Once again Disney has taken to its theme parks for inspiration and brought us Tomorrowland. Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean, Tomorrowland is more than just a ride – it’s an entire section of a theme park. One would think that much material to go off of would lead to a rich format for storytelling, but they would be mistaken.
The plot of Tomorrowland is summed up in the first twenty minutes of the movie as our young protagonist Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) asks her gloom and doom spewing teachers: “Things are bad but what are we doing to fix it?”
Casey is a stargazing child, turned motor-biking juvenile delinquent. Don’t worry, it’s a Disney-friendly crime, she’s only sabotaging the destruction of a NASA rocket platform to save her father’s job. And because of her genius tinkering she is deemed worthy of a ticket to Tomorrowland, where only the smartest of our world go so they can be unrestricted to create a better future. That is in opposition of the bleak future Casey is being shown for our world. But the Tomorrowland Casey sees is perfect – too perfect. It’s a commercial.
She sets out to find answers and what she finds is Frank (George Clooney), a Tomorrowlander in exile. With his reluctant help they return to his former home to find out what went wrong. As it turns out, the reason our world is so crappy and might end soon is that Tomorrowland’s despot, Nix (Hugh Laurie), has actually been making it that way. This leaves Casey and Frank to figure out how to save the day.
Tomorrowland plays out as a propaganda film for the need to end society’s destructive ways. The plot is thin at best and mildly offensive at worst, suggesting we revel in post-apocalyptic stories that don’t inspire change in the present. So the answer to Casey’s question about fixing the problem? Apparently it’s making self-congratulatory movies that judge their predecessors and contemporaries.
The movie chugs along for a hefty two hours and ten minutes. Quite the change from the standard ninety minutes usually associated with children’s movies. The added filler is unnecessary and Tomorrowland could have serviced itself greatly by cutting some of the fluff.
However, the movie does have some good points. The acting is superb, with Robertson and Clooney both turn in good performances. Clooney is the likable but disillusioned genius and he plays the role perfectly with just the right amount of smugness and charm. As his opposite, Laurie plays an excellent Disney villain. There is really nothing to like about him, making it easy to be on the side of right.
While Clooney and Laurie play stock characters, Disney should be given some kudos for making the lead a science-loving young woman. Robertson does an excellent job playing a curious and intelligent heroine. Her role is little more the trope of a “special one” in a young adult-centered drama, but she does a good job at making the character believable.
The cinematography also deserves to be complimented. The vivid colors of Tomorrowland contrast nicely with the grey and somber palette of our world. The camera moves gracefully and the CGI blends masterfully with the real scenes. The film is visually very beautiful.
Unfortunately, other than these points the movie is nothing special. Tomorrowland will likely fair well at the box office and as of this writing it’s battling for the number one position. And ironically, the fact that more people are buying tickets for this flimsy dystopian future film instead of a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road is stronger evidence of humanity’s poor decision-making more than the message of Tomorrowland.