A film that should have been amazing but ended up not quite reaching its potential. Damon Lindelof strikes again.
Tomorrowland, as an idea, is amazing. As an actual film (or as this film specifically), it doesn’t quite reach that level. Poor writing holds back a film that is otherwise excellent – well-directed, well-acted, aesthetically very pretty (though maybe a touch CGI heavy), and sprinkled with some cool action sequences.
The film follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who on discovering a pin that transports her to a fantastical, futuristic city, gets dragged into a mad world where she’s chased by robots, helped by a young girl who knows martial arts, launched out of a house in a bathtub, and rocketed into space by the Eiffel Tower.
Robertson gives a good performance, and may well be the best thing to come out of the film, providing a more realistically grounded hero than we usually get from this kind of film (her reactions to the sudden appearance of robots, and the film’s various other sci-fi fantasy elements are great, and often hilarious). Raffey Cassidy, who plays Athena (the martial arts girl), is also good – cutesy and intelligent and through displaying a fairly wide emotional range for such a young actress, more than makes up for a less than polished accent. George Clooney (as Frank Walker, an aged, cynical version of the protagonist) and Hugh Laurie (as David Nix, the film’s eventual antagonist), provide some experience and gravitas to an otherwise youthful cast, each performing well, though never really needing to push any boundaries.
The concept for Tomorrowland, just to reiterate, is wonderful, and director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) does great things with it, giving us a film that is superbly Disney in its feel, that brims with warmth and optimism in the face of what would usually be a bleak, glum, even morbid topic (the future – particularly how it’s going to suck). The whole film has a kind of smoothness to it, the action especially is well-placed, and has none of the nauseating choppy editing that seems to plague other films.
The film’s major (and maybe only) flaw is its writing. It meanders too much for the first hour or so – still in the process producing probably the best scene in the film however – and then tries to squash too much exposition into the final third, while simultaneously trying to create the film’s climactic moment. In the final half-an-hour, the film suddenly jumps from fantastic to just simply not. And then we see who actually wrote the film: Damon Lindelof. Suddenly everything makes sense – we have a film with a great concept ruined by poor exposition, a hurried, confusing resolution and some rather significant and niggling plot-holes thrown in for good measure. As a result, Tomorrowland is basically Disney’s Prometheus.
Brad Bird and some great acting may save it to some extent, but they ultimately can’t fix everything. Tomorrowland should have been a top-tier film, a continuation of Disney’s stellar form at the box office and general moviemaking. It should have been the next big, original Disney film – the first non-animated one in a while – but it isn’t, and it feels like consequently, we’ve missed out on something great.
Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (2015), directed by Brad Bird, is distributed in the UK by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictues, Certificate 12A.