Wednesday, May 27, 2015

[Review] Tomorrowland

It seems like Tomorrowland has been advertising forever doesn't it? But now the Disney theme park adventure film has finally arrived. Director Brad Bird, who has a very good track record (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, & Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) is at the helm. It stars George Clooney and Brittany Robertson (from the wackily straight-faced, yet gloriously ridiculous CBS series "Under The Dome").

From its secretive trailers to its TV spots, Tomorrowland's promotion has sent mixed signals regarding what the story entails or even what type of film it is... Is it a version of Wizard of Oz? Oh wait, there's jetpacks. And then its 5-minute sneak peak revealed some humanoids or possible body snatchers, creating even more mystery. And the thing is, the film still sends mixed signals long after the story actually begins.

It opens with Frank (Clooney) and Casey (Robertson) during present time (well it's technically the future, but present within the film's world). Then it flashes back to a relatively lengthy sequence of Frank's childhood, and it's never quite clear where exactly he is or what he's doing. Subsequently, we shift to Casey's perspective, and I can't help but think we could've just started there in the first place. Anyway, Casey is a curious teen who lives on a farm with with her generic country dad (played by Tim McGraw). One day, she finds a magical pin. Every time she touches it she teleports to another futuristic realm (what we assume is Tomorrowland). She meanders back & forth for a while. It seriously gets to be an hour in and we as an audience still don't know what's going on, which is part of the point because no one within the story will tell her either. But it's difficult to grip onto anything. Eventually, she sets out on a mission to go find Frank, who knows about Tomorrowland, and the film finally gains a sense of direction, or as Casey puts it, it's like "Deciding your own destiny and stuff."

Despite its clunky narrative and subpar execution, the film is always great to look at: The whimsy and fantastical visuals, the unique set production, the sky warps... With all the flying, whirling, and speeding around in various forms of transportation (or bathtubs), it actually gives off the feel of a flashy theme park ride.

Tomorrowland delivers its heavy handed message more-so through dialogue than the actual story arc, but it's at least an admirable message. It's about doing the best you can to make the world a better place. The film's optimism is refreshing, especially because cinema in the post-millennium is full of cynicism, disasters, apocalypse, and dystopia. The future can be a scary and depressing place or it can be beautiful and kind. And the truth is, the future holds a bit of all of the above--it just depends on how you view it.


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