Director Brad Bird usually spends 3 to 5 years between projects, mainly due to the time it takes to animate a film. After the last Mission Impossible film he directed, I was sure Bird was going to slide right into live-action films like the pro that he is. His latest “Tomorrowland” had all the makings of a unique and fun spectacle. The elements were all there, an original story, a new fantastic looking world, kid’s adventure, and George Clooney. What we get is a film that’s starts off with a sense of wonder and ends with a wonder of what went wrong.
Casey (Brittany Robertson) is a young, independent, smart, and a bit of a wild teen. When she’s not breaking into NASA to sabotage the dismantling of their Launchpad, she is telling her dad creepy fables. She soon finds herself transported to a magical world that brings about the promises of the old World’s Fair’s in 1964 where the world of tomorrow has zero-gravity pools, flying cars and trains, and of course jet-packs. When she attempts to return to this world of wonder, she meets a mysterious little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who leads her to Frank Walker (Clooney) a former boy-genius who is jaded by his past, but reluctantly tries to help Casey get to her destination.
The first half of this film is really fun, the humor works a little, at a more of a kid level. There is the incredible looking world of Tomorrowland and the promises it holds, and there is (with not spoiling too much) some pretty good moments that fit right into an animated film, with the toon-like violence, and one mad-cap escape after another. Where it almost completely falls apart is its preachy nature and the smashing you over the head with a morality hammer. Instead of masking deep ideas and “doing the right thing” with fun high-quality adventure like Bird did in “The Incredibles” it’s in your face and even has a ridiculous moment where a character starts “monolouging” a joke that was actually made in “The Incredibles” only here it’s meant to be taken seriously. The child actors are pretty good, and I could see them getting better and Clooney, is Clooney, and you can take that as good or bad depending if you like watching him to begin with.
I promised myself that I would not blame writer Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness) if this movie was not great, and I really don’t, Brad Bird, Disney movie or not, has enough juice to put on the screen exactly what he wants, and this is the vision he chose. Back in 2007 the Disney animated film “Meet the Robinsons” went for that blend of humor, young adult themes, and high-flying fun, and in my opinion was slightly more successful than what “Tomorrowland” had to offer. This may still do well with kids, especially young girls seeking adventure in a oversaturated Marvel-boys-with-their-toys world. The adults in the theater however will probably sit through and enjoy a lot of the early moments, though most likely forget about it by tomorrow.
–Robert L. Castillo