Review: A Great Big Beautiful ‘Tomorrowland’

25 May

“Man has a dream and that’s the start. He follows that dream with mind and heart, and when it becomes a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me!” – Carousel of Progress

After two years of PR-hype and mystery, Tomorrowland soared into theaters giving a lack-luster box office performance and receiving mediocre reviews. While the movie’s chrome isn’t as shiny as the company hoped, it still retains a solid message and visually intricate scenes sure to engage audiences, especially the younger set. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Hugh Laurie as Nix (left) and George Clooney as Frank (right)

The movie, directed by Disney and PIXAR legend Brad Bird (The Incredibles), chronicles Casey Newton –a science-minded teen who discovers the magical Tomorrowland. However, things are not as perfect as they appear and she must team up with fellow genius Frank Wagner (George Clooney) to save the world from impending doom only 58 days away. Tomorrowland’s Governor Nix (a perfectly cold Hugh Laurie) is “blamed” for the self-fulfilling prophecy, and the robot who brought Casey and Frank back to TLand, Athena, must be sacrificed in order to stop the transmission of this doomsday fortune.

The plot’s exposition spends too much time on minute details that ultimately get repeated later, and that time should have been used to get to the crux of the problem sooner. We get it: Athena is a robot. Frank is sad about it. But let’s go back to that whole “world is ending bit” please. Viewers who enjoy tidy endings will be a bit disappointed as well. Despite the ending implying that the world will be saved by future and present dreamers, we can’t help but wonder if decades worth of impending doom can magically dissipate into hope in a matter of days or even a year.

It’s easy to leave Tomorrowland and immediately find it too preachy. Fans of Bird will recognize it’s more upfront with a central message. In fact, Hugh Laurie’s character spells out his motivation toward the end of the movie, leaving little room for audience interpretation. However, its preachiness is in the sense that all classic Disney attractions (especially Carousel of Progress, which makes a small cameo) are preachy.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

I feel connected to Tomorrowland for a number of reasons. I worked in Tomorrowland when the film’s crew shot several scenes using CoP. I freaked out when I saw Space Mountain’s outline in the skyline of Tomorrowland itself. It embodies what Walt Disney would have wanted the world to look like with EPCOT (which, in case anyone forgot, stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). The film’s portrayal of TLand seems true to Walt’s style, especially if you look at his old dioramas, one of which is conveniently located inside the PeopleMover as “Progress City.”

However, this accuracy creates one of the homage’s biggest hypocrisies. Walt always had his brother Roy to firmly plant his feet on the ground. Without Roy’s supervision, the Disney company could have easily bankrupted itself chasing after Walt’s dreams. Tomorrowland lacks what made Disney ultimately survive: the Roys. The movie’s theme fails to acknowledge that we need the skeptics and level-headed types just as much as the dreamers. We need them like Walt needed Roy and vice versa. Who is there to get these brilliant ideas out of Tomorrowland and functioning in the real world? The film never answers this crucial question it also poses, leaving a rather one-sided portrayal of creativity and innovation.

Overall, it’s a good movie. If you have young kids who dream of becoming Walt or Roy, go see it. The visuals are stunning, and they throw in some really neat little historical and Disney bits just for the super-geeks (like myself). I left feeling my creative juices had been refreshed, but I wasn’t completely satisfied.

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