Tomorrowland begins with George Clooney talking into the camera, telling us the the story of Tomorrowland. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll recognize the voice of Britt Robertson as well. They argue over how to tell the story, easing us into the movie, and introducing us to many ideas. This meta-narration represents the overall downfall of this film. There are two people trying tell this story: The director, Brad Bird and someone else.
Bird gave this movie heart, adventure, and magic. I had a fantastic time watching his part of Tomorrowland. It was funny, suspensful, and truly entertaining. But then someone else took over the last thirty minutes and turned the story into an uninspired, cookie-cutter plot that left me hungry for more, and a bit disappointed.
Maybe it was Bird’s writing partner, Damon Lindelof who impacted this film a little too much. Lindelof is a capable writer. He rewrote the World War Z script which ended up in a surprisingly good movie, but Prometheus was more of a mess. (Note that I haven’t seen Lost or Star Trek Into Darkness). Not pointing fingers, but track records do point a certain way.
Without spoiling anything, the last part of this movie didn’t work for me because a couple reasons. The main villain turned out to be the same clichéd bad guy we’ve seen too many times in film. He looks like a bad guy, sounds like a bad guy, but feels like a character being written for, instead of an actual person. Another reason is the message being conveyed. I’m all for the message it delivered, but it’s execution was flawed. I’ve heard numerous complaints that it was beat into your head. I didn’t feel like I was being talked down to or anything to that degree, but it weakened the significance of the whole movie. It left me saying: “That’s what this was building to, really?”
With a focused, cleaned up script, this film could have been great. Instead, it’s just good. Bird has not lost his touch for great visuals and fun adventure. At least half of this movie falls into an adventure, road trip genre, mixed with science fiction. It’s a lot of genres. Even Bird himself had trouble describing this film to people which probably led to its financial performance which I’ll talk about later.
When Robertson’s character, Casey, finds this mysterious pin and touches it, she instantly flashes into a new world, or dimension. This was the very best part of all the trailers. Being the curious adventurer that she is, Casey attempts to learn more about the world this pin takes her to. She will eventually meet Clooney’s Frank Walker and Athena, a little girl who seems too smart for her age. But I won’t talk too much about her to avoid spoilers. What follows is a series of visually stunning scenes, mystery, and humor. I loved the way Tomorrowland was introduced to us and how we learn more of it through Casey’s experience. Bird clearly cared about this story and wanted to give us a new experience, which he did almost flawlessly.
Robertson was terrific in carrying what is certainly her movie. Being older than she looked, she found the perfect balance between a naive but caring kid, and someone we believed was extraordinarily smart and mature. And going up against Clooney the way she did is no easy task, not that it’s a competition. Clooney did an incredible job too, mostly working with a younger cast. There’s a certain relationship he has with a character that could’ve gone wrong, but he handled it very effectively. That girl, Athena, I mentioned before is played by Raffey Cassidy. She was fantastic too in a unexpectedly complex role. This movie went 3 for 3 in perfect leading roles.
This movie suffered from its secretive origins. Also from being a highly original plot? I used a question mark there on purpose because it’s still a little gray to me. Tomorrowland is of course an attraction at Disney Land/World so it’s not 100% original. But Bird created a story from scratch, built original set pieces, and used an established name for marketing reasons I’m sure. I applaud this movie for the ambition it had and for how much of it I loved. But how do you market a movie, convincing thousands of people to see it when the director can barely tell you what it’s about? At Comic Con, Bird basically said it was a mix of a bunch of genres, but nothing about the story. Box office and critical reception make this a disappointment for Disney, yet a studio that owns Marvel and Star Wars is anything but underachieving.
No one is coming out of this movie saying it’s perfect, so don’t go into it thinking that it will be. I hope people will see this with these expectations in mind because I truly enjoyed this movie. It is an experience that is incredibly different from anything I’ve had before, and enjoyable to any audience demographic. The end of this movie was put into autopilot, with a message that is important but underwhelms in contrast to the rest of the film. Despite the flaws, I would still highly recommend this film for the same reasons I would Interstellar: Ambition and pure enjoyment.