Film Review: Tomorrowland

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Give a film the title of Tomorrowland and it’s only natural to expect to see something largely focusing on the land of tomorrow. Unfortunately what we do get is something more bogged down in the generic doom and gloom story as to why we don’t deserve to go there.

The first thing of note is that Tomorrowland isn’t actually the future, it’s an alternate dimension that sends recruiters to our world to seek out the brightest minds that are being hindered by the limitations of this Earth. What do they want these geniuses for? Well… That’s debatable. There’s a lot of elements full of holes and needing of a little more exposition to be satisfying, the main one being the motives of Tomorrowland. It might just be selling Star Wars merchandise given the overabundance of it in one scene, but I would assume they have something a little grander planned on top of that. With that said, I’ll put complaint aside for the bigger disappointment of the film: we spend most of the movie trying to get to Tomorrowland (which isn’t even that awesome when we do get there), as opposed to being there for most of the film. Apparently we don’t deserve Tomorrowland, being the awful people that we are, destroying our own chances and not appreciating our own world. Haven’t heard that one before.

Moving on from Tomorrowland, let’s focus on this world and our protagonist, Casey Newton. As much as I like Britt Robertson, once we get past the initial introduction of Casey she becomes pretty flat with only one setting: awe. This is understandable when you see people flying around with jetpacks and a multi-tier glass swimming pool, but eventually a photo of that one expression could have been glued to a stick and moved around the scenes. Remember how devastated Katniss looked throughout the majority of Mockingjay Part 1? Well amazement is to Casey in Tomorrowland as despair is to Jennifer Lawrence in Mockingjay. The only character more disappointing than Casey is Hugh Laurie’s Nix, but to get too deep into that would tread in the realm of spoilers. Just know that he’s completely unoriginal in the role he is eventually revealed to be playing.

But at least there’s George Clooney, right? I suppose. He’s a great actor and I will pretty much always brighten up when he comes on screen, but the problem with this film is it wasn’t built in such a way where Robertson or Clooney felt integral to each other in progressing the story. Past the initial scene to set up what follows, the rest of the film progresses in a way that feels like one person could have done the whole journey without the other (with the help of Athena, who I will get to in the next paragraph). This may be an overstatement considering there are some few key points and items that make this untrue, but that doesn’t keep the film from feeling that way even as they’re collaborating. I’d even make an argument that with some slight rewriting, one of the characters could be gotten rid of all together, or at least had their part slimmed down following a certain unpredictably advanced, booby-trapped house. But that’s me, and I’d imagine it’s much easier to say “we don’t need you anymore, Clooney” when not staring directly into his eyes.

The one saving grace in the film is the young recruiter, Athena, played by Raffey Cassidy. At first I wasn’t sure about her role in the film, but I’m pretty sure this is largely due to the glaring problems with the recruitment process (let’s drop a pin into the possession of strangers without giving them any explanation of what it is, only to come back and search for them later. Why not just talk to them right away about the visions the pin shows them!? How many people walked out into traffic while seeing the visual imagery projected into their heads of a futuristic world seeing as their physical bodies were moving around back home? This is so stupid!). So though her initial actions are infuriating, Cassidy quickly developed into the most interesting person on screen, not to mention the most dynamic character wise. Plus she does a lot to bring more out of those she interacts with.

In the end Tomorrowland is nothing but disappointment. It promises this grand world of possibility and technological advancement, but then pulls it away from us. Apparently we don’t deserve it, nor do we deserve an original story. Instead of embracing the idea set forth by these integral “dreamers” to our development and survival, we ignore the question Casey asks in the beginning of how to fix it, instead dwelling on what we’ve done wrong. And I don’t need another film about that. No matter how many lasers you dazzle me with.

Oh, you can keep your robots, too.

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