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Thread: Tomorrowland

  1. #1
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    Tomorrowland

    Tomorrowland – directed by Brad Bird

    The DVD is out and this review is largely the one I wrote for the film. I went through and tweaked it here and there.

    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 in New York or in Clooney’s house full of inventive traps.

    However, the film is not an adventure story. It’s Hollywood preaching a message we all know too well – we’d better change our ways or else! After a fleeting glimpse of the future – unfortunately a commercial – the film soon devolves into a chase movie with the bad guy robots who chase after the goodie young girl on the run - yawn. Young people running from the bad guy and always escaping by the skin of their teeth. Too bad and too predictable at forty minutes into the film. Disney needs some fresh writers brought in by Tomorrowland robots.

    I would have loved to dwell longer in Tomorrowland – obviously a copy of Syd Mead’s design creations he makes of probable futures. I’ve been an admirer of his for over forty years. He’s given us futuristic cars, buildings and even cities with that clean angular look – a cross between glass, steel, and inserted parkland with sweeping curves between jutting towers. Between the current “Tomorrowland” and the recent “Elysium” – his other visionary creation – filmmakers have used and abused Mead’s futuristic settings, rather than use them as a guide to infuse their settings into a cohesive plot. When it comes to the future, there’s always something wrong with it. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. There must be doom and gloom for mankind. No fun there. No optimism either.

    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. Doc Brown did it ten times better. 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 over-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. Nothing will happen to him. No harm will befall him. No matter the danger, we know he makes it. Further, Clooney’s emotions for the part run the gambit scale from A to A sharp. No death scenes with spouses in the hospital – 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. Even when Frank comes crashing down in front of him, he just waves his hand and walks past him. Later, when Frank shows up and Nix has hardly aged, his implied threat is that he will outlive Frank. Oh, no! No more threatening than some city manager with too much efficiency on the brain. A comic actor known for his sardonic wit, Laurie’s “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. When we’re first introduced to her, she displays amazing calmness when scurrying around a construction site. Does she suffer from mood swings? 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 plight and didn’t feel any yearning for her to fulfill her quest – visit Tomorrowland.

    The only people with any emotional meat in their part are Thomas Robinson as young Frank and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. Their friendship is apparent from the start as these two actors fit their adopted roles and perform them to perfection. They make us believe in their characters and the reasons why they’re attracted to each other – Athena for her exquisiteness and Frank for his ingenuity. When Athena first makes it possible for Frank to enter Tomorrowland, we get the initial 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” and its utopia, 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 (paraphrasing) – “…the world is full of greedy people, arguing politicians, and natural disasters, a world from which mankind will never awaken. You drive toward the end [of the world] as if longing for it.” That’s how I felt about the film, too.

    At least in the DVD, you can jump to the scenes with the future special effects, go to the fun-filled house of traps, or watch the Eiffel Tower lift off. The rest is too predictable and boring.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    This one had high expectations but it seems like it didn't quite translate. I missed it in theatres.
    Thanks for posting about it's merits.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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