“TOMORROWLAND” (2015) Review

“TOMORROWLAND” (2015) Review

Back in May 2015, the Disney Studios released a movie that did not proved to be successful at the box office. Directed by Brad Bird, the movie got its title – “TOMORROWLAND” – from futuristic themed land found at Disney theme parks.

It is a pity that “TOMORROWLAND” did not prove to be as successful as the Disney Studios had hoped. It struck me as a very unusual film. Superficially, it is a family friendly movie about a disillusioned genius inventor and a teenage science enthusiast, who embark upon a journey to an ambiguous dimension known as “Tomorrowland”, where they believe their actions can directly affect both the world and themselves. On another level, “TOMORROWLAND” produced an emotional reaction within me that truly took a cynical person like myself, by surprise.

The story begins with the adult Frank Walker telling an off-screen audience about when he had attended the 1964-1965 New York Fair as a child, and his attempt to present the jet pack he had invented to be used as an exhibit at the Fair. When his jet pack is rejected by a man named David Nix, young Frank is approached by a girl named Athena, who sees great potential within him. Athena gives Frank a pin with a “T” symbol and instructs him to follow her aboard the new It’s a Small World” attraction, created by Walt Disney’s engineers for his Disneyland theme park. Frank follows Athena, Nix and a group of other people and ends up transported to the futuristic cityscape, “Tomorrowland”, when his pin is scanned.

At this point, the narration shifts to the adolescent Casey Newton, the daughter of a Cape Canaveral engineer, who tries to sabotage the machines that are dismantling the NASA launch pad in order to save her dad’s job. at who sneaks into a decommissioned NASA launch pad in Cape Canaveral, where her father Eddie is an engineer. After one attempt at sabotage, Casey returns home, where Athena sneaks another “T” pin that is programmed to Casey’s DNA into the latter’s motorcycle helmet. The next night, Casey attempts to break into the NASA compound again, but is arrested. At the police station, Casey not only discovers the pin among her personal items, she also discovers that upon contact, the pin instantly shows her a view of “Tomorrowland”. Determined to find the origin of the pin, Casey traces it to a Houston memorabilia store that is owned by a couple that proves to be robots, who attack her. Athena, who also proves to be an Audio-Animatronic robot, rescues Casey and takes her to Frank’s farm in New York. She also tells Casey that the latter and Frank are needed to save the world. And the only way to do that is to head for Tomorrowland.

From a technical point-of-view, “TOMORROWLAND” is a very attractive looking movie. First of all, I have to applaud Scott Chambliss’ production designs for the film. His re-creation of the 1964-1965 New York New York’s World Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York really impressed me. It must have been difficult to re-create not only the event’s physical look, but also the mid-1960s. Then Chambliss went a step further and created the sleek, futuristic look of “Tomorrowland”. If his work does not earn an Academy Award nomination, I will be very surprised. And yes, other members of the crew contributed to Miranda’s production designs. I thought the work of the art direction team, Lin MacDonald’s set decorations, Jeffrey Kurland’s costume designs and especially Claudio Miranda’s sharp and colorful photography truly enhanced the movie’s style and look. I only have one problem – namely Michael Giacchino’s score. Quite honestly, I did not find it memorable.

The movie can also boast some excellent performances. George Clooney was at top form as the adult Frank Walker, who had become weary and cynical after being rejected from “Tomorrowland”. I cannot recall the last time I saw Hugh Laurie in a motion picture. But he was superb as the cool and judgmental leader of “Tomorrowland”, David Nix. I especially enjoyed his performance in the scene in which his character went into a rant over humanity’s foibles. I was surprised to learn that Britt Robertson is 25 years-old. She did an excellent job in portraying a character who seemed to be at least a decade younger. More importantly, she managed to develop a strong screen chemistry with both Clooney and the young actress who portrayed Athena, namely Raffey Cassidy. The latter gave a first-rate performance as the long-living android, who managed to develop some kind of affection toward both Casey and especially Frank. Thomas Robinson was superb as the young Frank. Not only did he have great chemistry with Cassidy, he managed to give an intelligent performance without coming off as an adult in a boy’s body. I also enjoyed the performances of Keegan-Michael Key (of “KEY AND PEELE”) and Kathryn Hahn as the pair of android managers of the Houston memorabilia store, who proved to be both funny and rather scary.

For the likes of me, I tried to understand why this movie had produced so much hostility from the critics and from some moviegoers. In the end, I decided it would be a waste of my time. I cannot control the opinions of others. And quite frankly, I have no desire to do so. I find such efforts rather frustrating and exhausting. All I can do is express my feelings of the movie. Personally? I rather liked it.  “TOMORROWLAND” is such an oddball of a film. Superficially, it struck me as one of those solid Disney family actions films that the studio had been making for the past 60 years or so. But once Frank and Casey reached “Tomorrowland”, the film shifted into a tone that made it quite unique and in the end, I found rather touching. How touching did I find it? Let me put it this way . . . I found myself crying when the movie ended.

I am certain that many who did not like the film would say that I cried over how much of a mess it turned out to be. Perhaps these same fans and critics did not like the shift of tone in the movie’s last half hour or so. I must confess . . . I had a bit of trouble with that shift, myself. Or perhaps they disliked Nix’s rant . . . or the fact that it revealed a great deal of truth about humanity. Nix’s rant made me acknowledge the negative aspects of humanity, something that I tend to complain about to this day. But as George Clooney’s character managed to point out, not all is negative about humanity. Sometimes, we humans can surprise each other in a positive way. Did other moviegoers and critics come to this conclusion? Or did they expect some kind of one-dimensional “good-vs.-evil” conflict that can usually be found in many summer films? Perhaps I should not dwell upon what the audience wanted and focus on my reaction of“TOMORROWLAND”. After all, my opinion should count . . . at least to me.

There is another aspect of the film that I had carried away with me upon leaving the movie theater. I noticed that following Frank’s expulsion by the character Nix and the latter’s intent to ensure the cityscape’s separation from Earth, the dimension known as “Tomorrowland” declined as a community. This outcome reminded me of what seems to me is the decline of today’s culture and originality. Many societies today seem so bent upon either remembering the past (through rose-colored glasses) or rejecting anything remotely original that I find myself wondering if the same happened to “Tomorrowland”, when Nix had decided to close itself off from Earth and the innovations of humans when he discovered the possibility of a worldwide catastrophe. Perhaps that last scene of Frank and Casey entrusting “Tomorrowland” androids (to whom they had been narrating this story) to recruit new “dreamers” from Earth and bring them to “Tomorrowland” is what drove me to tears when I left the theater.

Once again, I found myself encountering another original film that very few seem capable of appreciating or enjoying. I only hope that director Brad Bird and co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof are aware there are some people – including myself – who truly appreciated their creation of “TOMORROWLAND”, along with the cast and crew who worked on this film.

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