So who’s to blame for a blockbuster film that fails to thrill?
Your opinion of Tomorrowland will likely hinge on your worldview: if you’re an optimist, there is a good chance you might enjoy the film’s sunny message. Pessimists, however, should turn tail and run. Like now. Get the fuck away! You’re not going to like this movie one bit.
Starring George Clooney (who is conspicuously absent for much of the film’s first act), Tomorrowland tells the story of a pair of dreamers whose collective aspirations may actually save the Earth from an impending cataclysmic event. Clooney stars as Frank, a now graying recluse who invented a jetpack when he was a wide-eyed boy in the ‘60s. Lugging his invention to the ’64 World’s Fair in New York, the young Frank encounters a British girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who slips him a magical token, giving him access to a citadel in an alternate universe filled with wonder that doesn’t look too dissimilar from the Magic Kingdom at Disney World.
Meanwhile, Casey (Britt Roberston) is a modern day teenager whose precocious nature runs her into trouble with her NASA-employed father and the law. The same little British girl slips Casey a token that not only transports her to the same magical world (temporarily), but also leads her to the older, now disgruntled Frank who is now living in a dilapidated house in upstate New York, exiled from Tomorrowland for some horrible reason. Together, they must not only reconnect Frank with the dreams of his youth, but figure out a way to save the world. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland goes nowhere, spoon-feeding us the same pile of moralizing crap that Disney has been peddling for decades and filling us with ennui while doing so.
So who’s to blame for a blockbuster film that fails to thrill? Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) could be to blame, but up until now, hasn’t made a bad film. It would be easier to fault screenwriter Damon Lindelof, especially since he’s had a hand in numerous disasters from the big screen (Prometheus) to the small (“Lost”). Yes, the script is awful, full of plot holes and contrivances (hey! It’s magic so anything can happen, a la “Lost), but maybe Lindelof isn’t entirely culpable for this mess. It could be the big wigs up in the Disney magic tower who are constantly afraid of taking risks, keeping one eye on the drones and another on the dollar signs.
Have you ever met those smarmy people who are so convinced that they are right, guided by the force of uprightness and what’s good, that you want to disagree with them, even if you share the same ideology? That’s what is happening in Tomorrowland. Sure, we tend to focus too much on the negative, but I’m sorry, turning on the positive smile and focusing hope will not cure the world’s ails. That’s just fucking naïve, and it’s irresponsible to sell that kind of message to our youngsters. Positive thinking is a good first step, but we don’t live in the Emerald City here. Positivism is something we could use, but the cheery message here almost seems pathological in its delivery.
I have a bigger problem when a billion dollar company uses its products to moralize. There are soliloquies galore here about how the captains of industry really only care about the bottom line, inured to the fact that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Meanwhile, Disney has peppered the film with all kinds of merchandise from Star Wars to its own It’s a Small World ride, making the movie the perfect commercial for the other tentacles in the Mickey Mouse machine. And how can a company be so brazen that it can produce trite, let’s all hold hands and sing crap like Tomorrowland and then put out destruction porn like Avengers: Age of Ultron?
The fact that Tomorrowland is simply boring is the biggest offense here, especially for a big budget film designed to impart a sense of wonder. It goes on for way too long (130 minutes!) and feels scattershot. You want to make a movie to give young people hope for the future, start by making a movie that gives hope for the future of moviemaking. Here’s a novel idea – you want to save the future? Instead of seeing Tomorrowland, donate the money you would have spent to your favorite charity. That will definitely do a lot more good than this waste of time.