This is one of the most confusing reviews I will probably ever have to write. I’ve kind of been experimenting with my movie going experiences this year. I went and saw Ex Machina despite the fact that I hadn’t seen a trailer for it and didn’t know what it was about. I went and saw Mad Max:Fury Road despite the fact that I had seen every trailer and none of them explained the plot. For Tomorrowland, I saw the teaser and thought it looked neat. I found out it was based off an area of Disney World and thought, “That would be a terrible basis for a movie.” I saw the sneak ten minutes before Avengers and thought, “Well, that looks good and George Clooney is in it so I don’t really need to do my homework.”
I essentially decided to plop down twenty bucks and see this in IMAX based off the idea that it would look pretty. The first twinge of fear hit me as I realized no one had given me 3D glasses. Why would you make an expensive visually stunning movie in this day and age and put it in IMAX but not 3D? The second came just as I sat down to enjoy it. As the opening credits were beginning, it was brought to my attention that the film was written by my mortal nemesis Damon F’ing Lindelof. This legitimately would have made me skip seeing this. It was directed by Brad Bird though, who has a decent track record from working on The Simpsons and doing The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and the last Mission:Impossible movie (Ghost Protocol).
Don’t get me wrong, I would consider seeing something even if my hated adversary wrote it if I thought it was good. But had I known that I could have gone back peacefully to being on the fence, I would have waited until I heard some reports from my friends. It was too late though. I thought about just getting up, leaving, and asking for a refund but I had drug my friend Dave to see it and would never have heard the end of it. Much like Clooney’s rocket pack in the film, I’d have to ride this out.
It opens up at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York (Of Men In Black and Iron Man 2 fame). Eleven year old Frank Walker is attempting to win a science expo by presenting his rocket pack to David Nix (Hugh Laurie- House). Nix seems mildly impressed but the jetpack isn’t fully functional so he sends him packing (You see what I did there?) Thus begins the first major problem with the film. Nix gives you the impression that although he is somewhat cold to Frank he is still impressed by his invention. The problem is that he’s supposed to be the bad guy so this does a bad job setting him up to be a man whose robots disintegrate innocent police officers in half an hour.
There is a young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who seems impressed though. I kinda got the vibe that she was Nix’s daughter but that’s not true so don’t let that mess you up. She gives Frank a special button and tells him to sneakily follow them. Nix takes several of the winners on the It’s A Small World ride which is really just covering up the entrance to Tomorrowland. Once through, he flies his jet pack around and impresses everyone.
Is this a Tim McGraw video?
Then we fast forward to modern times and meet our heroine, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson- Dan In Real Life). Her father (Tim McGraw- Blindside) is a NASA engineer that will soon be losing his job as they tear down the launch site in Cape Canaveral. She is trying to hold that off by sabotaging the equipment. She winds up getting arrested though and while getting her personal effects back she discovers that Athena has snuck a Tomorrowland pin into her stuff (She also has Beeman’s gum, which may be a nod to The Rocketeer since Clooney has a jetpack). When she touches it, she’s transported into a hologram of Tomorrowland. Seeking information, she gets online and finds a store looking for the pins and travels there where she is attacked by evil robots wanting to know where she got it. Athena shows up and saves the day though before taking Casey on the run. Why Athena didn’t hand the pin to Casey and explain to her what was going on instead of allowing her to place herself in mortal jeopardy, I don’t know.
Her hat says she’s twelve but her driver’s license says she’s eighteen so we’re allllllll gooooood
In the truck, Athena begins to explain what’s going on. But again, this is a Damon Lindelof movie so it doesn’t make much sense. She just cryptically tells her that somebody in Tomorrowland built something bad and she needs her help to try and fix it. We find out that Athena is a good robot and then more bad robots show up and as stated before, disintegrate innocent police officers. Athena and Casey then drive a stolen truck from Houston, Texas to upstate New York (No one catches them).
