Hey come on kids lets go have the idea of fun. Tomorrowland new Disney film from director Brad Bird (The Incredibles & Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and writer Damon Lindelof (Star Trek Into Darkness & Lost) is based on the eponymous section of Disneyworld. It’s the futuristic section of the park originally opened unfinished as ostensibly a commercial showcase. Just an idea of a better tomorrow…
We open with Britt Robertson starring as Casey a zealous teenager with a lot of questions. We meet her as she is trying to sabotage the destruction of a NASA launchpad. Capturing real life as NASA is in a bad state of affairs concerning funding. She feels implored to do it because it’s a beacon of an optimistic future. Also her dad’s a NASA engineer, which blurs the characters’ set up somewhat. After being arrested for trespassing on the site she comes into contact with a mysterious pin that transports her to a mysterious place in a futuristic dimension. When she cannot gain access to it she goes in search of Frank Walker played by George Clooney to get to the real Tomorrowland.
The Tomorrowland we are first presented with in the film is exclusively set up for the most innovative minds on Earth to live in while creating a brighter tomorrow. When Casey is consistently confronted with a bleak future by teachers and popular culture, she wants to know how can we change it, god dammit! She’s perfect for Tomorrowland. We are told she’s incredibly smart but there is no evidence to the fact. Instead she’s reduced to running around asking questions barely working it out for herself. But just the idea of her being smart isn’t enough.
Famously Disney was more concerned with the ideas of EPCOT which was closed down not long after his death and reopened in 1982. It features a world showcase created to show the ingenuity and imagination of the world. It was intended in the 1960s to be an actual city that would be constantly upgraded as scientists would be invested in to come up with inventions for humanity. I was excited for this movie based on ideas like this explored in the realms of Sci-Fi had the potential to do something really different. Brad Bird being attached to direct showed even more promise.
The problem is we got Damon Lindelof’s contrived empty mythologies crawling through an unnecessarily complex narrative. That we’ve only scratched the surface of so far because of spoilers. The pre-production marketing was professing how it would be concerned with the mythology of Tomorrowland another reason I thought to be excited. It’s a shame that this mythology is a disappointing and hollow. Clooney wrestles with the narrative in a flashback within a flashback as Frank Exposition. That’s So Lindelof.
Frank Walker was once an optimistic inventor but it seems all is not well in Tomorrowland. Who created a jetpack that is rejected at the world fair because much like the film it doesn’t work. The young Frank Walker played by the brilliantly cast Thomas Robinson says himself “Well no it doesn’t work, but it’ll inspire people, won’t it?” Won’t it? Huh? Won’t… it.
Unfortunately not. The script decries the dystopian futures that we are shown by films and popular culture, but then falls into the same traps and whizz pop action set pieces that the worst of those do. At least the good ones give us a lot of fun while we’re at it; namely Mad Max. The set pieces here do have some highlights like Walker’s booby trapped house. Which is at least some evidence of this character being smart, which is more than can be said for the “chosen one.” The themes of the film are a good message that I would be on board with, had they been themes and not clumsy dialogue.
Hugh Laurie has a turn as Nix a villain that was another superfluous complexity to the plot. The villain merely had to be a bad future, that’s what we’re fighting against. There are some things I liked about the movie like Raffey Cassidy who has been the stand out star and is one of the better surprises of the film. Her fellow female star Britt Robertson does very well with what she’s given and will make a better break onto the scene. The world building is well designed but it’s mostly a background to uncoupling mystery. Being in the background worked for San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6, but this film is about the city. It’s the title. I wanted to experience the city incidentally and not have it clunky described to me and not see enough.
Verdict: An intriguing premise that gets caught up in heavy handed messages and bad storytelling. With a “one to look out for” performance from Raffey Cassidy.
Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures