Tomorrowland Review

5.5 Overall Score
Writing : 3/10
Direction : 7/10
Performances : 6/10

Effects, Action, Potential, Performances

Writing, Tonal Confusion, Corporate Sheen

The future that Tomorrowland prophesizes for us is dire and desolate. Images of manmade destruction litter the arrangements of screens located in a situation room of Frank Walker’s (George Clooney) home. We see fire, riots, the melting of icecaps and the explosion of bombs plastered all over the screen. In Tomorrowland’s eyes, the world we live in is one of cynicism and chaos, and the lack of harmony that we have as a planet will have us facing a future that rivals Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s even a moment where the film lingers on an image of a tornado, as if to insinuate that the wretchedness of humans has any effect on the weather. Apparently, that’s how bad things have gotten.

 

While that’s the future that has been foretold by Tomorrowland, it certainly isn’t the future that the film wants for us. Director Brad Bird’s films have always been brimming with optimistic messages. In The Incredibles, Bird convinced us that family would always be there, no matter the threat. In Ratatouille, we believed that anyone could cook, no matter the size. In Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, he convinced us that Tom Cruise will always be a movie star, no matter the agenda of Scientology. Tomorrowland is optimistic for the future, only this time, Bird promotes the subtext to the text.

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Co-written by Bird and Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus, Star Trek: Into Darkness), Tomorrowland is most certainly a “message” film. With films such as the aforementioned Mad Max detailing a future where humanity is on the losing side, Bird looks much more to the type of futures detailed in Back to the Future Part II, where high-tech contraptions like hover boards and jetpacks were a possible reality. Tomorrowland pleads to its audience to forget about what the end of the world might bring, and look forward to the endless possibilities. It’s a squeaky clean, old-fashioned ideal that is refreshing in today’s age of cinema. Sadly, the refreshing nature of the message is let down by the normally brilliant Bird’s execution, as Tomorrowland fumbles too much in craftsmanship to live up to its lofty expectations for both itself and its’ audience.

 

Tomorrowland is based on the popular Disney World ride in the Epcot Center, and that’s where the first conflict comes between message and content. How am I supposed to avoid being cynical when the film won’t let me forget that it’s based on an existing property? Maybe that’s a “me” problem, but the film opens with Clooney’s Walker talking directly to the audience as if he’s introducing the ride. He begins to tell the story of when he as a young boy (Thomas Robinson) discovered the shiny, sleek titular town at the 1964 World Fair. Where was the fair held, you ask? Disney World. The urge to groan is a bit irresistible.

tomorrowland 3

Anyways, Frank pops up into Tomorrowland when he’s given a mysterious pin by a mysterious young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy, giving the best performance of the film). We flash forward to several years later, as gee-whiz go-getter/juvenile delinquent Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) finds the pin in her belongings, and everytime she touches it with her bare hands, it seemingly transports her to Tomorrowland. Determined to learn more and get there permanently, her search ultimately leads her to Frank’s doorstep, now a bitter, pessimistic old man.

 

As with plenty of Damon Lindelof scripts, ambiguity and cohesive storytelling is an issue. Tomorrowland feels like the opening film of a trilogy that almost certainly will not continue. So much time is dedicated to preserving the mystery of Tomorrowland that our main characters don’t even get there until late in the film, and when they do, the mystery is almost certainly destined to be a letdown. The villain’s motivations are muddled, and the message encroaches too much on storytelling. There are so many questions that Lindelof and Bird fail to answer satisfyingly (or at all). What exactly is Tomorrowland? What are our heroes trying to do? Why should I care?

 

Tomorrowland is schmaltzy and saccharine sweet in its optimism, which may prove too much for adults to take seriously. Bird stages some intense and well-choreographed action sequences, but there are moments that will prove frightening to children. Bird has made a competent, whimsical sci-fi adventure, but for what audience? It’s a shame, because the bones of a great film lie within Tomorrowland, but the execution leaves those bones buried. Bird wants me to be optimistic for the future, but I’m more optimistic that The Incredibles 2 will get him back on track.

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Author: Andrew Auger View all posts by
Andrew Auger is a student at Marist College and is majoring in Journalism. He is a huge fan of movies, and considers the late film critic Roger Ebert his idol. He hopes to one day be a prestigious film critic just like Mr. Ebert.

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