MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Tomorrowland’ Lacks Wonder And Coherence

Tomorrowland-Movie-Review

Film: Tomorrowland
Starring: Britt Robertson, George Clooney
Directed By: Brad Bird

As the first shot rolls on Tomorrowland, we see Clooney’s Frank Walker talking to the camera about his pessimistic predilections towards the future. Once he is done telling his story, the camera pans over Britt Robertson’s Casey Newton, someone self-dubbed as an optimist as she smiles into the camera while Frank grunts.

It would be fair to say that watching these two ideological agendas play out amongst a swath of beautiful CGI would be fun, to say the least. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. Brad Bird’s newest has so many worldviews and agendas battling each other in the narrative — some half-baked and some well fleshed out — that the intriguing inspiration behind the concept of Tomorrowland gets sunk under instances of preachy blathering. This is weird since Bird made a joke about the same overly verbose speeches used by villains in The Incredibles.

Frank Walker once was a bright-eyed and aspiring inventor as a kid. He was invited into the coveted land of inventors, dubbed Tomorrowland. Now, he’s an aging schlub holed up in his house of gadgets. In comes Casey Newton, a girl with a mysterious button that transports her to Tomorrowland when touched. Casey goes to Frank after the button stops working, begging him to bring her to the place that once inspired him. Robots and a megalomaniacal purveyor of Tomorrowland who is hellbent on letting the world be destroyed, of course, chase them.

Back when the first preview for the film came out, the Internet was filled with people befuddled by the concept. Not because they didn’t like it, but because it was still shrouded in so much secrecy per Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof’s wishes. All we knew was that the film was to be inspired by a failed amusement park that Walt Disney wanted to build. A land that would inspire generations to come with breakthrough technology and attractions. Bird and Lindelof used these scientific aspirations as a launch pad to tell a story about a girl, basically the messiah that will save the world from some pre-conceived destruction brought on by another invention. That’s right, it wasn’t that there were things to shroud in secrecy. It was the simple fact that the movie pigeonholes itself into a world-saving narrative instead of provoking the audience to pick apart every cool invention put in front of them. Disney has inspired generations of audiences with their films. This one just seems like a lazy take on something that could be truly gorgeous and awe-inspiring.

The saving graces here come in the form of the performances. Britt Robertson is great as Casey, the rebel who tinkers and destroys things to save her father’s job at NASA. We are meant to believe that this girl harnesses a scientific mind that can change the world forever, so why do we see her flying a helicopter drone via mobile app to showcase her talents? Lazy. Outside of that, though, her presence makes the film much less of a drag. The same thing goes for Rafey Cassidy as Athena, an inventor-recruiting automaton from Tomorrowland. Her innocence spliced with some solid gags may make you almost wish for the narrative to turn into her story.

Clooney as Frank is the biggest miscalculation, though. In the beginning, we see a character that built a jet pack. We don’t know how he did it, but we know that his Dad was kind of an a-hole. We’re led to believe that Frank is a mind that changed Tomorrowland although we never actually get to see the fruits of his labors. Instead, we get presented with a character full of resent, not someone who doles out scientific jargon and thinks of things on the fly. Lazy. Hugh Laurie isn’t unscathed either as Governor Nix, the person in charge of Tomorrowland. His musings about how humans sicken him because of their savage nature comes off like a diatribe from your drunken uncle who voted for Bush.

If some of the characters involved are worried about the lack of creative minds that inhabit our society, then why do we only get glimpses of them taking pictures on their iPads? Lazy. Tomorrowland stands as the perfect example of putting stock in the wrong things when making a film. Bird continues to be one of the most energetic directors working today, but even his dedication to detail and inspiration through awe can’t enliven his co-writers’ inability to craft something that strays from the norm and keeps straying. All roads lead back to the messiah and savior complex that runs rampant through blockbuster films today.

GRADE: C-


Review written by: Sam Cohen (follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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