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Thread: Tomorrowland

  1. #1
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    Tomorrowland

    Directed by Brad Bird

    Disney’s capitalization of its theme parks goes from the Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean and now Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, the previews – which exploited the few “wow” special effects shots – have set the audience up for a major let down. We’ve been led to believe this film is about going to such a grand visionary utopia. It isn’t. This movie tends to wallow in the pulpit of doomsday far too long and pontificated by too many characters. When it is an adventure movie, it tends to be exciting, such as during the opening scene or in Clooney’s house of inventive traps. But the film is not an adventure story, it’s Hollywood preaching a message we all know too well. The film soon devolves into a chase movie with the bad guy robots after the goodie young girl on the run - yawn. Too bad. I would have loved to stay in Tomorrowland – Syd Mead’s creation of the future. I’ve been an admirer of his for over forty years. Between Tomorrowland and Elysium – his other visionary creation – filmmakers have abused Mead’s futuristic settings rather than infuse their settings into a cohesive plot. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. There must be doom and gloom for mankind. No fun there.

    Enter George Clooney (Frank Walker) – the narrator who opens the movie. This is where Bird made his first mistake. Clooney is a brilliant actor and I like him very much. But he is horribly miscast in this film. His father figure is very weak – part recluse, part mad scientist – a boring cliché. I’d sooner see a paid politician standing on a stage preaching the evils in the world than wasting Clooney on speeches such as the inane simplified ones that open and close the film. He violates the fourth wall, addressing the camera as “I’m about to tell you this really cool story that happened to me.” Already that method of storytelling cheapens the plot. We know his fate. Further, Clooney’s emotions run the gambit scale from A to A sharp – no Oscar nomination here.

    Next, we have the completely miscast weak villain of Huge Laurie (Nix) – again, a great actor but about as threatening as a bathtub full of tepid water. Nix first appears as a guide leading a pack of dignitaries into Tomorrowland. No more threatening than some city manager with too much efficiency on the brain. When we see Mr. No again, he first brags about not aging and throws this in Clooney’s face as if this was the ultimate insult – I suppose from one vain actor to another. His “British” take on his evil character is to be stern – very forgettable.

    The other person in this triad of miscasting is the protagonist teenager Casey Newton played by Britt Robertson. One thing we know from the start – she knows how to scream. That much is certain. Her reaction to most things is to scream. She’s either extremely excitable or this is her direction from Bird. Either way, as the film’s lead, I found her performance unbelievable from the start. I had no sympathy for her and didn’t feel any yearning for her to fulfill her quest to visit Tomorrowland.

    The only people with any meat in their parts are Thomas Robinson as young Frank and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. Their friendship is apparent from the start as these two actors fit their parts perfectly. They make us believe in them and why they’re attracted to each other – Athena for her beauty and Frank for his ingenuity. When Athena makes it possible for Frank to enter Tomorrowland, we get the first glimpse of a world where everything is possible. They’re able to convey the feeling of innocence and discovery, something lacking in the other characters.

    Tomorrowland’s message wants to be one of hope. At every turn, Disney wants to squash that feeling of buoyancy flat by injecting a world of despondency. Rather than an inventive film, the movie boils down to a few long speeches by George Clooney and Hugh Laurie about disappointment and failure. By the time Bird injects his message of hope it arrives too late to bring this film up out of its doldrums. No matter how uplifting the music in the final shot, I just wanted the movie to end. And what a shame. I loved Bird’s work on The Incredibles and Up. He brought great enthusiasm and inventiveness to Pixar. Like Elysium, I kept hoping the film would take the high ground and bring about the world of Tomorrow. It never happens. I would call Tomorrowland a vision that can never be, because, as Hugh Laurie puts it – “the world is full of greedy people, arguing politicians, and natural disasters, a world from which mankind will never awaken. We drive toward the end as if longing for it.” That’s how I felt about the film, too.

    Recommended for its fabulous Sid Mead vision of the future but little else.
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  2. #2
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    This is a complete disappointment, I agree. Raffey Cassidy is a discovery -- she was really cool, and Thomas Robinson could have a career. The retro future theme growing out of the 1964 New York World's Fair delighted me, but that is quickly dropped in favor of meaningless battles of gadgetry and a plot full of pointless running around. I am impressed that you could parse it and Justin Chang in Variety (who is as unfavorable as you, maybe more so) spells it out in such great detail. I could barely stay awake long enough to summarize it and only inertia kept me sitting through the whole thing.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-24-2015 at 04:16 PM.

  3. #3
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    "Even when delivered with the best intentions, a lecture is a wretched substitute for wonder." Justin Chang, Variety. So eloquent, so precise, so true. Thanks, Chris. (I wish I could write as well.)
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    The Variety critics are pros, and he's one of the top ones besides.

  5. #5
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    A Breathtaking, Optimistic Vision of the Future

    I've been waiting months for this movie and I wasn't at all disappointed. This movie has a wonderful, refreshing, detailed vision of a bright future that is all too often missing in today's movies. What is interesting is that the underlying theme about how one's attitude about the future may like Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov's Foundation using Psychohistory predicted from mass behavior either the wonderful or terrible future it can create. Tomorrowland is well-paced, with fantastic visuals that become the foreground at times to the plot. The movie also has heart, again often missing in too many movies, as well as a mystery with a great and authentic twist. I would think Walt Disney would be proud of this movie. This is a movie more of the general public could use a great deal more of right now.

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