Tomorrowland: Review

Tomorrowland:
Review

Poppycock! Poppycock I say! I mean, what kind of vision of the future doesn’t feature the elegance and majesty of zeppelins? Really Brad Bird? How boring! Then you’re going to add insult to injury by including a throwback to The Rocketeer in your latest feature film—Tomorrowland—instead?  Not only did that jet-pack jerk’s movie quickly run out of fuel back in ’91, but he’s also proved himself a menace to dirigibles everywhere! I’m disappointed in your new film Mr. Bird, but I’m more disappointed with this insensitive inclusion.

On a completely unbiased yet related note, Tomorrowland, like The Rocketeer,  is also a steamy pile of shit that—despite its message of unbridled optimism—only succeeded in reinforcing my cynicism towards movies, the world, and the future. It’s a jumbled, unfocused mess that ironically feels like you’re waiting in a boring line at the titular theme park. Just imagine it’s a hot summer day and you’re surrounded by screaming, uninterested children for two hours waiting to get into Space Mountain. There’s your motivation to not see this film. If you need a more in-depth and compelling reason, please read on.

Poppycock! Poppycock I say! I mean, what kind of vision of the future doesn’t feature the elegance and majesty of zeppelins? Really Brad Bird? How boring! Then you’re going to add insult to injury by including a throwback to The Rocketeer in your latest feature film—Tomorrowland—instead?  Not only did that jet-pack jerk’s movie quickly run out of fuel back in ’91, but he’s also proved himself a menace to dirigibles everywhere! I’m disappointed in your new film Mr. Bird, but I’m more disappointed with this insensitive inclusion.

On a completely unbiased yet related note, Tomorrowland, like The Rocketeer,  is also a steamy pile of shit that—despite its message of unbridled optimism—only succeeded in reinforcing my cynicism towards movies, the world, and the future. It’s a jumbled, unfocused mess that ironically feels like you’re waiting in a boring line at the titular theme park. Just imagine it’s a hot summer day and you’re surrounded by screaming, uninterested children for two hours waiting to get into Space Mountain. There’s your motivation to not see this film. If you need a more in-depth and compelling reason, please read on.

Poppycock! Poppycock I say! I mean, what kind of vision of the future doesn’t feature the elegance and majesty of zeppelins? Really Brad Bird? How boring! Then you’re going to add insult to injury by including a throwback to The Rocketeer in your latest feature film—Tomorrowland—instead?  Not only did that jet-pack jerk’s movie quickly run out of fuel back in ’91, but he’s also proved himself a menace to dirigibles everywhere! I’m disappointed in your new film Mr. Bird, but I’m more disappointed with this insensitive inclusion.

On a completely unbiased yet related note, Tomorrowland, like The Rocketeer,  is also a steamy pile of shit that—despite its message of unbridled optimism—only succeeded in reinforcing my cynicism towards movies, the world, and the future. It’s a jumbled, unfocused mess that ironically feels like you’re waiting in a boring line at the titular theme park. Just imagine it’s a hot summer day and you’re surrounded by screaming, uninterested children for two hours waiting to get into Space Mountain. There’s your motivation to not see this film. If you need a more in-depth and compelling reason, please read on.

Britt Robertson as Casey Newton trying to solve the mystery of the lapel pin

Britt Robertson plays Casey Newtonthe daughter of a NASA engineer who is tasked with dismantling a rocket launch facility due to its under-use. Taking after her father, Casey is the teenage prodigy that bristles with over-optimism and a seemingly limitless technical understanding of the world around her. In school, Casey is frequently the only student raising her hand and paying attention during her teachers’ lectures about the sorry state of the world. She inquires about possible solutions but is met with disregard and blank faces.

“I became increasingly concerned as the movie went on that if I rolled my eyes any harder I might get fucking whiplash”

One day, she comes into possession of a fantastical lapel pin whereby she is transported to another world whenever she touches it. Her physical body remains in the real world, but this virtual world mesmerizes her with futuristic spectacles like flying trains, jet-packs and its apparent Utopian society. After the pin stops working, Casey joins forces with an animatronic little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and a curmudgeonly old recluse named Frank (George Clooney) to find another way into the futuristic paradise of Tomorrowland. Unbeknownst to Casey, some nefarious shit has been going down at her intended destination, but Frank believes she may be able to fix what he could not.

While I can’t argue with the central message that the movie is trying to convey—‘this world is broken and we need to fix it’—Tomorrowland never actually offers a tangible solution other than blind optimism. As an example, Clooney’s character has a doomsday clock of sorts tied to some probability matrix that gauges the likelihood of world-destruction. While it’s initially (and unfortunately) resting at 100% chance of destruction, all it takes to drop a few decimals is Casey just spouting empty optimism like ‘well, I don’t believe the world will end’ or ‘I’ll find a way to fix it’. Say darlin’, isn’t there another road somewhere paved with good intentions? I don’t believe I’m going to make a fool of myself when I go to a bar, but that doesn’t stop me from doing so.

It’s mind-boggling how many things are wrong with this film, but they’re all magnified by this often irritating ‘love conquers all’ style propaganda message.  Yes, the world is in a pretty dismal shape, but despite the film demonizing procrastination, its final solution is to just inspire the next generation of thinkers and doers. ‘Shit needs to be done now or a lot of this damage is going to become irreparable to future generations’ should have been the central message—not ‘believe in yourself and Global Warming will end’.

Ladies and Gentleman, this is a public service announcement: Casey Newton is special. We’ll be sure to remind you every ten minutes or so like they do in the movie in case you forget.

