy is certainly a stand out in her feature debut.
The narrative is choppy. Tomorrowland plays like a film that can’t quite settle on a theme. In an effort to play to all ages it ends up appealing to none. The studio marketed the film in such a way to make it appear that we would be given a lot of time to chew on the scenery that is this utopian version of humanity, the problem is we don’t. We barely spend any time in the world the title indicates. This is particularly egregious because the backstory of this utopian society seems boundless, but it inexcusably goes largely unexplored. Bird and company were too caught up trying to over develop its characters and make this into a chase movie that it fails to let us stop and smell the roses. In the few moments we get to freeze and take in, the film is beautiful. There is a scene that takes place on top of the Eiffel Tower that is stunning and yet reveals the most ironic line of the film. In a movie that spends so much time stepping on the gas then slamming on the brakes to explain the series of events just displayed, Clooney says to Robertson “Do I have to explain everything to you? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” Wise words that Bird and Disney should have heeded themselves. Choosing to spend most of it’s time in a constant stop and start, the film never settles in and therefore never let’s the audience just breathe in the beauty of the world being created.
Tomorrowland is an ambitious effort about an ambiguous world with a wholly unambiguous message. The biggest problem with the film is the fact that it spends it’s entire third act metaphorically beating you over the head with it’s defining moral. Abandoning all subtlety and electing to step high onto it’s soapbox, moving away from it’s cartoony gee-wiz velocity and providing a series of sententious sermons about hope, and despair, and what we are doing to our planet. The final third of the film decides to turn into a middle school Earth Day assembly. Sure it’s nice to get out of class for half a day, but nobody wants to be berated by an overtly pronounced message of potential despair, especially when you pay ten plus dollars expecting something wildly different. Tomorrowland does all it can to package itself as a story of wonder in a monotonous world, but the film is just as monotonous, and ultimately not all that wonderful.
2.5/5 Do Better Bro