Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
The world’s most successful movie studio, a celebrated screen writer, an up and coming director, an amazing concept and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Tomorrowland seems to have everything going for it. And does it work? Well we’ll get to that.
Casey (Britt Robertson) is arrested for attempting to halt the demolition of a NASA launch pad. When collecting her belongings, she finds a strange pin that when she touches it seemingly transports her to a futuristic world called “Tomorrowland”. Determined to find answers, she encounters a young girl called Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who points Casey in the direction of Frank Walker (George Clooney) who Athena claims was exiled from Tomorrowland and can take Casey there. But after finding Frank, the two find themselves chased by robots determined to kill them leading to a frantic chase to find a way into Tomorrowland. But things are not all as they seem.
Tomorrowland’s plot is frantic, fast paced, well-written and engaging. For the first two acts at least. In the third act of the story, everything falls apart. This is probably the fault of screenwriter Damion Lindelof who, despite being a great writer, struggles to find the right way to end the film (this has been the case on several other films Lindelof has written). The ending itself is good, but it doesn’t live up to the rest of the film. Lacklustre is probably the correct term. It’s clear what the ending attempts to do, but it falls short which is an incredible shame as there are many great ideas presented, including some excellent moral ambiguity from the “villain” who, when they explains their reasoning, you have a hard time denying the fact they’re actually right. Perhaps with a bit more time working on the script this could have been fixed. But ignoring the ending, everything leading up to it is great plotwise.
Sadly, to say the movie is called Tomorrowland, the amount of time actually spent there is severely limited. The film seems to keep holding Tomorrowland back and presenting it as a magical place, yet at no point are we allowed chance to properly see or explore it. Even when the characters arrive there, they spend most of their time inside buildings with drab generic white walls that wouldn’t look out of place in Star Trek or any other Sci-Fi film. Which is a shame, as from the glimpses we do get the world seems wonderfully created and filled with things to explore.
The cast are all great in the roles they have. Raffey Cassidy is particularly great as Athena, delivering a wonderful performance that brings the character to life. Britt Robertson brings the required spunkiness and wide eyed wonder as Casey. Many have predicted this could be a career making role for Robertson which I do hope it is as she shows strong talent. George Clooney meanwhile is George Clooney. You’ll either love his take on the character or wish someone else had played the part. I personally thought he did a pretty good job with what the script allowed and the scenes he shares with Cassidy as Frank and Athena discuss their connection to each other come across as touching and heart warming thanks to the wonderful performances between the two actors. Clooney and Robertson are wonderful whenever they’re on screen together, sharing fantastic on screen chemistry. Even if the movie doesn’t want to give time to Frank and Casey’s friendship, despite most of the movie hinging on it, Clooney and Robertson are able to make it come across perfectly making up for the scripts shortcomings. Hugh Laurie puts in a great performance as well, in the relative short time he’s on screen. He also notably gets away with perhaps the best use of a curse word in a Disney film ever.
Brad Bird shows his directorial capability through Tomorrowland’s action sequences. Each one being incredibly inventive and amazing to watch. While there’s nothing on Mad Max: Fury Road or Avengers: Age of Ultron levels, the action here is very fun to watch. The best action sequence by far being an assault on Frank’s home by robots. Seeing all of Frank’s traps he’s set just in case of such an attack is great fun to watch and the movie is certainly worth watching for this sequence alone. It’s a shame this sequence is so good. Other action sequences in the film fail to live up to it, including the climatic action sequence.
Tomorrowland presents many strong ideas within its narrative, ones that I think are necessary for a younger audience. The film even does a giant take that at news and media. If we constantly put out there and tell people the world is a horrible place and that it’s only going to get worse, are we in fact inadvertently convincing younger generations to give up? Making them believe there’s nothing they can do to change it? Should we instead show what’s good about the world? Should we show it can be saved? More importantly, should we inspire people to be creative and try to make the world a better place? They’re some very strong ideas and easily useful for opening a debating point. How do you convince people to try and change the world? Inspire them by showing what’s good? Or try to force them by showing them what’s bad? It’s a tough question and certainly not an easy one to answer which is one of the film’s strengths.
The special effects in Tomorrowland are excellent to behold. It’s a joy to see such a wonderful world full of imagination brought to life on screen. It’s just a shame we’re never allowed to spend any time there. Everything else presented in the film looks fantastic. A sequence involving the Eiffel Tower is a particular standout. Michael Giacchino’s score is also a decent addition to the film. It has some nice themes and matches the film perfectly, even if it’s not exactly memorable. This is certainly not a film you’ll want to run out and buy the score for.
I almost wonder if Tomorrowland was subject to the same problems that Joss Whedon encountered on Avengers: Age of Ultron. Was Disney demanding cuts of necessary story and character scenes to ensure a shorter run time? Was Brad Bird’s vision being sacrificed in favour of a shorter more marketable film? Or was Tomorrowland just a huge misstep from the beginning? It’s a shame we’ll probably never know.
Tomorrowland is ultimately a mash of different ideas, none of which really gel together that well leaving a disjointed film in its wake. It’s a film that’s let down by its script. With a bit more time to work on a stronger script, there could have been something truly special here, especially due to the films smart and big ideas. Thankfully the film is saved by some strong performances and thrilling action sequences. I hope Disney sits down and examines exactly what went wrong with Tomorrowland. If they’re willing, a sequel could fix most of the problems with this film and hopefully start an exciting new franchise.