A Necessary Failure


Here’s a shocking bit of truth; Hollywood is scared of new ideas. So much money is sunk into today’s blockbusters, with most of them being sequels, remakes or reboots of older material. The rehashing of older ideas are what make the most money at the box-office, instead of something fresh or original. Even if there’s the slightest financial failure at the box office, Hollywood will get in the fetal position, cry and beg for the security blanket of something done before. Therefore, new ideas get little promotion and the same old shit gets shoved in everyone’s face. This is especially true for Disney, who have recently made a good chunk of change by producing live-action remakes of their classic animated movies like Cinderella, Maleficent and Beauty and the Beast up next. However, Disney wants to let a glimmer of light shine on one idea that sticks with Walt Disney’s passion for innovation.

Tomorrowland follows the belief that dreamers and inventors can shape the future, so much so that there is an entire alternate dimension where the geniuses of the world combine and create new technology. But Tomorrowland is looking for new members, including spunky blonde Casey (Britt Robertson). After coming across a mysterious pin that shows her images of Tomorrowland, she goes on a search for answers. She runs into a precocious little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who claims to know all about Tomorrowland. Athena takes Casey to meet Frank (George Clooney), a grumpy, old genius who claims Tomorrowland has the power to save the world.

With a heavy focus on futuristic technology and a story about saving the world from the evils of society, Tomorrowland is a lot to wrangle up into a two hour summer blockbuster for kids. Fortunately, Disney brought in writer/director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) to make the movie pop. Bird is a master of making visual effects flow seamlessly with live action entertainment . His orchestration of the camera keeps the audience in tune within the dazzling swirl of action and the futuristic eye candy of Tomorrowland. He also knows how to keep the atmosphere light with his actors, especially with his three main leads. The chemistry between Clooney, Robertson and Cassidy is enjoyable and occasionally funny as the three but heads along their journey. Clooney and Robertson have an entertaining yin-yang dynamic between them, with Clooney the grump and Robertson the spirit. Cassidy also adds some nice backstory on Clooney’s character and a touch of heart to the whole story.

Then again, the futuristic technology seems a bit familiar as well. The jetpacks, spaceships, style and everything else about the future tech has been seen in everything from Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and The Rocketeer. For a kids movie, Tomorrowland is both heavy on its message and yet light in its backing. It keeps with the classic themes of “kids are the future” and “imagination rules all,” which would be fine for any old Disney movie but feels like a letdown amongst all of the visual spectacle. It’s also very one-sided in its explanation of all the evil in the world (“people are ignorant/selfish”) and in that, its message feels exclusive to only the geniuses of the world and not to a wider audience. The only solution to the problems Tomorrowland brings up is just to dream or think positive, which seem like kid-friendly cop-outs to get to a happy ending. Tomorrowland’s message goes down easy when it should require deep thought.

After leaving Tomorrowland, I thought about Disney’s other live action release this year, the remake of Cinderella. If people were to ask me which was the better film in general, I would tell them Cinderella. The Kenneth Branagh-helmed revival had the benefit of a simple story with a predictable ending, so that the enjoyment can be taken from the spirited acting and the straightforward technical work. Tomorrowland on the other hand is visually awesome and technically sound but fails in its delivery of a message and theme. It’s big enough to watch in wonder but also big enough to fail. But if people were to ask me which movie is more worthy of an admission ticket, I’d would tell them to visit Tomorrowland. Cinderella didn’t need to be remade and could’ve been made competently by anyone because it’s simple and familiar, like most sequels and remakes. Tomorrowland, while flawed and not fully realized, is at least visually fresh and tries to present some complex ideas to the feeble minds of Disney’s young followers. It may be a long time before Disney comes out from under the covers of their warm and toasty remakes to undertake another original idea, but I’ll take the valiant effort of Tomorrowland over the easy, unnecessary recycling of an old movie.

Final Verdict: 3 out of 4 stars