Disney have seen very mixed results recently with their live action movies. For every Pirates Of The Caribbean there’s a John Carter (which is much better than the box office results would have you believe). For every Alice In Wonderland there’s The Lone Ranger (which kinda deserved its fate). And for every Maleficent there is now Tomorrowland to add to the pile of financial disappointments. Which is a real shame, because it’s at least as good as John Carter was, if not better.
The plot may seem a bit complicated at times, but it actually isn’t. All you need to know is that a young girl named Casey (Britt Robertson) is given a pin that, when touched, shows her glimpses of a future world, a potential utopia full of sleek, metal structures and superfast travel and jetpacks for all. Determined to find out just where this magical place actually IS, because she senses that it’s all real despite it being shown as a hologram around her, Casey does some digging around, which ends up putting her life in danger, putting her in the company of a strange young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy), and eventually putting her in the home of Frank Walker (George Clooney), a man who has had some experience with that futuristic cityscape.
Written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, with the latter also serving as director, Tomorrowland is a pleasing mixture of nostalgia and optimism for what lies ahead. In fact, those outlooks infuse almost every major sequence in the movie. There are some moments that you just know could take things in a much darker direction, and also a disturbing strand of elitism that comes to the fore in a way that the final scenes try to counter, but things move along so swiftly that viewers are soon reassured of one thing – this is a movie that wants to entertain you, not necessarily make you think too deeply about things.
The acting is top notch from all involved, with Robertson a particularly likeable lead and Cassidy having fun with the most interesting character in the mix. Clooney may be stuck in a role that we’ve seen a hundred times before, especially in Disney movies (the adult who wants to recapture a moment of childhood magic), but he does well with it. And then we have a relatively limited amount of screentime for Hugh Laurie, playing a character who is willing to ignore the needs of the many in turn for the privileged lives of a few. Indeed, the film is at its most morally murky whenever Laurie is onscreen, which is another plus point.
There are some fantastic set-pieces here, with the standard set high by the first encounter between Casey and some people who want to find out just where she got her pin from, some gorgeous visuals, plenty of fun ideas, and a number of great references and in-jokes (many of them referring to Walt Disney himself, of course, with the whole vision of the future feeling directly lifted from his own expectations and dreams). The only major negatives that I can think of are the constant veering away from darker moments and the fact that the downtime in between those sumptuous set-pieces feels so comparatively stale. It is, in short, all you could want from a family-friendly sci-fi movie. But it seems that the majority of people disagree with me.
DIRECTOR: BRAD BIRD
WRITER: DAMON LINDELOF, BRAD BIRD,
STARS: GEORGE CLOONEY, BRITT ROBERTSON, HUGH LAURIE, RAFFEY CASSIDY, TIM MCGRAW
RUNTIME: 130 MINS APPROX