photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Given that Tomorrowland
was written principally by Damon Lindelof, co-creator of the television series Lost
, it’s little surprise that the film opens with a fascinating premise and then weaves a tantalizing tapestry of plotlines before fizzling in a flawed, anticlimactic finale.
The true lament is that Lindelof even manages to taint the previously unassailable Brad Bird. After a sojourn spent directing the last Mission: Impossible
sequel, Bird returns to the theme of exceptionalism that runs through his grand triumvirate: Iron Giant
, The Incredibles
. But Tomorrowland
is just a nostalgia-steeped Epcot Theme Park
ride, where high-minded aspirations devolve into didacticism to compensate for slipshod presentation.
Young Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), the precocious daughter of a NASA engineer (Tim McGraw), spends her days as the girl who always asks questions in class and her nights sabotaging the disassembly of launch pads at Cape Canaveral. Casey’s guerrilla tactics land her in the pokey, and when she makes bail, she finds a strange "T"-emblazoned pin in her property.
When touched, the pin gives Casey a glimpse into Tomorrowland, a futuristic milieu that resembles the anachronistic visions born from our erstwhile Space-Age euphoria. It’s a trans-dimensional world full of jetpacks, gleaming spiral skyscrapers, hover-rails and deep space travel, stocked with the brightest minds, who have been syphoned away to build a better world, free from the strictures of bureaucracy and naysayers. Academics assemble!
Athena (Raffey Cassidy, quite good) is a British girl tasked to recruit Casey for the mythical Tomorrowland while protecting her from the robotic G-men out to vaporize her. Athena is the same person who, 50 years prior at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, helped woo boy genius Frank Walker and his semi-functional jetpack prototype into Tomorrowland. Casey must find the now-grizzled Frank (George Clooney), long since exiled from the eponymous city for creating some vague bad thing. Together, they fly a steampunk rocket-ship out of the Eiffel Tower, bound for Tomorrowland in order to right the wrongs that have sullied its sheen and, oh, by the way, save our world from near-certain destruction.
Their trip through the looking glass drains the joy and internal logic out of Tomorrowland
. The once-teeming utopia has now fallen into dystopian disrepair, but it’s never clear how or why it happened. After Casey and Frank spend the film’s first half eluding murderous minions dispatched by Governor David Nix (Hugh Laurie) to terminate them, the first thing they do upon returning to Oz … er, Tomorrowland ... is turn themselves over to Nix and said minions. Naturally, Nix starts monologuing and no longer tries to kill them.
Casey is The One brought in to “fix it.” Yet when Casey diagnoses the cause, Frank and Athena are surprised, even though they appeared fully aware of the problem—something about tachyons and Frank’s bad thing—several scenes earlier. Then, once Casey provides the intrepid solution only The One could divine, it essentially amounts to blowing things up.
arrives at its United Colors of Hogwarts climax, you wonder why, as the world’s best ballet dancers, graffiti artists and wind-energy engineers are being recruited to rebuild paradise (at the expense of the mediocre hoi polloi, I suppose), someone couldn't have tossed in a good screenwriter or two as well.