There are two wolves and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which wolf wins?
Dir. Brad Bird
Runtime: 130 minutes
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy
How many times have you heard “Disney” and “Bombed at the Box Office”? Not many times (unless you are as old as me then it might actually be a few times – “Rocketeer” (1991) and “Inspector Gadget” (1999) – I’m looking at you!). Sit back and let me tell you about “Tomorrowland: A World Beyond” which was directed and co-written by Brad Bird who also directed “The Iron Giant” (1999), “The Incredibles” (2004), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (2011), and after this film, went on to direct “Incredibles 2” in 2018.
In the past, 1964, a boy genius, Frank Walker, finds his way into an alternative dimension called Tomorrowland – it’s kind of hidden under Disney Land. It is a place where the cleverest people can co-exist to make a better reality. Fast-forward to the present (presumably 2015 when the film came out) and Casey Newton is living with her brother under the watchful eye of single father Eddie Newton in Cape Canaveral. Space exploration is a forgotten thing, and Eddie being an space flight engineer spends his time working in his garage. In her spare time, Casey is sabotaging the removal of the rocket platform that is on the outskirts of town – keeping her dad in a job, and also stopping space exploration from being completely dismantled and forgotten. Casey is a genius in her own right and dreams about going into space, she is forever asking the question of how to fix the world she lives in. One day she receives a mysterious pin that shows her a vision of Tomorrowland. Hungry for more she attempts to find out about the pin and gain entry to the mysterious place she has seen. She is eventually tracked down by Athena who hails from Tomorrowland and is trying to recruit Casey to help the future of existence. In order to help, Athena convinces Casey to get a much older and grumpy Frank Walker onside too. The idea is that Athena needs both Frank and Casey to stop the world from going through a catastrophic event that could be the downfall of humanity. The journey to save the World, via Tomorrowland starts – but the trio are tested on the way by conspiracy theories who want in on Tomorrowland, and also by the hierarchy of Tomorrowland itself. In addition, Athena might not be all that she is pretending to be.
In 180 characters
Possibly child genius recruited by mysterious age-less child from alternative reality, to find ex-child genius to save the world. Colourful family adventure from Disney with George Clooney leading the cast.
The film tries to recapture a failing passion in the world for some of the things that Walt Disney (the man) initially tired to bring to his media and parks – space, futurism, and a sort of utopia. It’s a sci-fi adventure film which is mostly grounded on Earth, and an alternative reality of Earth, but does have a moment in space travel too. “Tomorrowland” is a colourful and imaginative film which is visually pretty to look at and flows nicely. Although I am an adult, this is still a fun-filled film which is as entertaining to me as much now, as it would have been in my pre-teenage years too.
George Clooney leads the cast being a seasoned A-lister that he is. His range is not really tested and his performance is not that far removed from other family films he has appeared in. Stealing the show though are Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy who both feel like a good fit for a Disney film. They are fresh and deliver solid performances in their roles. While neither are necessarily Oscar worthy in this film, when I compare what they bring against other live-action Disney films of the past, they both fit the bill well and come across as authentic and likable.
I have mentioned that the film is visually good. There is a lot of CGI in this film and for the most part it is not off-putting or distracting. The film is fueled by Disney’s Industrial Light & Magic technology, which does not put too many footsteps wrong. Yes, some of the scenery and backgrounds look fake – but this would be less obvious to younger audiences. I am fairly sure that this would have blown my mind if I were watching this as a young boy – sure, it’s on the family friendly side so it wouldn’t necessarily be as cool as something like “Tron” (1982) or “The Transformers: The Movie” (1986), but it would have still enthralled me. It is hard as an adult not to see some of the continuity errors that cropped up from time to time (there were a lot of them!), but I easily overlooked them because of the sense of fun that was been delivered. Robots – spaceships – laser guns – gizmo – this film has them!
I watched this film with my wife, and it is fair to say that she did not enjoy this. She claimed that she feels robbed of 2 hours of her life. Likewise, I have spoken to other people that thought this was a bit weak too. On the other hand, I know that there are some audiences who loved this and cannot understand the negativity and how it bombed at the box office (it cost $190 million and earned $210 million). I kind of sit on the fence, with my feet dangling in the positivity side of the garden. I enjoyed this film, but I know that not everybody will do – I did though and that’s what matters to me. It was a fun family adventure which used a Disney-esque steampunky (very loosely of course) sci-fi element, and it made me think of the live action films of Disney’s past which I enjoyed, the kind of films that Disney made before they went whole-hog on animation epics. Films like: “The Island at the Top of the World” (1974), “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975), “The Cat From Outer Space” (1978), “The Black Hole” (1979), “Tron” (1982), “The Flight of the Navigator” (1986), and even “Flubber” (1997).
So, “Tomorrowland” may be a film that will divide audiences, but if you give it a go it can still be plenty of fun. As such, I am going to give this a controversial 7 out of 10 and feed the wolf that represents light and hope.