For almost a century, films have been a form of escapism, allowing you to get away from the realities of your life for a couple of hours. It’s a rare thing to try to escape into a film about escaping to another place (and escaping fate) that bombards you with so many trite motivational poster phrases that you end up feeling trapped. Tomorrowland does not extend you the courtesy of escape let alone escapism.
Casey (Britt Robertson) is your typical, genius-intellect girl who “knows how things work”. She is tragically trying to hold on to a world that no longer exists, which includes the NASA launch station that had brought her so much inspiration as a child. Her recently unemployed father Eddie Newton (Tim McGraw) also worked at the launch station, and she wants to find a way to help him out. After getting caught about to destroy the demolition equipment, again, she is put in jail. She was let out, but in her belongings is a coin that transports her to a location-based recruitment video simulation. After tracking down a memorabilia store that may have a lead on the strange coin she received. Too bad it’s run by androids that want to track down the little girl android that put the coin in Casey’s belongings to begin with. Her name is Athena (Raffey Cassidy), and after she saves Casey, they go to get help from a former friend of hers, Frank (George Clooney).
Frank’s history with Athena is a cute one. Athena sneaks a coin to Frank, he follows her to another universe, Tomorrowland, and is then exiled back to Earth. Nix (Hugh Laurie), leader of Tomorrowland, was always against Frank joining their society because he was more of a dreamer and less of a renown inventor, but Athena saw something in him. there is a doomsday clock ticking down to the Earth’s destruction, and the only person that can change it is Casey, with the help of Frank and guidance from Athena. The cause of this Earth-shattering, cataclysmic event is unknown, but the answers are in Tomorrowland.
All that was missing was a big Disney logo or the Mickey Mouse monogram behind every positive adjective they were peddling and trying to associate with their brand. The entire film was about recruitment, and unfortunately it felt like a recruitment video with special a special testimonial by George Clooney. Clooney is his ever congenial self. Britt Robertson has shown us she lead us on an adventure, even if the adventure is about as fun as a kiddie ride. There is nothing wrong with the performances in the film, even when Hugh Laurie comes out as your typical, nihilistic villain when it comes to humanity. Brad Bird directed and co-wrote this very generic tale of creativity and apocalypse, but you would think it was written more for the Disney Channel younger demographic than a major motion picture release. The only thing that distinguishes between the two would be the dazzling production value and visuals, which aren’t enough to energize this drab, outdated story.
For a company that preaches individuality and originality, Disney has gone against those ideals. The entirety of this film is less about unity and coming together, and more about an “us and them” mentality. They destroy a system that is based on that idea, but still stick with the idea that other people are better than others. That not everyone can be “innovative” or a “dreamer”. As far as innovation, wasn’t Disney’s most recent film endeavor a live-action version of Cinderella, done as scene-by-scene copy of their animated classic? Aren’t they also working on a live-action Mulan and Beauty and the Beast? Yeah, I thought so.
Like many of Disney’s older rides (a la It’s A Small World), Tomorrowland is full of visual pleasures and sweet sounding platitudes, but ultimately you know it’s an innocuous attraction. Usually halfway through the ride you find yourself bored and ready to get off. You can’t. You’re trapped with nowhere to escape to and you are forced to endure this ride, whose uplifting message has just been soured by your inescapable experience on the ride. The only way to save yourself is to not get on it to begin with. Welcome to Tomorrowland.
RATING: ★★★★★ (5/10 stars)