At the heart of Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” lies something good and noble. A movie about positivity and hope. A movie about optimism and faith in the future. A movie promoting the idea that we can change the world for the better. I give the film a lot of credit for sporting such important themes. But somewhere along the way Bird and company forgot the importance of good storytelling.
The story centers around a forward thinking and science-savvy teen named Casey (Britt Robertson). She discovers a T-shaped pin that grants her visions of the futuristic Tomorrowland – a utopia where science and technology has flourished. Once the pin’s battery runs out Casey seeks more information about it. A little girl named Athena (who is actually a robot) leads Casey to a cantankerous and disillusioned inventor named Frank (George Clooney).
Frank supposedly knows how to travel to Tomorrowland but he wants nothing to do with it. When a group of angry robots show up to try to kill them, he grows even more obstinate. Frank represents the cynical ‘it can’t be done’ mentality. It clashes with Casey’s unbridled hope and optimism. This is also represented as a generational division between the older pessimistic attitude and the youthful ‘can do’ spirit. Ultimately the two will have to come together if there is to be any hope of saving Tomorrowland and the vision it represents.
“Tomorrowland” is an ambitious picture. It tries to be a flashy special effects spectacle and a thought-provoking essay packaged in pretty Disney wrapping. It gets the first part right. “Tomorrowland” looks absolutely amazing. The effects are dazzling – bright, beautiful colors and fun, innovative architecture and technology. Bird and company create a visually satisfying and compelling world and there is obviously a lot of time and attention that went into its details.
But the same can’t be said for the story itself. This is a film that struggles to find its identity. It tinkers with several interesting ideas and it teases us with several fun and interesting story angles. But it never capitalizes on them. So often the story loses any momentum by bogging down in dull back-and-forths and tedious lectures. It is a film with a message but it is incredibly clunky in its delivery and the film’s preachiness is pretty glaring at times. These things strip the movie of its excitement, allure, and charm.
In a nutshell “Tomorrowland” is a messy and frustrating experience. It looks spectacular and its optimistic outlook is commendable. There is a really good story buried in there somewhere. But I grew tired of looking for it and waiting for it to show up. The story is simply too inconsistent, too uneven, and too flat. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. There is never enough Disney for young kids and not a well delivered message for adults. As a result we are left with yet another movie that falls terrible short of what it could have been.
VERDICT – 2 STARS