Tomorrowland (2015) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Tomorrowland (2015)

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What happened to the future?  Where is the technological utopia the '50s and '60s hinted at?  Director Brad Bird tells a story about this land which never was in Tomorrowland.

Glimpse of tomorrowI wanted Tomorrowland to be good and I was hoping for the best. I am a very optimistic person and wish and hope for the best in most situations.  While it’s not sexy to have movies full of hope, when done well (Cameron Crowe is the best at this) they work on me better than any type of movie.  Although I had seen the lukewarm response I thought it might be because the movie was wearing its heart on its sleeve so I went in with an open mind.  What I ended it up with was a movie that had a lot going for it but was ultimately let down by a paper thin script.

The story of Tomorrowland is about a parallel world where all the greatest minds from our world could go to and work out all the day's problems.  It is a utopia of all white buildings, clean streets and happy/smiling citizens.  Frank Walker is a smart kid who creates a close to working jetpack and submits it for a $50 prize at the 1964 World’s Fair.  He doesn’t win and is ridiculed by one of the judges named Nix (Hugh Laurie) but does win the attention of a young girl named Athena.  Athena (Raffey Cassidy) is smitten by Frank and tries to convince Nix to give Frank an invite which he shoots down. Athena goes on and gives Frank a Tomorrowland pin anyway and during a ride on Small World (this is a Disney film) Frank is taken to a ship which transports him to Tomorrowland.

After this prologue, we meet Casey (Britt Roberston) a spunky teenage genius who isn’t happy that her dad’s job at NASA is ending.  She goes out to the work site where they are dismantling the NASA shuttle and tries to sabotage the plans.  She gets caught and arrested and after posting bail, she is given a pin that is not her own.  Once she touches this pin, the same kind that Frank had earlier, she is given a vision on the shiny, happy Tomorrowland and starts a quest to figure out how to get there.

Clooney is on hand to provide the requisite safe yet sexy smolder of a scientist on the run.

Clooney is on hand to provide the requisite safe yet sexy smolder of a scientist on the run.

I really liked the character of Casey because she was a different type of teenager.  She was smart without being a social outcast, angry but yet still hopeful.  My favorite part of character building with her was a quick cutaway to her at school.  You see all of her teachers lecturing about the doom and gloom that has befallen our world and she has her hand up in every class, when a teacher finally calls on her, her question is a simple “how do we fix it”. This was a wonderful moment in the film because it said so much about the character.  You know that she hears all the problems about the world and just doesn’t go “that sucks” and moves on, she wants to fix it, she wants stuff to become better and that is one of the reasons the movie worked to the level it did was because this character worked.

After being introduced to Casey and her quest, the movie teams her up with Athena, who is still the same age she was in the 60s.  Athena joins her quest and drops her off at Frank’s house, who is now and adult and played with the George Clooney patented weariness that he gets paid so well for.  Frank was kicked out of Tomorrowland and doesn’t want to go back.  Then he sees something in Casey that gets his spirit moving again (not to mention the fact that killer robots are after him and just destroyed his house).  Frank, Casey and Athena then go on more trips to find a way to Tomorrowland, which they do finally reach.

At this point is where the movie really went off the rails.  Although it is called Tomorrowland, very little of the film is spent there and even LESS of the time is spent explaining the world.  The movie tells us that it is an alternate world, all of the great thinkers knew about it, it has been around for more than 100 years and it is now run by Nix.  Yet, when our 3 characters get to the city, it is barren and depressed with only Nix and his robot friends around.  The movie explains (badly) the problem on Earth but never explains why Tomorrowland has become empty and depressed.  If things are that bad on Earth, why aren’t MORE people in this other world trying to help?  Did Nix do something to everyone?  What happened to the people?  The movie isn’t even remotely interested in answering these questions or giving a good back story on why Frank was kicked out before more than an off-handed response of
“he lost his hope”.  The movie also states that Frank was the one who made some machine that spells the end of the world but if what he did was the 3rd act surprise, I don’t really see that as a doomsday machine.

The bad guys of E.T. had kids.

The bad guys of E.T. had kids.

The building up of Nix was also handled awfully because I guess he was the villain but I am not sure because he had at most 10 minutes of screen time in the film.  There is a point where he has a monologue on what he did what he did and for me, it seemed like a reasonable thing that might have been misguided but not really “evil villain” type scheming, but that is all the movie gave us on why he is evil and needs to be put down.  Again, it was a point in the movie that was just lazy and didn’t go nearly far enough.

The last thing that got to me when I thought about it was the fact that there were so many subplots that went NOWHERE.  Things are mentioned that are never really brought up again in any meaningful manner.  We have a flashback with Frank and his dad where the dad is browbeating him and calling him worthless.  Other than a quick mention to Casey about her dad, this is never mentioned again.  Although screenwriter Damon Lindelof loves daddy drama (he was the showrunner on Lost) this few moments did nothing to add to the movie or character and was pointless.  The movie also starts to make a big dead about Casey’s hat, and then she loses it… and everything is fine.  Again if you aren’t going to payoff the thread, don’t start it at all.

It is a shame that the script sabotages a lot of the good will of Tomorrowland because the direction by Brad Bird was fun, the actors were charismatic and beneath all the issues, there was a good kernel of an idea for a movie.  Initially after seeing the movie, I enjoyed myself and thought it was pretty good.  After a nights sleep, I started pulling on the threads a little more and realized the movie was very shallow with little substance in the film.  The movie wanted to be a big mystery movie but they forgot the mystery part.  Tomorrowland is a movie that you rent or catch on cable and think that it was an enjoyable two hours, but with the people behind the scenes in this film, it didn’t work out nearly as good as it should have.

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Tail - TomorrowlandTomorrowland (2015)

Directed by Brad Bird.
Screenplay written by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof.
Starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, and Raffey Cassidy.

Posted by Ryan

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