Studio: Walt Disney . . . . . Length: 130 Mins. . . . . . Rating: PG . . . . . Website
Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson. Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn
Directed by: Brad Bird
Apparently, the future is full of high, thin spires with flying vehicles buzzing in, out, and around them. Surrounded by a vast, amber wheat field, it’s a veritable utopia of cleanliness and enlightenment – unlike our sewer of a planet Earth, sullied and slowly dying. But is this the future? Is Earth slowly dying?
Tomorrowland can be accessed by touching a mysterious pin, as both junior inventor Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) and later, uber tech-savvy Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) discover.
As a child, Frank visits the 1964 World Fair in New York, toting his jet pack made from Electrolux vacuum cleaner parts. There he meets condescending British scientist David Nix (Hugh Laurie) and the enchanting Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a British tween with the style and poise of Audrey Hepburn. The two will figure prominently in Frank’s life where, as an adult, he morphs into a disillusioned George Clooney.
Decades later, a covert, drone-operating Casey receives a pin while in jail for trying to save her dad’s (Tim McGraw) NASA job. Her accidental and then orchestrated visits to Tomorrowland place her on a quest to find Frank, aided by Athena, who has a vested interest in these two ultra-smart dynamos teaming up to…save the world?
Complicating matters is the fact that Frank and Casey are polar opposites. He’s bitter; she’s optimistic. He’s given up on idealism; she’s full of it. His motto could be, don’t bother me; hers, do something! These two on an adventure together can be pretty exhausting for the viewer. The two disagree at every turn. Casey is frequently bewildered; Frank is impatient.
There are chase scenes, explosions, and death by disintegration guns. Someone does not want Frank and Casey to uncover Tomorrowland’s secret, but gosh darn it, they do, which leads to more explosions, chase scenes, and disintegrations.
Tomorrowland itself is visually spectacular. We get a glimpse of the place (the multi-level swimming pools are ingenious) but are barely allowed to explore its unique premises, remaining instead with our bickering protagonists as they uncover a shady plot that could result in Earth’s extinction.
The film has a winning, nostalgic start and a moving, inspirational end. Hugh Laurie spouts the best line about responsibility vs. apathy. Raffey Cassidy’s character is likeable and efficient. Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key have small but entertainingly quirky roles as memorabilia store operators (or are they)?
Director Brad Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) co-wrote the screenplay with Damon Lindelof (Star Trek) and infuses it with exposition encompassing lots of hidden “shoulds” that, while noble, can be off-putting. No one likes to be lectured – not when there are such great swimming pools to play in and airtrains to ride.
Another of the film’s messages seems to infer that only a few chosen citizens (carefully recruited) are gifted enough to care for the world’s future. Why not open that up to everyone instead of forming an elite segment of environmental and creative snobs? I have a pin and you don’t, nyah-nyah!
Focusing on Frank and Casey (and sometimes Athena) means the group is constantly on the run, Casey is constantly baffled, Frank is constantly disgruntled, and we are constantly locked out of the most fascinating place on the screen, Tomorrowland itself.
Where’s the future in that?