Imagine a society in which all the most brilliant minds came together to create a greater future for humanity, free from the issues that plague any progress in the world we live in today? In theory, this sounds like a pretty great and amazing place. Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) hasn’t given up on her own imagination and thoughts as to what’s possible in this world. When she’s selected by a young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy), she meets Frank Walker (George Clooney), a man who has been to Tomorrowland and needs her help to save it and their world.
Tomorrowland has some genuinely inspiring moments, which overshadow it’s on-the-nose storytelling and somewhat underwhelming premise. At times, I felt truly transported to a place where anything is still possible and my child-like wonder replaced my millennial cynicism. There were moments where I had goosebumps and was mystified by what I was seeing, but I can’t deny that film was somewhat of a letdown. For all the hype surrounding and it and for all its big ideas, the film doesn’t go where it feels like it should and it falls short in the end.
Director Brad Bird is the man responsible for The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. With such a pristine resume thus far, I really wanted to believe that this film would knock it out of the park. Bird’s belief in optimism is crucial to viewing this film, as the film deals a lot with humanity and our acceptance that giving up is easiest. He’s not wrong and his film practically begs the audience to dream again and believe that anything is possible again. His film looks great and it has many moments of inspiration which beckoned to Interstellar and the sensation of exploration, but his Disney controlled film doesn’t reach all the levels it should.
Helping write the script alongside Bird is Damon Lindelof, the man everyone loves to blame for asking more questions than he answers. I’d like to make it clear that I’m a Lindelof apologist, as I absolutely love his work writing for Lost, Star Trek Prometheus, The Leftovers, and the ending to World War Z. He’s a man who loves mysteries and exploration, making him a great candidate for the scope of this film. His script here has some great speeches about humanity and human nature, as well as some fun and witty dialogue. The script is very on the nose, sending out many messages to the audience in a very Disney fashion. The story is a lot of fun early on, but in the end it finds itself far from where it originally seemed to be headed.
On the upside of this film, the world is going to be introduced to Britt Robertson, who single-handedly asserts herself as a new, great talent in Hollywood. Her amazement and wonder throughout the film keeps her character grounded and believable and it’s easy to feel like her character at certain points in the film. She’s got a brilliant energy about her that helps carry this film through its lowest of lows. Working alongside Clooney’s curmudgeon, the two have some great back-and-forths which bring about serious discussion of the state of humanity. Clooney and his voice often tell the audience what’s going on, but he’s fine in this role. He isn’t asked to do too much, but he has some extremely sincere moments which almost tug at your heart-strings.
Much like Interstellar, Tomorrowland explores what it once meant to dream of the future where flying cars and jetpacks would rule the stars. Granted, I did like Interstellar more than almost every film last year and this film didn’t nearly reach those heights. For being a big summer blockbuster, this film is extremely personal and sends such messages to all ages. I asked a few kids at the screening what they thought and they loved it. They felt like they could be the dreamers of tomorrow and I hope that if people take anything away from this film, that we care more about the future and what we think is possible. It asks adults to release their old ways and care for the new. It asks millennials to raise questions about what we’re doing for our Earth. It’s totally preachy, but it serves a purpose. It’s hard to dislike this film because it really does speak to some of those notions of our place in the world and what we’re contributing to it.
Tomorrowland dreams of a better place, when it should have been dreaming of a better movie. You can’t deny the aspirations and emotion that Bird and Lindelof put into the film, but it isn’t executed all that well. It plays with some big ideas which sometimes pay off, but its final act just doesn’t do the rest of the film any favors. Britt Roberston, George Clooney, and Hugh Laurie do a great job of keeping your interest and young children will enjoy this, but this is a film that you see on DVD, if you see it at all.