Director: Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Brit Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn
Written by: Jeff Jensen, (also story) Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
Running Time: 130 mins
Release date: 22nd May 2015
Disney like to take their famous areas from their theme parks and turning them into movies. We’ve had the successful commercially but not critically Pirates Of The Caribbean and the least said about The Haunted Mansion, the better. So now comes Tomorrowland, which has all the trappings of being a winner. A director who has a proven track record; one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in a CGI heavy summer blockbuster. What could go wrong? Actually, quite a bit, because although it is grand in visuals, it’s a mess everywhere else.
Teenage science geek, Casey, is arrested after trying to sabotage the destruction of a NASA launching pad. On her release, she finds a badge that, when she touches it, propels her into another world. Desperate to find what this world is, she meets Frank, a grouchy old man who was once a child genius. Both have similar outlooks and both could be the answer to saving the planet’s future.
When director Brad Bird delivers the visuals, they are quite breath-taking. A dystopian world of impressive buildings, hovering trains and jet-packs cutting into the sky. Even a swimming pool made up of different layers where the divers can drop down from one pool to a lower one, is both inventive and amazing. The problem is, we aren’t given enough time to live in this world but instead are given glimpses. Even though it’s called Tomorrowland, we spend more time on Earth than in this imaginary universe.
So we start off with an extended flashback to young Frank’s visit to the World’s Fair, where he shows his invention, a jet-pack, to a less than impressed Nix. Invited to “follow Nix” by young Athena, Frank soon finds himself floating through “It’s A Small World” until his boat sends him downwards to a lift that takes him to Tomorrowland, where we learn that Frank’s once useless jet-pack does work.
Then we cut to Casey’s story, a young girl battling with being ignored at school, to trying to save the doomed launch platform that her dad use to work at. After finding the badge, she goes through some odd adventures until she, too, meets Athena, who points her to the now older Frank. After more mildly exciting escapes from killer robots, they all end up in Paris (don’t ask) where the Eiffel Tower becomes more than useful for a trip to Tomorrowland (really…don’t ask!) By the end of the film, we get a lecture about how the Earth is important to save (who knew) which them turns into an old-fashioned good guy v bad guy bash-up.
And there lies the root of the film’s problems. It is a mish-mash of really good ideas that just don’t gel whatsoever. Tonally, we are never sure if it’s an all-out adventure, an eco-lecture, a science lesson. While we might be amazed by the brilliance of the CGI, we are let-down by a story that rambles here, there and everywhere.
What also doesn’t help is that the lead female, Brit Robertson, is clearly in her twenties, and yet we are to believe that she is a genius. Even though the actress is very good as Casey, by sticking a baseball cap on her head doesn’t make her 10 years younger.
Raffey Cassidy impresses as Athena, a sort of scout for young geniuses. With her clipped English accent, she is one of the film’s highlights, especially when expected to perform some neat action fight moves. Hugh Laurie, as Nix, is always watchable yet he cannot shake that House persona, even when playing with his own accent.
Then there is George Clooney, who, even when playing, well, George Clooney, still manages to alight the screen with his charm and charisma. He’s not pushed too far when it comes to his acting ability but he does bring a level of star quality that the film does need on occasion.
I really wanted to like Tomorrowland. I’m a huge fan of Brad Bird’s previous work, the underrated The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, as well as the best of the Mission: Impossible movies, Ghost Protocol. Yet while there are flashes of pure brilliance, the whole thing feels like too many ideas and not enough glue to stick them together. A shame.