Originality is a difficult thing to find in today’s theaters; cluttered amongst comic book, remake/reboot, book adaptation, and game/toy based films. So to believe an original concept/idea can exist inside a movie loosely based off yet ANOTHER theme park at Disney world; that’s kind of a hard and strange pill to swallow. Brad Bird has made monster successes in both the animated world (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) and the live action world (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). Now the director returns to Disney’s beck and call to deliver a theme park named film that can’t even be properly explained by its commercials or trailers. Hell, I’m not sure I can really explain what’s going on without spoiling too much; but for the sake of this review; I’m gonna try.
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is an inventive and optimistic girl that comes across a strange pin that transports her into a futuristic world known as Tomorrowland: the interdimensional safe haven for all of humankind’s greatest achievers to pool their resources and intellect together to help save the world. Trouble is, she’s being hunted by mysterious people; both good and bad and now seeks the assistance of a jaded inventor (George Clooney) to return to Tomorrowland and discover why the pin chose her. Much like Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Tomorrowland” takes the general concept of a Disney attraction and expands it into its own unique universe and story far beyond anyone’s expectations. This film’s world is just as imaginative and complex as the trailers barely conveyed, and its mysterious premise successfully attracted many curious minds to see what kind of ride they were really in for.
“Tomorrowland” in many ways is a throwback to kid adventure films of the late 80’s/early 90’s like “Flight of the Navigator” or “The Goonies.” Robertson and Clooney are living embodiments of youthful optimism colliding with disillusioned maturity; constantly wondering how the other could view the world the way that they do. You get the sense of hope and optimism serving as unstoppable forces that can solve any problem, no matter how personal or global. It’s a positive message, if a bit drowned out by the laser blasting androids, dimension hopping spacecraft and other sci-fi fandoms. I actually felt at times the movie relied too much on jumping from gadget ship to gadget ship to fill up most of the movie’s running time; like a long winding steampunk GPS lead car ride that takes too long to reach its futuristic final destination. Even the film’s villain Nix, (Hugh Laurie) takes too long explaining a rather simple message in an overcomplicated and lengthy delivery system which sounds smart but is actually just intelligently presented rather than BEING intelligent.
I really adored the relationship with Clooney and Robertson, they played off each other well and both had validly presented reasons for being the way that they are. We felt empathized with Casey’s optimism but also understood the reason behind the pain Clooney’s character (Frank) was experiencing. There are just as many good things in this film as well as bad things, both constantly in flux and producing a glorified mixed bag of reactions that (much like this film’s obsession with using transportations) can never really settle on one thing. You could pick apart the ideas crammed in “Tomorrowland” and make 3 or 4 different movies on their concepts alone, which is actually the film’s biggest problem: it has too many ideas going at once.
I applaud such passionate brain storming existing, but for all the creative thinking and presenting “Tomorrowland” offers; I don’t think it ever really thought about what kind of movie it’s supposed to be. Overall, “Tomorrowland” is a mixed bag of highs and lows amongst a sea of CGI razzle dazzle worlds and gadgets. It’s got a lot of smarts behind it’s cryptic visage, too bad it doesn’t have an identity that everyone can get behind or understand.