Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
What is in store for us in the future? In whose hands does it lie? Well, of course we have all been told since birth that the children are the future, and of course they are. Walt Disney invested in the imagination of children and their vision of the future, of tomorrow land, for his entire career, going so far as to develop a whole region in his theme park called Tomorrowland, featuring the dreams of tomorrow, today. But, of course, as humans we are extremely flawed, doomed for doomsday, but when will it come? With the melting ice caps, the volatile military/crime state of the world, ever changing climate and weather events, tragic natural disasters, etc. it could be very soon.
This is the very grim take that Tomorrowland takes, suggesting that with the current state of media as it is (fascination with apocalypse and the end of the world, zombies, war, suffering, disasters, etc.), the end of the world is more of a foregone conclusion than something we can work to actually stop. Of course the caveat is Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), whose special outlook suggests the end of the world may in fact not be inevitable at all, the future is not set in stone and with the right imagination, ingenuity and determination, anything is possible. Getting an opportunity to see into another world, a world of advanced technology, peace and thriving community, Casey hopes to return to this “future”, but finds entrance back in is not as easy, or welcoming as it first seemed.
The plot is much more difficult to explain really than it should be. In its simplest form, the film is about hope, dreams, imagination, and positivity, the hallmark traits of any Disney production. But what I find is an increasingly frustrating narrative experience, which falls more flat than the whiz-bang excitement of our first step into Tomorrowland, whether on the screen, or in Walt Disney’s famed theme parks. We are quickly introduced into a fantastic world, only to spend most of the rest of the time reflecting on the morbid state of the world and talking way too much about the plot instead of immersing us in that exciting environment. Perhaps most startling among the films offenses is its very childish style.
Understand this is a Disney film, and along with a PG rating, the film is certainly geared toward the younger audience. However, the finished product from the director of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol comes across much more like a Disney Channel movie than a big budget, blockbuster Disney family film. The production values are there (re: the budget), but there are too many elements that come off as just…unpolished. The child actors, for the most part, are bad across the board, which is unfortunate, but even the dialogue comes across as even a little too cheesy for a Disney film. Perhaps the greatest offense are the villainous robots on the trail of Casey and friends. They are more Jetson’s cartoonish than Incredibles cool. All of this would be fine if the tone of the film suggested this more lax style, but it doesn’t. Clooney and Robertson are taking things very seriously, and why shouldn’t they? The world is ending!
What this film does a good job of doing is allowing for reflection upon the future. There are many schools of thought, and I could easily spend a whole essay worth of opining upon the future, but there are a few things worth mentioning where it concerns this film. For what it’s worth, Bird, Lindelof and company have the right idea behind the film. The Disney message comes through loud and clear, and it’s a good message for the children this film is geared toward. Dream big, anything is possible and the future is what we make it, not what is already destined. The film quite bluntly (subtlety is perhaps not its strongest trait) points out the current fascination of lament, news and other media spending nearly all its effort to highlight the bad, sad state and future of the world. Tomorrowlandfeels like the type of film that a kid might look back on in 20 years with nostalgia, remembering a good film that, when viewed with mature eyes, is a little hokier than they remember.
**1/2 – Average