Considering the years-long shroud of secrecy surrounding Brad Bird’s film, I’ll respectfully tip-toe around the specifics of the story. We meet a teen girl (Britt Robertson) who finds a pin that magically transports her to the futuristic, science-minded utopia of Tomorrowland. While seeking to learn the pin’s origins, she finds herself pursued by laser gun-touting villains and encounters a reclusive scientist (George Clooney) who may hold the key not only to where Tomorrowland exists, but why.
The visual effects are beautiful, the production is impressive (everything from the sets to the costumes are top notch) and the film’s overall message is wonderful. Michael Giacchino’s score is among his best and everyone in the cast gives it their all. Clooney looks dashing wearing a jet pack and excels playing a hybrid of Mr. Wizard and Harrison Ford. Robertson is plucky and adorable in the lead and manages not to get upstaged by all the mayhem that ensues.
I agree with the film’s insistence that cynicism, indifference and acceptance of a doomsday scenario is preventing mankind from pursuing the possibilities and alternate outcomes available in science. Rather than simply wait for Armageddon, how about taking action and figuring out a way to sustain and enrich both the planet and the human experience? It’s a refreshingly optimistic point, one that the movie botches by bludgeoning us with it again and again. Rather than trust the audience to grasp and be moved by what the film is saying, the characters are constantly reiterating what’s already been said.
A scene in a sci-fi nostalgia store is the first instance where the film really steps wrong. The shop is wall-to-wall with varying movie memorabilia and Star Wars merchandise (yes, Disney, we haven’t forgotten what movie you have coming out in December). You can sense the filmmakers are relying on commercialized nostalgia to carry the scene. Then Keegan Michael-Key and Kathryn Hahn show up, funny but hammy in weird turns. A laser shootout takes place, the store explodes and I started wondering who the filmmakers imagined were watching their movie.
Whenever Tomorrowland starts building momentum, it pauses for a lengthy dialogue exchange. The insistence on talky exposition makes the pace stop-and-start. With many scenes of headless robots and (bloodless) laser battles, it struck me that this is likely too intense and long-winded for young children.
I have reservations about giving Tomorrowland two stars, since it includes some fine moments and a solid point to make (even if that point looks like a glossy commercial in the closing moments). I loved the opening scenes, set in an impressive recreation of the World’s Fair. But at the end, I left unsatisfied, hoping that someone will still make a real Space Mountain movie.