They then arrive at the home of Frank Walker. But this is a curmudgeonly old Frank Walker who has been banished from Tomorrowland and given up on saving the world (Despite the fact that he is still monitoring what’s going on). The bad robots show up and there’s a neat scene where Frank’s defenses battle them. Then he’s reunited with Athena, who he is predictably upset with. There’s a spark of hope though and Frank thinks Casey might be able to actually help. He teleports them to Paris where he finally fills in the back story on how Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison began a group called Plus Ultra, a group of inventors dedicated to bringing together like minded people for a think tank of sorts. They eventually discovered the new dimension that would become Tomorrowland. The bad robots arrive and they narrowly escape in a rocket ship that takes them to Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland is not the utopian place Casey saw in her visions though. It’s a very sterile place now. The police arrive and we learn that Nix has not aged and is still in charge. Frank tells him Casey might be able to help and they head up into The Monitor, a device that can look backwards and forwards in time. Casey finally learns that the Earth is going to be destroyed in just under sixty days. It doesn’t show them specifically what causes it though, natch. Will they be able to stop it in time? You’ll have to see to find out.
Like I said, this movie was confusing for me. I found myself wanting to like it even though it’s not that good. Much like Harry Potter, it kind of bothers me that this advanced society exists but does nothing to help us (And I know, it’s irrational to get upset at a fictional society but I can’t help it). It’s somehow worse in this case though. At least in Harry Potter they’re pissed because we persecuted and killed a bunch of them back in the day so they feel like they need to keep it a secret. This Tomorrowland society takes our best and brightest minds and never returns them or any of their ideas. Imagine if they picked up the guy that cured cancer but never sent him or the cure back. Imagine if the NFL draft happened but they all went to play in the Canadian Football League.
Maybe it’s just because I had a hard time identifying with anyone. I am not a teenager or a girl so I didn’t have much to identify with Britt Robertson. Clooney is the man, of course, but they didn’t really devote enough time to his story for me to care. A lot of people in the theater laughed at most of the gags in the movie but I didn’t. There’s also the overt environmental protection message and the much more subtle one about the media constantly feeding us negativity. I didn’t care about either and those are two problems that are actually going on. At the end of the day, I went and saw this movie because I thought it would be great visually and there just wasn’t enough there. The scenes when Casey first touches the pin are staggering but there’s not enough in the rest to justify shelling out your hard earned money for IMAX. I think part of my problem too is that I wasn’t expecting such a children’s movie. It was like assuming you were strapping in for a thrill ride and finding out you’re actually on a kiddie coaster. I think I was also expecting Clooney to be the lead and he was more of a secondary player.
There was also some weird sexual chemistry between Clooney and Athena (Clooney and any chick, really). Between Age of Ultron, Ex Machina, Chappie, and Terminator Genysis this definitely seems like it’s going to be the year of robots struggling with emotion.
Accurate representation of the plot of this film…
What saves this from being a truly nasty review? I’d say the acting and directing. Clooney delivers and Hugh Laurie, although I wish he had been more evil, is still great. Raffey Cassidy does a fine job with the tricky business of being a robot that occasionally shows hints of emotion. The real star of the show is Britt Robertson though. Like I said, I didn’t particularly like the film and I was still pulling for her never ending optimism to win the day. How you can be so happy go lucky without coming across as annoying is beyond me.
At the end of the day though, it’s not enough. Something is just off about this film. It felt like Age Of Ultron in the sense that even though it was long I felt like it should have been longer to get some of the points across, but unlike Avengers I didn’t get the feeling that they cut a bunch of scenes out (For instance, there is a brief comparison between Frank’s cold non-believing father and Casey’s awesome supportive one but they never dive into it). Typical Lindelof plot holes, I suppose. I guess if you’re just looking for something safe to take your kids to, go see this. Otherwise, if you’re curious, just rent it. Unlike most movies, I went into this movie with no preconceived notion of thinking or wanting it to be good or bad. Mine was an organic reaction. As the story unfolded, I wanted it to be good; it just wasn’t. I didn’t hate it but I certainly can’t recommend it and with it’s poor opening (On a three day weekend no less) this could wind up being this year’s John Carter. D+
T-Bagz wonders if Tim McGraw is contractually obligated to appear in a movie with every cast member of Gravity