Movie Review: Tomorrowland

From the high-flying company built on hope and positivity, that has dominated everything from animated dwarfs and mermaids to Marvel superheroes and wielders of the Force, comes Walt Disney Pictures' next massive spoonful of visual greatness and optimism overdrive. From director Brad Bird, who has brought us some of Disney and Pixar's most popular films of this decade from The Incredibles to The Iron Giant, the hopeful and exciting Tomorrowland offers a peek into a future that we may already know today.

An inventor who seeks to be great, a young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) attends the 1964 World's Fair in New York, with only his optimism and his prototype jetpack in his grasp. Having been rejected by David Nix (Hugh Laurie), Walker believes his invention will never fly -- until he gains the attention of Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who sees great potential in the boy. Following Athena and Nix into a secret world of innovation and towering skyscrapers, with the help of a unique pin with a mysterious "T" symbol on it, Walker soon discovers the amazement of Tomorrowland. In present day, a young science enthusiast Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who strives to keep her father's ideas afloat, soon discovers there may be more out there in the world for her. Living in a time when disease and war have plagued the world's inhabitants, and the future isn't so bright, Casey must join forces with Athena and an older Frank Walker (George Clooney) to travel towards Tomorrowland: a place where secrets will be revealed, and a new future can be discovered.   

A fresh action-adventure, that didn't pride itself on its violence or language, Tomorrowland was a unique tale of utopian societies and corrupt futures, without all the glorified turmoil of most post-apocalyptic films today. While said glorified turmoil can work in some films, like Mad Max, Terminator (occasionally), and others, Tomorrowland didn't need that, as it offered a hopeful glimpse at a brighter future of innovation and peace. A film that was entertaining and fun, without gritty robot vs. human battles (well, it did have a bit of that) or dark, brooding futures where someone rules over with an iron fist, Tomorrowland shows a realistic (yet at the same time, quite fictionalized) future that we can make for ourselves if we try hard enough.

Among all this glitz and glam of futuristic tales, Tomorrowland also harbors an fundamental tale of human innovation, as we see young Casey, a dreamer herself, strive to do something better in a world corrupted by high standards and uniform assembly lines. Like young Frank Walker, who strives to make his invention fly, Casey soon realizes that she is meant to do more in her life. A product of Disney, that has for years promoted dreamers and the magic within us all, Tomorrowland may feel sappy and overjoyed at times, but it does hold a strong message that people of all ages should learn.

The cast of the film was fun but flawed, something that I see too often in films today. Including a grumpy yet sarcastic George Clooney, a gleeful Kid-Terminator who only worked to propel the story along, and a mysterious villain whose motivations were unclear, you could say that Tomorrowland relied heavily on its hopeful premise and visuals, rather than focusing on its cast. Starting off with Frank Walker, played by the debonair George Clooney, he begins as a cute kid seeking to be something great, but festers into a shadow of man, love-struck for a girl he lost long ago. While his character was fun to watch at the beginning, stumbling around Tomorrowland like a fish-out-of-water, when we flash-forward to his days as a moody hermit, we don't really care about him anymore. Yes, he aids in Casey's journey and provides all the gadgets and snarky remarks that the movie needs, but we really only want to see more antics with Kid-Terminator and Casey's journey to open Tomorrowland to the world. No doubt Clooney's a great actor, but he didn't really offer much other than being a faded hero to rely on.

While I'll get to the Kid-Terminator soon, I guess I should mention the film's protagonist, Casey Newton. Played by Britt Robertson, who has made a career off sappy cowboy romances and mysteries under a dome, Casey manages to become a convincing padawan to George Clooney's lazy Jedi master. While she may not wield any lightsabers or control the Force, Casey transforms from a sarcastic thief to a even more sarcastic heroine with the help of her own determination. For a Disney film at least, Robertson's sweet and charismatic nature plays well in making her character quite likable. While she may be the typical wide-eyed teenager we see all the time in films, Casey's tale of finding a better future for the people of Earth makes for a fun and hilarious ride.

Most of that hilarity, among other things, comes from the so-called "Kid-Terminator". While I'm not talking about the offspring of Arnold Schwarzenegger or the newest crappy reboot, I call this character this simply because she's a freakin' bad-ass robot kid from the future. That's right, I'm talking about Athena, played by Raffey Cassidy. A sort-of guardian angel for our protagonist, Athena recruits Casey to go to Tomorrowland, but must also protect her from the dangers that lay ahead. From battling evil cyborgs to running like the Flash, Athena makes for a witty and awesome sidekick, ultimately playing a big role in the film's climax. 

Playing the antagonist for our future-saving heroes, House's Hugh Laurie wasn't much of a threat. While he may have had an army of deadly androids and the goal of leaving our dying world in the dust, Laurie's Governor Nix doesn't do much other than bicker over what he believes the future will look like. In his final monologue over what his motivations are for letting the world die and Tomorrowland thrive, Nix's goals soon become very clouded as you wonder what he actually plans to do. A man who has seen the future and is convinced that the people of Earth are destined to end, Nix becomes drunk with his own power, and ultimately pays the price for believing there is nothing hopeful left on this earth. While Hugh Laurie played the character well, I feel that they could have gotten more out of his character, rather than having a rushed ending that made his villainous role diminish into a weakling. Perhaps if Nix would've pursued the trio on a more personal vendetta, rather than sending his discount Terminators, he would have been a more bad-ass antagonist.

Overall, this mass of hopeful ideals and soaring steampunk gadgetry makes for an enjoyable film for those who just want a fun family film. While it may be flawed in some areas, like the weak story and the overpowering sense of hopes and dreams, this post-apocalyptic film without the desolate worlds or the talking apes is a fun-filled adventure from start to finish, hoping to brighten your spirits rather than offer another bleak peek at a not-so-distant future. With a limited but decent cast, an assortment of awesome gadgets and gizmos to make your head spin, and a score reminiscent of Star Wars, Tomorrowland is worth the price of admission if you expecting something along the lines of a lighter version of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.   

I gave this film a 7 out of 10, because while it may have some flaws in its characters, story, and underlying lesson (apparently only the "dreamers" can go to Tomorrowland, but what about the regular people who can't dream or invent to save their life?), Tomorrowland offers something almost original in this world of reboots and sequels. A hopeful story of people rising up as dreamers, innovators, and hard workers in a time where war, disease, and injustices scar the earth, Brad Bird's eye for the future eyed to take a poke at our own world today, as many of us begin to accept the chaos that quickly consumes us.  

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