Movie Review: Tomorrowland
Director: Brad Bird
by Jason Koenigsberg
Disney’s Tomorrowland feels like one very long expensive and exhilarating commercial. Commercial being the imperative word, there are moments of levity with humor and it certainly has its fair share of eye candy that is great to look at, but is such a shallow movie I could not see past this feeling like Disney just patting itself on the back.
This is a shame since Brad Bird directs it. He is a brilliant writer and director who excelled in animation first with TV’s The Simpsons and then with films like The Iron Giant (1999) and The Incredibles (2004). He crossed over into non-animated feature films with Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol (2011) and now Tomorrowland. His Mission: Impossible film was one of the most visually sumptuous action movies of recent years and some of the special effects and visuals in Tomorrowland are satisfactory yet none are on par with the scene of Tom Cruise climbing up the skyscraper in Dubai or the scenes involving him breaking into the Kremlin and then its subsequent destruction.
One aspect in Tomorrowland that should be praised is the acting especially by the two leads. The consummate George Clooney turns in another skillful performance surrounded by a green screen most of the time. Newcomer Britt Robertson is even more surprising being able to go pound for pound with George Clooney. The script requires them to have to work together to save planet Earth (real original) as they but heads along the way. Clooney does a great job as the cantankerous old curmudgeon representing the baby boomer generation and Britt Robertson has to contrast his cynical views with her optimism as she represents America’s youth and is filled with a can-do spirit that comes across as believable and not obnoxious if it were handled by a lesser actress. She has a bright future ahead of her given the right opportunities. Also Hugh Laurie makes a lot with his role as the villain named Governor Nix (Richard Nixon reference or is that too obvious?) and I kind of wish they fleshed his character out more so he did not appear as one-dimensional.
The plot is very thin. As I mentioned the two main characters have to work together to stop mankind from destroying the planet. I feel once again that the liberal agenda from big studios are just getting lazier. As I said with last years Interstellar are they calling Al Gore for plot ideas for sci-fi movies? The character development is good, but the special effects and action sequences are only mediocre at best. It did not do wonders for my imagination nor did it ever fully transport me to a world that I really wanted to spend time in. There are moments of exhilaration but they pass even before they are over on the screen. The most entertaining action moment for me came early in the film and it was fairly simple involving a character getting hit by a pick up truck. I do not want to spoil the one scene that had me genuinely surprised so I will not say anymore, but if Tomorrowland managed to amuse me as much as that small scene I think I would have been more on edge during the film. Brad Bird should have had smaller moments of suspense like that and less big backdrops and futuristic action sequences.
The first act was slow and I forgive the movie for that because once our two main characters meet and the chase ensues the movie really picks up the pace and I was interested in the story from that point on. I was never fully sold by anything in Tomorrowland because the commercial aspect of the film was far too distracting. The first twenty minutes of the movie feels like a commercial for Disneyland and it becomes littered with nostalgic commercial moments with product placement for Coca-Cola and then an even bigger commercial for Disney World. There is one scene with talented actors Keegan-Michael Key and Katherine Hahn that started off being funny but then disintegrated into shameless self promotion of not only Science fiction properties owned by Disney but also blatant tongue in cheek references to all of the animated films and TV accomplishments of Brad Bird that I mentioned above. These did not feel like loving homage’s, they felt like unashamed self-promotion that the movie did not need.
I would have forgiven Tomorrowland for this if it had been a more thrilling two hours. Even though it progressively sucked me in as the story went on, I was never truly entertained enough to be transported to this other world the movie attempted to portray, therefore I cannot in good faith recommend it to anyone to go see.
Attached below is the trailer for Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant. Even though I do not think it is superior than the two Pixar films he directed (The Incredibles and Ratatouille) The Iron Giant is more of a buried treasure especially succeeding to conjure nostalgia better than anything in Tomorrowland.