Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tomorrowland (film)

Tomorrowland, Walt Disney Studios, Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof

Synopsis: Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

My thoughts: Tomorrowland was fun to watch, for the first hour. It had promised extremely imaginative ideas, creative inventions, and the wonder of it all. In the first hour, all of those were there, but it all fell flat in the second half. Wonder and excitement were exchanged for political/environmental intrigue and concern, That was certainly something we've seen a lot before. I came to see something new, ingenious, and inspiring. What I saw were some really nifty gadgets and ideas leading up to a possibly huge one, then all I got was environmental warnings and action with a few explosions. But I digress on that until later.

The acting was fairly good! George Clooney did quite well, as expected, Hugh Laurie was fantastic though not very memorable. Raffey Cassidy did decently, I enjoyed her calm and collected role. Britt Robertson started out promising, but her character devolved as the film sped on. Keegan-Michael Key's appearance was unexpected, but comical indeed. I laughed as I heard the Wookiee call in the background of his action scene (it's worth listening for).

Speaking of humor, Bird gave it a good successful attempt in the first half. However, for me, the funniest moment may not have been intentional, but I believe it was. After Frank (Clooney) and Casey (Robertson) meet up with Athena (Cassidy), all three are in the vehicle. Athena, looking as if she is 12, is the one driving, with the teenage Casey in the middle and the middle-aged Frank in the passenger seat. The scene shows this for at least 10 seconds without dialogue, and I couldn't help but laugh. From this point on, though, humor didn't break through as in the first half.

--SPOILER ALERT--  From here until the concluding statement, I'll be discussing plot details that would likely ruin the film's surprises for you. You have been warned.

The Eiffel Tower plays an unexpected role in the film, one that I'm glad I didn't notice occur in the trailer. When the three travelers need to return to Tomorrowland, most gates have been shut. One option is left open to them, however, and that is where the Tower comes in. A memorial exhibit to inventors rests atop the Tower, and it leads to a hidden secret: a rocket buried underneath. The Tower splits apart into a launch pad, and they blast off in the rocket. This whole sequence seemed very National Treasure-ish, and almost unnecessary. The only reason I support it, sans the over-the-top theatrics, is that it does something very important to the topic of the film. It honors past inventors. The rest of the film is all about the future, unnamed newcomers, what could be. But they took at least a little bit of time honoring those who got us to where we are. And that, I applaud, even if it were only a few minutes of the total screentime.

The ending plot, however, was half-baked. It could have used more pre-production scrutiny, and some post- as well. For example, Casey's relationship with her father was hardly there, mostly implied. She looked to him as great inspiration, but we saw hardly any of that. And where was her mother? Her father wore a wedding ring, but I don't remember any explanation. Also, near the end of the film, wind blows her father's cap off her head, and it never appears again, despite its importance to her. This might be because she later brought her father to Tomorrowland, and had him in the flesh, rather than an extension of him, but still. Make that hat scene useful.

Governer Nicks' demise was also not thought through as well. When Athena self-destructs, everyone was fully aware it was going to happen, and where it was going to happen. The Monitor above them all is rocked with an explosion, and begins to plummet. Suddenly, everyone must scramble to get away, even though they knew this was coming. Even if the whole Monitor wasn't going to fall, debris from the explosion would. The reason they didn't have Casey get out of the way like any sensible person who knew this would be crashing down on them in a few minutes if they didn't, is this: Nicks was trapped down there, and having Casey leave the premises prematurely would make his death look far too cold-hearted. They would be leaving him there knowing he would die, and not help him. But if she's running for her life, with seconds to spare, that suddenly makes it okay to leave the villain behind. They could have come up with a far better demise, one that made more sense at least. And how did she have enough time to get clear anyway? The whole platform was crushed by that thing, and she didn't start running until it had fallen for 5 seconds. But I digress once more.


Given Brad Bird's directorial career, this isn't a highlight of his. It was quite imaginative, but needed a lot more development in the second half. It devolved from an inspiring showcase of creative ideas and futuristic inventions to environmental concern and flying punches. We've seen the latter two a lot already, I wish their focus was fully set on tomorrow, and not themes we've seen explored a thousand times already.

When it comes to parental guidance on this film, there are some minimally violent scenes, sans blood and disturbing sights. A few instances of language appear, though. Nothing sexually inappropriate occurs or is hinted at.

I was given early access to see the film by Walt Disney Studios. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions here are my own.

My rating: 6 stars