3/4’s great adventure —
No complaints here about a movie that, for once, looks at the future as something exhilarating and fun and not a cornucopia of dystopia like most forward-looking films. To that end, “Tomorrowland” captures the essence of Walt Disney’s vision and the reasons he created a place at his parks that celebrated innovation in technology and science.
Unfortunately, Disney’s “Tomorrowland” is only three-quarters of a very good movie. Director Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Iron Giant”) fills the movie with moments of brilliance, especially visually, but it falls apart in the final act and ends without a satisfying conclusion. Even so, three-quarters of a good live-action family film is still pretty innovative in itself, so “Tomorrowland,” with the Disney name behind it should still do okay at the box-office. (It will be hard pressed to cover its reported $200 million cost—check out the ginormous cast and crew credits.)
A mysterious pin brings together an unlikely trio: optimistic and inquisitive teen Casey Newton (a bubbly Britt Robertson), disgruntled recluse Frank Walker (George Clooney), and young automaton from the future Athena (the perfectly cast Raffey Cassidy). Eventually our heroes will arrive at the titular city – a gleaming, bustling metropolis filled with shiny-chromed skyscrapers, high-speed hovertrains, and endless monorail tracks. There is palpable ambition on display in nearly every frame and terrific momentum despite the film’s exposition-heavy structure.
Clooney, in an atypical performance, grounds the film with his portrayal as Frank, a formerly energetic young prodigy now disillusioned and with plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Early scenes depict the young Frank (adorable Thomas Robinson) attending the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, giving Disney fanatics goosebumps as it emulates the huge Disney exhibit there and appears to have been shot at the modern-day, throwback-modified Disneyland.
Director Bird handles the action sequences with aplomb (he made the terrific “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), but is also responsible, along with gifted writer Damon Lindelof (TV’s “Lost”) for the uneven script that features a clunky ending and an unspectacular villain played by Hugh Laurie of “House” fame.
Some will view the film’s “positivity fixes everything” undercurrent with cynical eyes, especially coming from a mammoth company like “Disney,” but that wouldn’t matter much if there were a stronger final act. It is entirely possible that a film like “Tomorrowland,” once its flaws are revealed, can be better appreciated upon multiple viewings.
For now, it’s clear that “Tomorrowland” doesn’t quite deliver on all of its promise, the effect of which renders the other “Tomorrowland”—the one at a Disney park near you—still as relevant as ever. No complaints there, either.
Rated PG for intense sequences.