'Tomorrowland' Review: Imagination and Stuff!
From the first teaser, Tomorrowland immediately went to the top of my "must see" list for this year. Directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and co-written by Damon Lindelof (Lost and The Leftovers), I was incredibly excited at their collaborative output. The trailers left me with a sense of wonder and mystery that I had to satiate in theaters as soon as possible. Tomorrowland follows teenage wunderkind, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who is recruited by the mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy), to return to Tomorrowland and save the world from destruction that was somehow initiated by the actions of Frank Walker (George Clooney) decades ago.
The opening sequence with Frank Walker's origins in the 1964 world fair are an absolute blast. We see a youthful and optimistic Frank sneaking into Tomorrowland, feeling the same sense of amazement as the audience as he sees this incredible technological and artistic Mecca. The film then focuses mostly on Casey Newton's recruitment into Tomorrowland, which is a fun enough ride until they actually get there. For a film called Tomorrowland, we barely spend any time there. Most of what we see is from the outskirts of the city, and we never get an immersive experience into the wonderful land that is spoken about over and over in the film. Fortunately, we do see some cool technology, and it looks breathtaking when we get a glimpse of what's going on. Raffey Cassidy's Athena is the true breakout star of the film, as her age-less recruiter for Tomorrowland portrays all the understanding and complexities of an experienced adult in the confines of a child's body, which leads to some cool and surprising action sequences, as well as a fascinating love story with George Clooney's character. Britt Robertson's portrayal of youthful optimism was endearing and impressive when paired with an old vet like Clooney, and despite Clooney's star power, the film's overall story is Robertson's. Clooney doesn't even play a significant role in the film until the second half. However, his performance isn't lacking. I actually liked his grumpy and disillusioned loner with trust issues, but he's not the focal point of the film.
As far as his relationship with Athena, it's unlike anything I can recall seeing in films, and it was probably the most interesting idea in the film. Without delving too much into spoilers, Athena and Frank meet as children when she brings him into Tomorrowland, and certain revelations make Frank's feelings of love that he developed towards her as a youth impossible to be reciprocated. Even after decades, he resents and loves her despite the fact she looks like a child. While there are some weird vibes that could have been portrayed in the situation, the film handles their relationship with tact and gives you something to think about beyond the scope of "cool tech".
Unfortunately, the film truly falters in the final act. Hugh Laurie's villain has nonsensical motives, even though his monologue about humanity's unwillingness to adapt was actually pretty interesting. The resolution boils down to Casey (Robertson) not being an incredible builder or thinker but having an immutable sense of hope. While this is a nice sentiment, it's pure cheese and doesn't payoff after building up her character as this genius who understands things on a higher fundamental level than most other beings. There's some cool set pieces to be had, including a retro rocket ship fired from the Eiffel Tower, but the sloppiness of the finale really hampers the film from being anything more than adequate.
Tomorrowland introduces some really interesting ideas, looks great, and has pretty solid performances all around, but we don't spend enough time in the titular area, and the script gets sloppy towards the end. These issues are enough to ultimately make one of my most anticipated films of 2015 a disappointment. However, Raffey Cassidy's Athena is a character that should be experienced and the film is a visual feast despite all of its failings.
Final Say: Watch It