Saturday, May 23, 2015

'Tomorrowland' Is a Disappointment, but Still Worth Watching

This original science fiction story, which is somewhat inspired by the futuristic themed land of Disney theme parks, tells the story of a promising teenager named Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) who got hold of a mysterious pin that allowed her to see a glimpse of a secret futuristic utopia named “Tomorrowland.”  Enamored of what she saw, and desiring to go there, she seeks the help of an embittered inventor named Frank Walker (George Clooney) who had been there as a boy.  Together, the two go on an intrigue-filled adventure towards it.

Tomorrowland infuses optimism back to science fiction, and kind of criticizes how the genre – and society – now seems to mostly focus on obsessing about a gloomy future rather than rousing the imagination for a wonderful one.  Hence, the movie continuously stresses the importance of dreaming, and never giving up, and always hoping for a brighter tomorrow, and clich├ęs like that.  And I have no problem with that.  That is pure Walt Disney philosophy, and I actually appreciate what Tomorrowland is trying to accomplish.  My problem is that the movie fails to communicate its message through consistently exciting storytelling.  The narrative initially succeeds in stirring wonder, thrill, thoughtfulness, and intrigue but fails to sustain it – the climax and final revelation fall flat.

I was really hoping it will have the makings of a classic, because the potential is there.  Two-thirds into the movie, I thought it was indeed headed into that territory, but when the last third wrapped it up, there’s a lingering disappointment that the film never achieved the greatness that it could have had.  All throughout the film, there’s always the feeling that there’s epicness inside it, but the wobbly story just can’t tap it.

Anyway, Tomorrowland is a personal disappointment to me, but it is, by no means, an entirely awful movie.  It’s entertaining, there are enough captivating visual sequences, and its direction is terrific – as to be expected from talented director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  It’s still worth checking out.  And one might enjoy it more if expectations are lowered.             

Miscellaneous musings:
  • Hugh Laurie’s character isn’t really compelling (he had a thought-provoking monologue though), but it was nice to see him acting again after House ended in 2012.  I am aware that he had been in other movies since then, but I wasn’t able to see those.  This is the first time I get to see Hugh Laurie act again after House.  I followed his musical career though. 
  • I disliked the main protagonist, Casey Newton.  There’s something unlikable and annoying about her.  I’m not sure if it’s due to the characterization or due to Britt Robertson’s performance.  But because of this, I grew to somewhat dislike Britt Robertson, too.  Of course, the possibility is always open for me to grow liking this young actress in the future, but at this point, I’m not a fan. 
  • George Clooney is George Clooney.  Any complement-worthy performance from his part is to be expected.
  • The performance that really stood out in this film is Raffey Cassidy as Athena.  She absolutely outshone Britt Robertson.     
  • SPOILERS.  If you choose to think deeply about it, there’s something troubling about the whole idea of all those visionary people banding together and creating a utopia hidden from the rest of the world.  The set-up can easily result into conflicts, exclusivism, elitism, and other problems.  Sure, the whole idea is to eventually open Tomorrowland and share all of its technological wonders to the rest of mankind someday.  But if that’s the idea all along, why not utilize their intelligence and talents in making the world a better place by actually doing that while living in the world?  You might point out that it was explained that Tomorrowland is isolated from the world so that its inhabitants won’t have to worry about the things (e.g. politics) that could hinder their work.  But when the time comes that Tomorrowland is revealed to the world, won’t politics and all those things they wanted to avoid come into play anyway?  And when will be the “right time” for Tomorrowland to be revealed?   Won’t there be ill-will or jealousy from the rest of mankind when they learn of Tomorrowland?  Won’t there be tension between Tomorrowland and those that “aren’t good enough to be invited to Tomorrowland”?

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