Dystopia has always been a concept of the future that our minds have gravitated towards, especially in the modern age. Sure, there have been classic films, books, comics and other mediums that have displayed and shown a world on fire, or post-civilization, but in the era of The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead, Mad Max: Fury Road and numerous others, dystopia and Armageddon seem to go hand in hand in the entertainment portion of our lives.
Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof certainly knew what they were getting into when they penned Tomorrowland. However, they boldly decided to show what the alternative was, utopia, and even why we as a people have not hosen that particular path. With this concept in mind, and despite some uneven pacing and longer dialogue scenes, Tomorrowland rises to the occasion as a great summer film that is strong visually as well as with its ideas and story.
In 1964, Frank Walker goes to the World’s Fair to show off his invention, a jetpack, and is led by a young girl, (Raffey Cassidy) to a place known as Tomorrowland, headed up by her father Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie). Fifty years later, Kasey Newton (Britt Robinson) receives a mysterious pin that shows her the utopia of Tomorrowland, and is led by the same forces to an older, grumpier Frank (George Clooney) who both discovers something more sinister going on in the paradise…
The acting of the movie is fine, Robertson shines as a new talent who is both thrust into a new world but isn’t always in danger for danger’s sake. She also shows great comic timing as well as works well with the action scenes. Cassidy is also serviceable in this role as well, and nearly steals the show in a great performance. It is also refreshing and funny to see George Clooney play a grumpy old man in this movie who grouses his way with a bit of Clooney’s signature charm. Hugh Laurie, Kathryn Hahn and even Tim McGraw present good work as well.
Brad Bird continues to adjust well to live action filmmaking, with a lot of the CGI of Tomorrowland being a perfect medium for him to show his skill in both a live and animated world. There is a scene at an old sci-fi shop full of odes to classic science fiction, and the rest of the production design is on point as well. The guns and futuristic machines seem practical and intriguing and the action is well shot and thrilling.
While it has been popular to trash Damon Lindelof in the past, due to perceived failing in Lost and Prometheus among other projects, but his script is often the Achilles Heel of Tomorrowland. Some of the dialogue scenes do go on for a bit too long, while other portions of the film feel rushed, especially with the villain as well as their plan. Also, some character development may have been lost or needed more time than it was give, also some bits were a little predictable, but for a family film most of these flaws can be ignored. However, the script does engage some potent ideas, while some have said this is preachy it is not so (who would think a Disney movie would challenge us to be more optimistic because it’s hard?) and Lidelof gets some jabs in at people who can’t seem to just let people be amazed, and the filmmakers who often leave little room for uninterrogated awe (paging Christopher Nolan).
The rest of the production value is amazing, and worth the surcharge for IMAX, as it does lend itself to an immersive experience. The cinematography is solid and the costumes and designs work very well.
Overall, Tommorrowland is a fine summer movie that can ask big questions and spark imagination while entertaining in a visual and important way. While reviews have been tepid, this Examiner implores you to see this movie, for it is a great summer ride.