"You wanted to see Tomorrowland, well here it is!"
Tomorrowland repackages Disney’s famous theme park into the ultimate, child-friendly “save the world” story.Introducing our main characters in a way reminiscent of Orson Welles’ F for Fake, Frank and Casey give a tête-à-tête exposition of their lives. Frank (George Clooney) starts as a boy genius of about 10, picked up by an exclusive recruiter in his youth at the 1964 World Fair. He is introduced to Tomorrowland through the use of a pin, given to him by his recruiter, the ethereal Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a girl about his own age. Tomorrowland, headed by Nix (Hugh Laurie), is full of promise, a place for thinkers, tinkerers, and dreamers.Casey (Britt Robertson), a willful teen, has been raised by a single, NASA-engineer father, Eddie (Tim McGraw), and has nurtured a dream of seeing the stars since she was little. She’s impressively astute with all things electronic, and has the apparent ability to sneak into NASA’s launch site and steal plans for disassembling it. Despite this Casey still maintains a degree of your ‘everyday American kid’, so at least being a thinker doesn’t automatically mean looking like the stereotypical nerd.
Frank and Casey’s stories intertwine after the initial exposition and, with the assistance of Athena, they head off in search of the human who can help to save the world from its untimely demise. The three unlikely friends travel to Tomorrowland, to find a means to this very purpose. There we are reacquainted with Governor Nix who holds a view on humanity that is unsurprisingly bleak. With Casey’s help, Athena and Frank fight to bring back hope to a world in great danger from natural disasters and human-assisted, total destruction.
Disney’s track record for weaving their moral lessons into their plotlines is long-standing, and Tomorrowland refuses to deviate from this carefully considered algorithm for filmmaking. Though the writing can be a little weak, a bit contrived, and a lot cheesy, this is more acceptable because the film is mostly aimed at children. It can be effective for teaching and the film being “parent approved” is excusable when you consider its main audience. For that, I’d even be willing to say the film is a 7 or 8 out of 10 when considered strictly for children. (However, given the audience will be more varied, the 6/10 overall will stand.)
Don't get me wrong I appreciate the concepts of changing the world for the better, being positive, and looking for solutions to our world problems rather than simply grumbling about them. In a world too concerned with their own opinions, sometimes it’s refreshing to go back to the basics, not an individual-obsessed society, but a collective one. Working towards the greater good used to be commendable; it used to be encouraged, and Tomorrowland makes a great effort to remind the parents of the children at the cinema of that very belief.
The idea of changing the world for the better, being positive, and looking for solutions to our problems is commendable.
Clooney adds a great deal of star power and lends credibility to the film. Britt Robertson plays a convincing female youth, if a bit earnest. It was, however, commendable on Disney’s part for placing a young woman as the hero of what some might consider traditionally a boy’s role (given the genre, which I suppose I’d call ‘child-action’). Laurie is also excellent, and his acting prowess worked to overpower the writing of his soapbox speeches (not an easy task). The cast as a whole handled the job, not perfectly, but they did function. Frank and Athena’s relationship is slightly questionable and difficult to read at times, but it turns out to be innocent enough in the end.
Ultimately the special effects were king. Tomorrowland as a film wouldn’t even be possible without today's CGI and the action sequences are very well done. Lacking blood and gore, there are guns and shooting, but it’s more of the disintegrating kind, which may be good or bad, depending on your camp. The jury is out for me on which is more disturbing, blood or complete disintegration. But watching the Eiffel Tower transform into a rocket launch pad? That was spectacular.
Whilst I can’t say this film has a huge heart, it doesn't lack one either. It’s a fairly even split down the middle between money and morals, but keep in mind, in this business, morals rarely get the job done. Disney promotion is sprinkled throughout, as is the ubiquitous Apple product placement, but these things are just part of the business as well. If you’ve got children or simply love special effects, I can certainly recommend the film. However if you’re just a Clooney fan, then Tomorrowland can wait for another day.
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