REVIEW: “Tomorrowland” a visual treat, but not entirely successful launch

Courtesy photo via Creative Commons.
Courtesy photo via Creative Commons.

By Annie Brennan, Staff–

Named for Walt Disney’s 1955 theme land, “Tomorrowland” is a somewhat disjointed social commentary, interspersed with scenes of spectacular futuristic invention.

Director Brad Bird (“Ratatouille,” “UP”) and the visual effects studio Industrial Light & Magic (“Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park”) have created a landscape true to Disney’s original dream land, which is relevant to the movie’s main theme.

The film opens with Frank, portrayed by George Clooney, informing the world of our impending doom due to global warming, war, famine, etc. Sound familiar? It’s immediately clear that this will not be just a cute, heartwarming Disney flick, but the same “save our planet” message most of us hear in classrooms, on the news, and on the street.

We eventually find that as a young, lighthearted boy genius, Frank entered a jetpack in the New York World’s Fair inventors competition. He is intrigued by a mysterious young girl he meets there, and follows her into Tomorrowland, only to be exiled years later.

Frank’s cohort Casey (Britt Robertson), a resourceful, rebellious young optimist, is shown a glimpse of Tomorrowland when she touches a pin, and immediately resolves to visit the place again. While she still believes in a bright future, Frank is cynical, and haunted by his past in the futuristic dreamscape.

The people around Casey don’t share the same optimism. All she hears about in school are the problems facing the world, and when she asks what’s being done to fix it, all she receives are blank stares.

Casey’s struggle is one that many young people can relate to. The feeling of being handed a broken world without a plan is one that teenagers everywhere are sharing. This is one of the film’s strongest points, melding Ghandi’s “be the change you wish to see in the world” with Disney’s tried and true “follow your dreams” mantra.

But as the film rolls out its complicated plot, the message moves dangerously close to an environmentalist rant. In fact, the “end of the world” element almost detracts from the film’s many highlights, such as the wonderfully imaginative gadgets Casey sees in Tomorrowland, or the snarky interplay between the main characters.

The action scenes are the most fun, with some sequences of robot-human combat seeming to walk straight out of “The Terminator.” But half the time, we as the audience are left wondering why these types of scenes were even necessary.

In addition, crucial pieces of back story and plot seem to have gone missing at some time during the many space-time continuum jumps. The films moves quickly, and it is hard to leave the theater without at least some confusion.

But even with some of the plot skipping along like a poorly-oiled jetpack, “Tomorrowland” is anything but boring. Essentially, it is a call to “dreamers” everywhere to get out there and start working to build a better future.

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