Movie Review: Tomorrowland

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A teenage girl discovers a hidden society that once promised a better tomorrow.

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Brad Bird, 2016

Teen science fan Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is appalled by her father’s impending unemployment as a NASA engineer, and does everything in her power to stop it from happening. When she’s arrested for tampering with the attempts to shut down a NASA launchpad, she discovers a pin in her belongings. Whenever Casey touches the pin, she can see and walk through a different place, though she’s physically still at home. Her investigation into the pin and its effects lead her down a rabbithole to Frank Walker (George Clooney), a disillusioned pessimist who once dreamed of a better tomorrow. Protected by the youthful but powerful Athena (Raffey Cassidy), they attempt to return to Tomorrowland, a place for dreamers where science once reigned. However, under the guidance of narrow-minded Nix (Hugh Laurie), the land isn’t what it once was, and poses a threat to the world.

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Tomorrowland is a well-meaning mess of a movie. There are some very sweet intentions buried in here somewhere about the importance of optimism as it intersects with science. The plot of this movie is a jumbled, confusing mess, though, and it never manages to find its feet. Our glimpses of Tomorrowland itself as it should be are so brief and fleeting that the concept never really takes hold. The movie is trying to make us nostalgic for a world that never existed at the expense of this one. A lot of the film runs on a sense of energy without a source; we don’t really know what it is we’re running towards or away from, only that we’re running constantly. On top of all this, the movie just doesn’t <i>look</i> good. One would think we could expect at least some decent visual effects, but there’s one sequence with Tomorrowland robots and jetpacks that is appallingly bad, as well as being entirely unnecessary. Speaking of unnecessary, this movie has an opening exposition scene that seems to last for half an hour, is CONSTANTLY interrupted by in-character “banter”, and made me hate two of the three major characters before we were even properly introduced to them. Tomorrowland has a habit of introducing characters, places, and things before we have any idea of what they are or why we should be paying attention to them.

Given how little we see of any other characters – they generally have 2-3 scenes each, with Hugh Laurie’s Nix disappearing for the bulk of the action to show back up just before the end – the core trio doesn’t quite click. George Clooney’s character is a weird, unpleasant burden on the movie that can’t be lifted by Casey’s Supergirl-esque sunniness or the sheer awesomeness of Raffey Cassidy’s Athena. Cassidy runs away with the movie, delivering most of the film’s humour as well as its only genuinely emotionally moving scene. She and Britt Robertson work better together without Clooney than they do with him – Frank’s history with Athena is downright uncomfortable given the ages of the actors playing the characters, and Clooney doesn’t seem to care much about being in the film. A lot of the villains are underwhelming – Disney would have been better off paying Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key to stick around and pursue our heroes with their delightfully kooky characters. There was definitely some passion in this film at some point in its inception, but ultimately it retreads ground that Disney had trodden previously and better, in films like Meet the Robinsons (which has way too many ideas in common with this movie). It’s a shame that the movie never quite lives up to its potential.

Tomorrowland on IMDb

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