Movie Review: Tomorrowland

I would like to apologize for being late on my posting. I started writing when I got home and passed out halfway through. By now you have already made up your mind about seeing Tomorrowland, but if you are still on the fence, it is well worth your time and money.

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I want to preface this critique by saying I will not see Poltergeist (2015) because I already did. By that I mean the 1982 version, the only version anyone should be watching. Reboots and remakes make me hate movies, especially when the remake in question is of an already perfect film. There are exceptions, of course (The Departed, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Heat, True Grit, and Dredd), but if you remake something that did not need to be remade (RoboCop, Arthur, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, The Wicker Man, and Total Recall), you are a talentless hack so devoid of skill and artistic integrity, you are less than human. If you take my word for it and avoid seeing Poltergeist (2015), should you go see Tomorrowland (TL) or give Mad Max: Fury Road a second look?

Short answer: go see it. There is no denying the film’s message and overall agenda, easily dismissing it as starry-eyed Disney propaganda. But what would you rather watch: a movie that says intellect and creativity are important components to making the world a better place, or a movie that says a good Atheist is a dead Atheist? If you picked the former, you will certainly enjoy TL. If you chose the latter, watch God’s Not Dead, and then kill yourself.

Freed of her purgatory as a Nicholas Sparks doormat character, Britt Robertson takes the lead role of Casey, a young woman dissatisfied with a world that seems to be taking steps backwards from progress. After failing to thwart a demolition crew from taking down a NASA launch pad, she happens upon a mysterious pin that transporters her to the futuristic utopia of Tomorrowland. Compelled to visit the fantastical metropolis, Casey sets out on a journey to discover its location and the meaning behind the pin.

TL is very similar to Andrew Stanton’s John Carter, a movie that failed because audiences took it a little too seriously than the people who made it. It is not as if the production did not care, but the filmmakers were being as earnest as possible in their adaptation of a story that did not care for science and logic. Sure, it does not make sense that Carter can breath on Mars, but who cares? Do all movies have to be serious and realistic? The film knew what it was: a sci-fi fantasy depicted in the classical sense, made all the more better by its honesty and unapologetic adherence to being a fun story. Despite everything that people thought was wrong with it, John Carter succeeded and Tomorrowland is its better half in every respect.

There may be an agenda at play in the subtext, but TL can be enjoyed on a thematic and creative level. It is old fashion pulp science fiction, ripped straight from the imaginations of 1950’s futurists, and the retro covers of Popular Science. It has everything from jets packs and flying cars, to a rocket built under the Eiffel Tower by Tesla, Edison, Verne, and Eiffel himself, with the capability of extra-dimensional travel. Imaginative is the key word with everything that could be possible present and accounted for on screen.

TL celebrates its message as much as its creativity. Only in a Disney movie will you find a deceptively positive outlook on the worst parts of life, except TL tells you how to make it a reality. It does not lie about the world being a dangerous place. The start of the film makes it absolutely clear we are in many ways on the road to disaster before it shows the characters actively working to make a difference. It shows what a few people can do and then what many can do. If the final frames do not inspire you to actually do something with your life, get ready for a Mad Max future.

George Clooney was his usual Clooney-self as Frank Walker, and Raffey Cassidy is a welcome surprise as Athena, but Robertson stood out the most. She brought real charisma and heart to Casey, giving her a sense of realism despite being a hyper intelligent teenager. It was good to see Robertson put forth her all into making the character believable and sympathetic. That Nicholas Sparks slag Sophia is nothing more than a footnote compared to Casey.

The main problem with TL ties into Hugh Laurie’s Governor Nix. The issue is not his performance because Laurie is great as usual, but the time in which he is on screen is a direct result of the film’s backward pacing. The total runtime is 130 minutes and it is not until the last 45 the entire point of the story is made clear, brought to a climax, and resolved. The first 85 are almost entirely set-up and action, giving us plenty of character moments as they work towards their goal. But there is very little to no information given about why they need to get to Tomorrowland. The incentive to care is certainly present, but it would have helped if their goal were made clear and obvious.

I get the impression this was the result of writer Damon Lindelof trying to build the point of the film as a twist, saving the really meaty parts for a finale. That might have worked for a television show, but in a movie where it is essential to tell the story in a compressed manner, you must give the audience a concrete reason to sit and watch the entire feature. You can build to a finale reveal over the course of 13 one-hour episodes, not in 130 minutes.

That being said, Laurie’s justified villain speech in the last 15 is well worth sitting through the first 85. The man should be cast as Doctor Doom if Marvel ever gets back the rights to Fantastic Four.

Tomorrowland is a fantastic summer movie. It is an enjoyable spectacle of imagination and creativity with an important message. You can safely see it and feel good about having fun and an emotional reaction. There is something wrong with you if you do not feel something toward the end. But if you are not interested, Fury Road has not gone anywhere.

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