Yes, I get it. The girl is a fucking wunderkind that somehow is able to walk into a room and immediately understand how everything works. Seemingly alien and inconceivable technologies are like a child’s LEGO set to her. Sorry, I’m confused. You first have to vocalize how unbelievable something is and then proceed to school the creators in its proper usage? Here’s a novel idea: how about instead of talking down to the audience and verbally conveying how awesome a thing is, you simply act out your emotions? That is what acting is all about, isn’t it?

Casey Newton vomiting exposition onto the next scene.

We fucking get it Casey, You’re a goddamn Wunderkind. Christ…

The infamous ‘Tomorrowland Pin’ that now disgraces rearview mirrors everywhere.

Casey just comes across as an irritating caricature of a teenage girl, and she has little—if any—chemistry with other characters. There’s nothing the audience can identify with for her character, and when asked how she does it, her condescending catchphrase is just to say ‘I just get things’ and smirk. While her lines are particularly bad, the rest of the film follows suit in talking down to the audience through gratuitous amounts of exposition and cringe-worthy dialogue. I became increasingly concerned as the movie went on that if I rolled my eyes any harder I might get some fucking whiplash.

Alongside Robertson, George Clooney completely dials in his performance as the jilted optimist-turned-pessimist Frank Walker. Hugh Laurie—despite giving the most compelling and clear-minded speech in the entire film—shows up briefly towards the end as the poorly-defined cartoon villain Nix. It’s like he dreams of being a villain akin to Ozymandias in Watchmen, but his only real weapons are resignation and indifference. The supporting cast occasionally has a few glimmers from Keegan-Michael Key and Pierce Gagnon, but these scenes are too few and astronomically far between. [Just checking-in again. Casey Newton is still special]

About the only redeemable and impressive thing about Tomorrowland is the character of Athena played by the young Raffey Cassidy. This girl delivers an outstanding performance and shines with extreme charisma and versatility. To summarize: basically, Athena is an animatronic little girl who is programmed to seek out talented individuals to come to Tomorrowland. Her dialogue is often witty, sarcastic, and superbly crafted.

The problem related to her, is that early on in the film it’s established that a young Frank Walker mistakenly fell in love with the petite robot (thinking she was a real little girl) while in Tomorrowland. Although this makes for an innocent and mildly touching flashback, the 50 yr. old Frank Walker still apparently pines for the nostalgia of puppy love.  There are later sentimental scenes between these characters that are incredibly awkward and make for a  [hopefully] unintentional taboo.

The sad reality of Tomorrowland is you can strip away all the terrible performances, the contrived dialogue, and even the sub-par visual effects, but you’re still left with a nonsensical story. I can’t fault Brad Bird for trying to swing for the fences and deliver a cinematic home-run, but there is just nothing cohesive or compelling about the story.

Perhaps the best description I’ve heard for this film is that it’s as if the viewer is on a particularly dull trip to Disneyland, bouncing around from one ride to the next, determined to fill the day rather than enjoying their time there. I mean, the first hour of Tomorrowland is fairly interesting as Casey tries to figure out the mystery of the pin and its vision of a better world, but the next quarter devolves into a National Treasure-style schlock adventure. Until they actually get to Tomorrowland in the last 30 minutes or so, there is no discernible threat in the film, none of the villains have been presented (save for some easy-to-defeat robot goons), and the audience has not been given any motivation to care about anything (or anyone) they’ve seen.

 #CaseyNewtonisstillspecial

Behold! The villain of Tomorrowland: A clock ticking down.

Wait, so is Huge Laurie the villain? I thought Tomorrowland was meant to fix all the Earth’s problems? Huh? Negativity and indifference are society’s downfall? Why would Nikolai Tesla and Jules Verne build an escape rocket ship to a place they’d never visited? Does that mean Tomorrowland is like…really old? But…they’re building it in the 1960’s? You mean to tell me that they’ve mastered interdimensional travel but they can’t solve climate change or hunger? Oh, they just don’t care? Well, Zip-a-Dee-Doo to you too fellow humans.

So basically Tomorrowland is an attempt at another feel-good commercial for Disney and all their sponsors. In addition to the inclusion of ‘It’s a Small World’ early on in the film, I’m pretty sure there are also a few scenes that actually have Space Mountain in the background. Oh, and let’s not forget the ridiculously blatant product placement by Coca-Cola in the middle of the film. Essentially Casey is depleted of all her blood sugar, and downing two ice-cold Cokes literally saves her life. It all makes so much sense now! Drink a Coke or drive a Chevy, and together, we can build a great, big beautiful tomorrow! Terrorists your game is through because we gave up Mountain Dew!

The Bottom Line:

While I have never been one to ride the Brad Bird bandwagon (except in the case of Ratatouille), I can at least respect the man for his ambitions as a director. Tomorrowland wants so desperately to craft an inspiring and imaginative vision of the future, but the ride breaks down because of an overly convoluted plot and easily forgettable locales and characters. There’s nothing dazzling to be had in the visuals or in its vision of the future. Except for one remarkable performance by the young Raffey Cassidy, the cast does nothing in the way of compelling you to change your detrimental and selfish ways.

Despite the film pushing for an overabundance of hope and optimism to solve the world’s problems, I actually left the theater in a supernova of cynicismand I work in the fucking solar industry for Christ’s sake. Err…I mean, when I’m not gallivanting around in a giant airship that is. 

I didn’t like the film. Children probably won’t like the film. You, my dear reader, probably won’t like the film. Just spend your $12 bucks on planting a tree or something. Or buy yourself a couple of beers if the amount of fucks you give is nonexistent.

P.S.

Good luck trying to bring us down like brought down the zeppelin in your movie you pesky Rocketeer. The Drive-in Zeppelin runs on 512 Pecan Porters and lighter-than-air cynicism. We’ve had a long time to prepare and learn from cinematic Hindenburgs, so you just try and get a remake of your film made.

Asshole.