Review: TOMORROWLAND (2015)

By Darin Skaggs

Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland is a huge mess, the script tries to get across so many themes, screaming them in your face and attempts at being a very meta movie about the company who has released it all while trying to have an exciting plot. At times it just fails at this and the whole point is too on the nose for its own good. With all that said, I love this hopeful, fun adventure film packed with creative ideas, big stars and a message to a positive future.

This is a story all about hope for the future and the people who can save the self-destructive world we live in. Casey Newton (Britt Robinson) is our gateway in to this world when she finds out she has been selected to save something big, something as vaguely called “The world.” She is picked out from everyone because she is imaginative and has big dreams. After a few pretty decent action and adventure type scenes she meets Frank Walker (played as charming as usual by George Clooney) who was established in the prologue as just as much a big dreamer as Casey. Together they travel to Tomorrowland and attempt to, well, save the world.

Now it is sort of crazy that this movie was released by Disney, due to the fact that one of its sole purposes is to deconstruct and almost take down the business model that Disney has given itself over the last few years. Now near the end the movie tells us why Disney is the way it is and while not perfect filmmaking, it works. A lot in the movie works for me, as you will see. The whole premise Casey being one of the imaginative people that artificial character Athena (Raffey Cassidy) “hires” in a way to come up with ideas to create products that save, which you could say this film and other Disney branded movies are trying to do. Athena is the role of the producer, she has a line that goes something like “I don’t come up with ideas. I find the people who have them.” Seems like a little jab the business side of a company and her eventual fate seems to be a metaphor for how difficult it is to be that person. Clooney is the ageing directors and screenwriters who are a bit out of steam, but could be influenced back in to their creative mind set. Casey is the new directors, mainly the indie directors being hired for the Marvel films. Feels like Disney is sick of the slack they get for being too controlling and here, especially in the finale, gives an estimate for what their whole business plan has been, to motivate the world to be good. Other pretty nice touches sprinkled throughout like the movie’s first few bad guys that are revealed to us are in charge of a Disney merchandise store, like Disney saying there merchandise lines are a bit out of hand. It is so clunky and a bit condescending at the end, but for some odd reason I responded to them.

Tomorrowland spends more time getting its positive message out there and deconstructing the whole Disney corporation, in a honest but obviously holding back type of way, then giving us an interesting story as well. It is clear that screenwriter Damon Lindelof and director Brad Bird felt the need to have a very specific positive message for all who watch. They do not care about inconveniences in the plot or explaining themselves, their main focus is to make their own “save the world” type propaganda film.

We spend more than half the runtime being told that Casey is one of the final hopes to “save the world.” There have been previous cases of Disney going environmental, the biggest example being Wall-E in which the entire Earth becomes a trash dump while the humans are up in space ignoring the problem. Nix (Hugh Laurie), is the antagonist, who makes a whole speech that suggest that everyone get up, out of their house and do something productive and that could slowly save the world. In fact every important character spouts out the movies theme at one point, on more than one occasion. Again, all of this is fairly clunky, but the acting and direction kind of saves it. The subtlety is at a minimum if even there at all. The film, for me at least, does become inspirational and motivating to not really save, but protect the world we live in. The last few moments are genuinely touching and could inspire anyone.

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