Perhaps it was only a matter of time before director Brad Bird disappointed. With Tomorrowland, he does just that.
After three masterful animated films (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) and arguably the best entry in the Mission: Impossible
series (Ghost Protocol), Bird’s ambitious Tomorrowland is a shallow, forgettable fantasy-adventure.
Sporadically entertaining, but ultimately unfulfilling, Tomorrowland’s most obvious failing is its bizarrely disconnected and poorly resolved
final act, which neglects to deliver on its grand promise.
The entire film builds toward a conclusion that we expect will deliver a triumphant resolution to the story’s mystery and apocalyptic threat,
but what we get is almost offensively hokey.
There is a montage early in the film showing our young hero, Casey, attempting to ask questions in school. The teachers prattle on about
the doom of our world thanks to all of our modern-day threats.
“What are we doing about it?” she asks.
The teacher gives Casey a blank stare.
The film’s ultimate answer, however, is equivalent to a shoulder shrug.
Tomorrowland itself is a futuristic city built in an alternate dimension or the future or something. Who knows? Time-travel is just one of the
many genre elements the film introduces haphazardly and never defines or develops.
Earth’s elite minds supposedly fled to the utopian Tomorrowland to escape the social and political perils of our world.
Fans of the video game Bioshock will find some curious parallels here. That game was set in a secret underwater city created for much the
The game also featured genetically-altered little girls and giant robot-looking guys that protected them.
One of the film’s main characters is a robotic girl that recruits Casey to help save the world, and Tomorrowland is protected by a giant robot
with a slight resemblance to the hulking figures from the game.
Those are some rather striking visual and thematic similarities.
Much of the film takes place in our modern-day world, however, and many of the most spectacular sequences are staged in the film’s more
basic settings. There is an excellent piece of action choreography set inside a sci-fi memorabilia shop that sells more Iron Giant collectibles
than probably exist in the entire world.
There’s also a fun scene where Casey and George Clooney’s Frank escape from his booby-trapped farmhouse.
Bird’s action direction is fluid and well-edited, making great use of extended shots. It makes the film’s climax all the more puzzling
considering it’s far less spectacular than many of the setpieces that came before it.
The characters don’t fare much better. Britt Robertson and Clooney are both enjoyable in their roles. Robertson brings a lot of energy as
wide-eyed optimist Casey; while Clooney’s constant anger and irritation make Frank an amusing anti-hero. But unlike Bird’s best work, the
characters never satisfactorily develop. We don’t truly care about them by the time the film reaches its somewhat preachy end, which
manages to feel abrupt despite the rest of the film being too long.
It’s easy to forget that Tomorrowland is a fairly entertaining adventure before it falls apart in that unfortunate final act.
The film gets some very good visual effects work, and the cinematography is sharp and vibrant.
It also receives a positively ecstatic score from composer Michael Giacchino. His enthusiastic music lifts the film in many sequences, even
if the most prominent theme reminded me of Henry Jones’ from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The film has a good sense of humor and there is enough talent involved to prevent it from ever being truly bad, but Tomorrowland is an
undeniably mediocre film, and a rare blemish on the resume of a filmmaker capable of far better.
(out of four)
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson,
Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography by: Claudio Miranda
Released: May 22, 2015; 130 Minutes