Throughout the run time of the new George Clooney vehicle I kept waiting for a moment that would strike a chord with me. For a movie with an abundance of imagination, a creative eye backing it and a message about dreamers, Tomorrowland falls unfortunately flat in momentum and intrigue. The film is built on big ideas and carried out with little edge or charm, instead relying on those ideas to take full control of the heavy lifting, leaving us with a soulless and, most grievously, dull film.
Starring Britt Robertson and George Clooney the film tells the story of two individuals bound by destiny. Robertson plays Casey, a scientifically curious teen whose optimism in the world is a rarity in the people she’s surrounded by. She meets the cantankerous former boy wonder, Frank (Clooney) with the help of Athena (Raffey Cassidy, who gives the strongest performance in the film by a mile), an A.I. who’s been trying to find someone to bring hope to the world again and believes Casey could be it. What follows is the three of them trying to stop an apocalyptic endgame for the world with Casey’s optimism.
I am a science fiction fan. I enjoy the scope that the worlds of this genre allow us to inhabit, the new ideas and the forward thinking doused in subtext. Tomorrowland like its protagonists ideals and dreams, are little else than a mirroring image. What we want Tomorrowland to be and what Tomorrowland actually is are two vastly different things. There are few occasions when I thought (hoped) that the film was going to take a turn for the better. Cassidy proved to be an integral asset to the film, enlivening both Robertson and Clooney’s performances and there’s a sequence at Frank’s house that’s the type of fun you’d expect from a Brad Bird film with technology and gadgets taking center stage. This sequence holds enough campy fun and real thrilling pay offs that I hoped that it was the moment that everything would go full throttle ahead.
Most of the films fault lies within its structure, a tediously written script that keeps the characters from the main action for nearly an hour. There are too many beginnings, too many plot contrivances getting from point A to point B, too little time spent in some of the more exciting set pieces and a leading actress who’s forced to screech far too often in the first hour and a half. Writer Damon Lindelof has a difficult time of ever convincing us of the urgency of the situation because it takes so long to get to what the film’s main conflict is. Storytelling 101 typically suggests that the conflict be at least hinted at in the first act and Lindelof takes the opposite approach, choosing to factor in the integral piece of storytelling far enough into the film that by the time of its reveal it holds little to no impact.
Director Brad Bird is capable of producing some of the strongest genre films in the industry with films such as The Iron Giant and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol being favorites of mine. He has a captivating style of filmmaking that sucks viewers in with a level of immediacy. Never does the camera falter, always keeping the momentum of the film going at a steady pace which makes the failings of Tomorrowland all the more disappointing. In theory the film should have been a playground for the director, allowing his visionary storytelling ability to decorate a world begging for a form. Instead the film is a hollow shell of a film, an imprint of what it could have been. A bad film is one thing, a film that’s full to the brim with wasted potential is something else.
Director: Brad Bird
Film Length: 124 minutes
Release Date: May 22, 2015
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures