Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as Tomorrowland.
What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever. Featuring a screenplay by Brad Bird and Lost writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof, from a story by Lindelof & Jeff Jensen and Bird, Tomorrowland promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of.
Tomorrowland is has several cool ideas, fast action sequences and some interesting characters. Director Brad Bird has shown in the past that he knows how to handle action, and his latest feature is no exception. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland promised a lot more than just cool action, and, other than a few highlights, it falls short of the mark in all other ways.
From its outset, Tomorrowland tries to convince us that it’s focused on what our greatest minds could do if we brought them together and gave them a meaningful goal. It begins by introducing us to a young man full of exciting ideas who gets drawn into another dimension where our greatest minds are working on amazing things. Then it skips ahead in time and gives us a very one-sided and pessimistic look at our own world where things are falling apart. Soon, we’re swept up into an adventure to save the world, but instead of promoting improving it through positive means like what the heroes are talking about, all we ever really see is more violence and a tired retread of stereotypical righteous heroes taking down a villain with a twisted worldview. In the end, Tomorrowland left me feeling like it could have been so much more had it just been willing to embrace its creative side and not try so hard to be a crowd-pleasing action adventure.
As you can probably tell, the story failed to impress me. It started strong, got me interested and introduced some neat characters (Britt Robertson’s character in particular is great fun to watch), but then it lost its way in a few mindless action sequences before coming to a “seen-it-before” heroes vs. villain climax. The fascinating ideas and sense of a deeper mystery that pervaded the film’s start dwindled to a special effects-laden Eiffel Tower sequence and then left the film completely to apparently fulfill what someone must have thought the masses wanted to see. The writing is clearly meant to please as many people as possible (and the kids I watched the movie with seemed to enjoy it), but it lacks life or the spark of creativity that could have made this film great. In the end, Tomorrowland tries to bluntly promote its “we all need to try harder” message without backing it up with story or visuals, and its often-violent progression even seemed to be pushing the wrong ideals to the kids that will be most drawn in by it.
Technique & Direction
On the plus side, I can say that Tomorrowland is a good looking movie. Brad Bird and cinematographer Claudio Miranda created some great shots that pop off the screen, and the Eiffel Tower sequence in particular was very well done. For the first half of the movie, the shots, pace, and soundtrack combine to give it a Goonies quality that is highly appealing. But then the action starts getting a little too violent, the chases get a little too long, and the pacing begins to stumble largely because of the action sequences that Bird is usually such a pro at. For Tomorrowland to work, it had to maintain its sense of discovery and awe and it lost it in its last half in favor of the more cliché action that pervades most big budget movies these days.
Britt Robertson was a pleasant surprise, giving her character powerful on-screen energy and adding to the audience’s awe through her own excitement about the things she was discovering. I fully believed in her character’s ability to innovate and improve the world, and I loved it. I just wish the story had actually allowed her to do so instead of making her take down a villain. Raffey Cassidy’s Athena was also convincing and both her and the effects team added some great little details to sell her performance. The only performances that let me down were the two actors I expected the most from. George Clooney’s Frank felt forced and hollow, and Hugh Laurie’s villain was as cliché as they come. I’ll admit that a lot of the problem for both of them was probably the writing, but neither was able to bring any life to their characters.
The sound for Tomorrowland is a little bit of a mixed bag like the movie as a whole. Some sequences had a sweeping, epic score that leant to the sense of awe while other sections failed to get the emotional rise that Bird was probably hoping for. Overall, the soundtrack works pretty well and sound effects for a lot of the futuristic technology helped me to buy into it.
What All of This Means to You
Violent and with mixed messages for kids, but also too cliché for adults, Tomorrowland starts strong and then dwindles to nothing special. It’s fun enough to be worth seeing, but not engaging enough that it demands to be seen in theaters.
The Bad: Oddly paced, thematically inconsistent, not quite a kids movie but not really for adults either, Clooney seems off his game