“I want you to take me to the place I saw when I touched this.”
After having seen the trailer for Tomorrowland, I didn’t have very high expectations for it, but once I heard Brad Bird was directing this project I knew I had to see it because everything he had done up to this point was amazing. Ratatouille is one of my favorite animated films and The Incredibles was also an entertaining one. I have heard great things about his first animated film, Iron Giant, but I haven’t seen it. Tomorrowland is his second live action film after having directed the latest Mission Impossible sequel which was also quite impressive (that Abu Dhabi scene was breathtaking), so there was no reason for me to doubt Bird and I was ready to give him my full support. I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for taking a risk by directing this unique project instead of accepting to make the Star Wars sequel, and in a way Tomorrowland feels refreshingly original. Bird also co-wrote the screenplay along with Damon Lindelof (one of the writers of my favorite TV series, Lost) so I raised my interest again considering they were involved. Unfortunately this is by far Bird’s weakest film, but I still had a decent time at the movies.
The film opens with Frank Walker (George Clooney) speaking directly to the audience and explaining what the future holds for the planet in a rather pessimistic tone, but he is constantly interrupted by a young teenager named Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) who wants him to be more optimistic. So Frank begins by explaining that the future wasn’t always as bad as it looks now, and in a flashback we are introduced to that time when as a young boy (Thomas Robinson) he invented a jet pack in order to try to impress a judge at a science fair named Nix (Hugh Laurie). The only problem was that it didn’t actually fly so Nix wasn’t impressed. However, he did catch the attention of a young girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who gives him a special pin and asks him to follow them from a distance. What Frank discovers is a fascinating futuristic place where all dreams are possible. Somewhere along the way something goes wrong and we are back in the present where we are introduced to Casey’s story. She also discovers a pin similar to the one Frank was given and is fascinated by the visions she gets of this wonderful place. Destiny will lead her to search for Frank and try to find a way to return to this place, but along the way she experiences several setbacks as many people try to stop her from reaching him.
Tomorrowland begins with a very promising and gripping first half and I was completely engaged with the story. The visuals were impressive and the action scenes very entertaining. Britt Robertson was delivering a strong lead performance and the quest to reach Tomorrowland felt incredibly refreshing and unique. She shared a strong chemistry with George Clooney and her upbeat optimism contrasted perfectly with Clooney’s pessimism. There is no denying the level of ambition this film has, but unfortunately the second half of the film doesn’t deliver on the promising premise and the ending was very bland. My interest fell completely and I lamented the fact that the film couldn’t maintain that same level of intensity delivered during the first half. Hugh Laurie is a great actor, but as the antagonist he never really felt the part. The film ran out of steam and imagination pretty quickly and delivers a somewhat predictable and uninspired ending.
The film is also pretty heavy handed in delivering its upbeat message (which is recurrent in most Disney movies) of never giving up on your dreams and being optimistic towards life despite all the negative things surrounding us. The fact that there have been tons of films reiterating the “you are special” message to young adolescents also hurts the movie quite a bit. But I did have a great time during the first hour of the film so I’m still going to give it a mild recommendation. Rafael Cassidy delivers one of my favorite performances of the film as Athena. Matthew MacCaull also has a couple of hilarious scenes playing a Secret Service agent. Tommorowland could’ve been a great film, but it runs out of imagination pretty quickly and settles for a lackluster ending.