Dir: Brad Bird
Writer(s): Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Pierce Gagnon, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Hugh Laurie
Synopsis: Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
When Tomorrowland was first announced, and even until now, it was shrouded in mystery. No one knew it the hell the movie was going to be about and that didn’t stop many from throwing in their ideas into the mix. Once the title was revealed, it led to some confusion. Would the movie be about one of the main areas in Disneyland? Or would it build on some connection to it? Well, sort of both, but only loosely.
Tomorrowland starts with the story of a young Frank Walker (Robinson), a young and brilliant inventor who goes to 1964 World’s Fair to try and get his invention into a contest for inventors. However, one judge played by Hugh Laurie, is impressed by the invention but when he finds out it doesn’t really work he turns him away. But, Frank’s imagination catches the eye of Athena (Cassidy) and tells him to follow her and judge down a ride, which ends up It’s a Small World. You can probably assume what happens from there.
We then fast forward to the present where we are introduced to Casey Newton (Robertson). A young optimist who sees the good in the world and wants to change the future by asking how we can fix it. As seen in the promotion material, Casey ends up in jail after an incident and finds a pin with a ‘T’ on it. When she touches it, she ends up in a grassy plain with a futuristic city in the distance. She starts to question whether it is real and tries to find answers to where she goes when she touches the pin. Eventually, she ends up at the adult Frank’s home, of course the adult Frank is played by George Clooney.
Frank is no longer a happy-go lucky inventor, but rather living in exile and seemingly bitter. He tries to tell Casey to let it go and forget about what she saw, but Casey still wants to go. The two eventually work together by force to get to Tomorrowland, because they are being chased down by robots. What happens next is a big adventure to Tomorrowland, but Casey finds out that she is actually part of a larger plan.
For what it’s worth, Tomorrowland is pretty fun. The effects are great, and Tomorrowland itself was highly impressive to dive into. Casey gets to “explore” it at one point and it is something like we’ve never it before. It really does feel like all the smartest people in the world got together and made a world that can thrive off their impressive creations. However, the bad thing is we don’t get to spend a ton of time in Tomorrowland. In fact the movie is more about the adventure to get there and the mystery surrounding it. Which unfortunately is one of the negative things about Tomorrowland.
The film does have so great action sequences, one that involves the escape from Frank’s farm home, which is seen in a lot of the promotional material. But, for me, one of the best is one that happens earlier in the film that involves Casey and Athena. I’ll leave you guessing how Athena shows up in the present until you see the movie. It’s not all that surprising that the action looks great either, after all Brad Bird did direct Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
However, the best thing about Tomorrowland is the cast. Britt Robertson’s Casey is likeable, smart, a bit of a rebel, and easy to invest in as she is thrown into this mysterious world just like us the audience. Clooney seems to be enjoying himself playing a begrudged character that wants nothing to do with the situation, however he sees Casey’s will and imagination and starts to see there could be some hope.
But the real standout in the cast is Raffey Cassidy as Athena. She is crucial in bringing together Casey and Frank, and later on in the film as well. But what makes her a standout is how she plays her character and how she plays off Robertson and Clooney. She holds her own against a top actor like Clooney, at the age of thirteen.
There is a storyline, that I won’t spoil or even hint at, but you’ll know it when you see it, that I was surprised that writers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof went into. It’s a touching and heartfelt storyline I wish they went more into, but what they did with it was enough to serve the purpose of the scene and why the events happened the way they do.
Two of the bad things about Tomorrowland for me, is the “villain,” and the heavy-handed theme and message that it is putting forward. I put villain in quotation marks because it is one of the weakest parts of the whole movie and labeling the character a villain is a bit of a stretch. The motivation is interesting and you could arguably go with it because it makes sense in a lot ways, but the way it’s presented was not good at all. Also, it was a waste of the character, especially since it happens so late in the movie.
The theme and message of Tomorrowland is dominate and – like I said – heavy handed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the message that the film is putting out there, but it does feel like Bird and Lindelof are beating us over the head a lot of the time saying “hey, remember this is what we’re trying to tell you!” I found it sometimes to be distracting, and almost going against what Frank tells Casey early in the film “can’t you just be amazed.”
All in all, Tomorrowland is a mixed bag, but for the most part Tomorrowland’s message is clear and a message I can get behind, even though it’s heavy-handed. The trio cast of Robertson, Clooney and Cassidy keep the film going, with Cassidy being the highlight of the cast, and keep the film going to where you want to see where everything is going and how it turns out. Tomorrowland isn’t perfect, but you will have fun.
3.5 out of 5