Directed by Brad Bird.
Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Thomas Robinson, Raffey Cassidy and Hugh Laurie.
A former boy-genius and an optimistic teenager join forces to find the mysterious Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland is a roller coaster ride. Literally. The whole movie is based on one of Disney’s theme park areas. This joke will be made in every Tomorrowland review you read.
It’s tough to avoid, though, because – like Pirates of the Caribbean before it – the description is pretty apt. Tomorrowland never pauses to catch breath. Even the few slower moments still involve enormous peril or poignancy. The film only has one speed – that of tipping over a roller coaster’s edge.
In anyone else’s hands, the constant action would numb the senses. In Brad Bird’s – only his second live-action movie after Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – every jolt and twist in the tracks is experienced full force. The camera is dynamic (especially in the awe-inspiring, one-take Tomorrowland commercial), the score bold (Michael Giacchino has reunited The Incredibles’ brass section) and edited without an ounce of fat (take a bow, Walter Murch, one of cinema’s greatest editors). But, in truth, all that just makes for the ride’s vibrating seat, or the strobe lighting in the haunted fibreglass cavern. The real stomach lurches of joy come from the message at Tomorrowland’s narrative core.
Frank Walker (George Clooney) was once a boy-genius (played in mini-me form by the terrific Thomas Robinson [all the child actors are superb]), allowed to live in Tomorrowland, a city in an alternate dimension created by Earth’s smartest people. There are robots, holograms, even High Speed Rail – it’s Walt Disney’s futuristic wet dream…until you notice how multicultural its inhabitants are (which is very).
There’s also Athena (the brilliantly stoic Raffey Cassidy), the girl who recruited Frank in the first place. Over time, the two fall for each other… but she isn’t what she seems (Bird’s Iron Giant haunts their relationship), leaving Frank cynical and bitter. And this is just the backstory, elements of which appear in flashbacks throughout the movie’s fractured narrative – one that jumps forwards and backwards in time as much as it does through action set pieces and comedy.
The central, present-day plot follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a sci-curious adventurer and, more importantly, eternal optimist. All around her, dreams are being snuffed out. Her NASA engineer father is losing his job because of Cape Canaveral’s dismantling. School lectures teach depleting natural resources, environmental disasters and dystopian English literature. Billboards for the fictional apocalypse movie ‘Toxi-Chaos 3’ litter external wide shots. But still she believes in a better future. And that makes for Tomorrowland’s great central conflict:
Optimism vs Pessimism.
Frank is dejected and resigned to Earth’s impending doom – from what, he doesn’t know, but he believes a doomsday tipping point has been reached. For Casey, anything other than making the world better isn’t even a consideration. The leads are just the right level of charismatic, their combating perspectives perfectly balanced, and the action threatening enough (a child gets mowed down by a car at one point), that neither side becomes overly cheery or emo, respectively.
The movie’s message is admirable. This age is one dominated by fear – politicians no longer offer dreams and hope; they warn against exaggerated threats and disaster instead. Tomorrowland preaches the power of the former. It’s the sort of film where every actor is lit with a twinkle in their eyes. They’re optimists, dreamers, and it’s infectious.
So yeah, watch this movie to save the world.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★