Sometimes you find yourself admiring a movie a lot more than actually enjoying it. This is typically not the best situation to find yourself in, but admiration is still way better than contempt.
Such is the case with “Tomorrowland,” a lovingly crafted beacon of cinematic hope that winds up being a little overwritten and a little too on the nose.
The movie stars George Clooney as Frank Walker who, as a boy (and played by Thomas Robinson), is invited by a girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) to a secret city where the great scientists, artists, and inventors of the world work unencumbered by politics or bureaucracy. It’s like Epcot as imagined by Ayn Rand.
When we flash to modern-day, we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) a high-minded, overly-optimistic teen who is given a glimpse into Tomorrowland and becomes desperate to find out more. Her quest leads her to Frank, who is now living in exile from Tomorrowland and breaks the news the promise of a bright-shimmering future is no longer what it once was.
Tomorrowland is the name of a section of Disneyland and this movie perfectly embodies Walt Disney’s 1960s space-race, technology, and innovation ideals.
This movie was directed by Brad Bird, who co-wrote the screenplay with “Lost” auteur Damon Lindelof with an assist from TV critic Jeff Jensen.
Both Bird and Lindelof have been called visionaries for their work, as Bird has directed landmark animated films like “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” So it shouldn’t be any surprise these guys would crank out a movie that is high on the power of imagination.
“Tomorrowland” is an indictment of apathy and cynicism so pointed it puts those words directly into a character’s mouth and proceeds to eloquently rip apart our society’s fascination with apocalypse and dystopia while global calamities loom.
In a way, this is a subversive film in the guise of a summer blockbuster. It pedals the idea that hope and inspiration aren’t just words for greeting cards, but can actually make a tangible impact on this dusty old world of ours.
It is a sentiment worth rallying around. The question then becomes, is this movie the most effective vehicle we have for conveying this sentiment. To answer a question with a question: maybe?
Look, this movie is far from perfect. It is easily 20 minutes too long and when we get to Tomorrowland it suffers from not being really all that wondrous. Jetpacks and monorails are cool and all, but it is no longer 1964 and this movie is marking out territory that has been claimed by hundreds of other science fiction films that have come before it.
I want to believe humans can fix all of the world’s problems, which should be simple enough since we are the cause of 99 percent of them. “Tomorrowland” lets me believe that is possible. Any movie that can do that has to be worth something.
“Tomorrowland” is rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.