Carrying the spirit, energy and flaws of the likes of 90s adventure flicks, Tomorrowland is one of the more entertaining original live action Disney films in recent years
(Warning: This review contains some spoilers.)
For those of you who thought that this was going to be one of those Alice in Wonderland or Narnia kind of story, you're in for a surprise. Tomorrowland is one of the more entertaining original live action Disney films in recent years and it has that spirit and energy of the adventure flicks of the 90s that some of us probably miss. This could well be someone's childhood favourite growing up, just as how the likes of Jumanji (1995), The Matrix (1999), Home Alone (1990), Jurassic Park (1993), Hook (1991), etc. were to some of us. It's compelling, fun, engaging and more impressively, it actually has real moral values and something to say, and that makes its many flaws, unexplained things, underdeveloped characters and the few overly juvenile moments forgivable.
The film shares the same name as one of Disneyland's futuristic themed sections but the script was written by director Brad Bird (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Ratatouille) and co-writer Damon Lindelof (World War Z, Star Trek into the Darkness), both who're also co-producers, based on the late Walt Disney's concept of a utopia community known as EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).
The film kicks off with the character Frank Walker (George Clooney) giving a back story of his younger self decades ago where he is recruited by Athena (Raffey Cassidy) to another dimension she calls the "Future" (not literally), a.k.a. Tomorrowland, which is like a highly advanced EPCOT-inspired utopia where only the hopeful creative dreamers and intelligent inventors are invited to live in. But sadly, as Frank describes it, it all goes to "shit" many years later and the countdown to the end of the world is ticking.
Due to Frank's negativity, teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who's more lively and enthusiastic compared to the aging Frank, takes over and tells the story in her point of view where in the present timeline, she finds a mysterious pin that takes her to that dimension whenever she touches it. But whatever she's doing or saying while being in Tomorrowland, her actions would also be performed in her own dimension as well (example; when she walks forward in that dimension, she's also walking forward in this one). She then finds herself in danger when a group of robots discover her possession of the pin. With the narrative of the film focusing only in the point of view of 2 characters, it's able to keep the plot compelling up until the final act.
Good performances by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, Gravity), Britt Robertson (Cake) and particularly the charming 12-year-old Raffey Cassidy, although the audience would be left confused about how much her robot character could actually feel (she can smile, feel annoyed and react to pain, but not laugh or love??). Despite the lack of strong "Disney magic", the film does have some sweet and emotionally engaging moments backed by moving music by . The underdeveloped and yet bold depiction of the tragic romance between middle-aged Frank and Athena, who still looks like a little girl, is commendable. It reminds me of the 2001 anime film Metropolis. If Tomorrowland wasn't by Disney, Brad Bird might've even taken this human-robot relationship to a more progressively thought-provoking territory. But then again, Her (2014) has already sort of done that.
Hugh Laurie was fantastic in sitcoms and the TV series House but he has yet to deliver a breakthrough on big screen. Here as the Tomorrowland autocrat named David Nix, Laurie's talents are wasted once again, playing a villainous role with very little screen time and just like in Street Kings (2008), his character is like an extra that's thrown in just to give the story a twist with a bad guy to fight against at the very end. It's also questionable why he rejects the young and hopeful Frank from being a part of Tomorrowland at the beginning as though he's already bad even before the events that lead to it happen. And instead of addressing Nix's reasons for wanting world destruction, he's easily fought off and died like a typically incompetent movie antagonist. Nix is not the only flaw the film, but it is one that points out the weaknesses of this 2-character narrative.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of scenes in the titular land itself. The visuals and CGI are exciting spectacles but we actually don't get to see much of that fun futuristic dimension shown in the trailers, and that probably gives Brad Bird the excuse for not needing to feature more imaginatively cool high tech gadgets and stuff. And no, Disney, the scene you're flaunting your Star Wars rights with doesn't add any value.
What I would've named the film: "Reckless Land: I'm Intelligent and Optimistic and Therefore I'm Right"
Malaysia censorship: It's a Disney picture but George Clooney does say "shit" in the movie. That wasn't censored at the preview screening.
Second opinion: My girlfriend enjoyed it too but she felt that it starts to a bit boring in the final act.
Verdict: Despite its many problems, Tomorrowland is compelling, fun and definitely far more meaningful than the recent Cinderella.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Science Fiction
Running Time: 130 minutes
Director: Brad Bird
Screenwriters: Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof
Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Tim McGraw, Judy Greer
Malaysia Release Date: 21 May 2015
Local Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Malaysia
Production: Walt Disney Pictures
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