Sometimes it is difficult to know to what standard a movie for younger audiences should be held. And make no mistake: Tomorrowland is really a movie for younger audiences. Which I am grateful for. I'm hoping the film sparks a revival in fun live-action movies you could take your kids to without feeling like you're watching a Disney Channel sitcom. In a lot of ways, that is the film's greatest accomplishment. It could very easily have turned into one of Disney's harder-edged PG-13 blockbusters in the spirit of Pirates of the Caribbean or The Lone Ranger, but it didn't. The only trouble is that, while it stuck to its family film guns, it sometimes felt too boiled-down for its lofty premise to support.
Tomorrowland is about Casey, (Britt Robertson) a smart, idealistic girl doing what she can to combat the world's self-destructive side. After she finds a pin that shows her an amazing alternate reality, she decides that the best way to save her world is to go to the other.
I want to note that the film does have a lot of strong points. Chiefest of these is how good it looks. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda's work always looks brilliant, and here is no exception. The design of Tomorrowland itself is also just really cool. It is a fun world to explore, as it should be. The first time Casey explores it, we are treated to the coolest shot of the film: one long, wandering take as she finds her way around the city. The film really sets and maintains a high visual standard for itself.
The other really strong point is Casey herself. She is the kind of grounded, realistic, and positive female character that is usually lacking in films meant for girls to see. We are (really slowly) getting away from this, and she keeps us heading in the right direction.
Most of what doesn't work in the movie comes down to structure. It feels like 100+ minutes of exposition with a second-act climax substituting for the real one rushed through at the end. Don't get me wrong: the forever leading up to actually getting to Tomorrowland is never boring. In some respects it actually has the film's best material. And I guess, depending on how you look at the story, my outline above doesn't really work because during this time Casey is growing and overcoming challenges. But given its setup it feels kind of lopsided.
My guess is these issues come mostly from the screenplay, specifically from Damon Lindelof's contributions. He seems to do well with big initial concepts that then lack in execution (see Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Lost--although, to be fair, these were all co-written as well.) He also has difficulty providing exposition in any other way than by constant questions by characters, which does get super annoying here. Director and co-writer Brad Bird's other scripting work (Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille) tends to be better structured and have less irritating exposition tricks.
Given its issues, the film does maintain a pretty constant, optimistic tone. Some aren't really pleased with this: it feels a little didactic at times, even obnoxious depending on your politics. On the other hand, it encourages us all to be dreamers and to think that something better can happen tomorrow than happened today. Which, considering the cynical, world-wrecking state of our blockbusters, isn't necessarily a bad message to hear.
Tomorrowland features Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Raffey Cassidy and Hugh Laurie, and is rated PG for actiony stuff and some small swears.
Written by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof
Directed by Brad Bird
by Chase Harrison