REVIEW: “Tomorrowland”

LAND poster

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.


2 Stars

REVIEW: “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”

“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” is the fourth installment in Tom Cruise’s action spy series and it’s also the best of the bunch. It’s a fast paced summer-styled popcorn picture that is perfectly constructed and moves from one big action set piece to another with an almost rhythmic and poetic flow. I wasn’t surprised that I liked the film. But I was surprised at how polished and effective this Mission Impossible movie was.

Director Brad Bird, best known for his Oscar winning work in animated films such as “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”, makes his live action debut and one of my biggest questions was how he would make the transition. Bird is to be commended for his handling of material that necessitates moving from location to location and not allowing the audience to spend too much time thinking about plot details. He melds together those fun elements from high octane action movies and clever spy pictures and the result is an energetic, globetrotting, gadget-filled piece of robust entertainment.

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt and he is in true movie star form. He and his team is framed for a terrorist attack on the Kremlin which leads the President to execute “Ghost Protocol”, the complete disavowing of the IMF. On their own and with limited resources, the team seeks to track down the individual responsible for the bombing, a dangerous mystery man who works under the name of “Cobalt” played beautifully by Michael Nyqvist. Cruise continues to be a perfect fit as Ethan Hunt and he’s certainly comfortable in the role. Simon Pegg returns as the team’s tech geek and comic relief and Paula Patton is a field agent with information on the bombing. But the best addition to the team is Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, and IMF analyst with a few secrets of his own. Renner gives a more reserved performance than what we have seen from him in films such as “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town”. This role required a bit more subtlety and Renner nails it.

The story moves all over the globe stopping at locations such as Moscow, Dubai, and India. The movie captures each location with energy and vibrancy and I was completely engaged. The action scenes are huge and sometimes jaw-dropping and Bird’s visual style makes it easy to overlook the sheer unbelievability of some of the sequences. The Dubai skyscraper scene alone is worth the ticket price. The gadgetry is as futuristic and outlandish as anything we’ve seen in the series but who cares? It works perfectly in this picture. I could go on and on but simply put, “Ghost Protocol” is technically flawless. Now just imagine it in IMAX.

As with the other Mission Impossible films, the plot does fall together a little too neatly and sometimes you just have to take things at face value. But the film moves along at such a fast pace that you’re never left to dwell on it. To be honest, I didn’t care that everything fell together so smoothly. I was having too much fun. Even at over two hours the film never lost me. “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” is getting a lot of critical praise even though it’s not the type of movie that would get awards buzz. But I judge a good movie by many things and one of them is how much fun I have watching it. Based on that, “Ghost Protocol” is surprisingly one of the better movies of 2011.