When Tomorrowland – A World Beyond was first announced I, like many others, became excited. The project had a lot of good and interesting names attached, I was a fan of Brad Bird, and it seemed like it could show off everyone’s creativity. When it hit theatres, however, I was surprised at how “meh” everyone reacted. So much so that I decided to skip the cinema experience and let everything stew until it came out on Netflix (or in this case Viaplay). I think this was the right decision as it put distance between me and the initial reactions. I found the film surprising in that it took a few turns I did not expect (mostly because of the reviews I had read), and because of the creativity I could plainly see. Although, there is a lot of “meh”-ness as well.
A few spoilers follow.
Casey is a dreamer. She wants to help fix the world, work at NASA (if only it wasn’t getting defunded) and explore the universe. One day she finds a special pin that lets her view a world almost too perfect to be believeable: Tomorrowland, where all the world’s top scientists, thinkers, artists and dreamers go to make a perfect society.
Casey (played by Britt Robertson) is your typical, genius movie child. The notable exception to her story is that her dad is a NASA engineer, so she does have a reason for her love of “knowing how things work”. As per Disney Law she has an absent mother who is never mentioned except for a flashback scene. She’s absolutely fine compared to a lot of “hero’s journey” protagonists out there. Her reactions are good and most of the dialogue is fun. Athena, a child robot, was definitely my favourite. She managed to convey her old soul. The way the characters talked around their past while giving us glimpses through flashbacks was nicely balanced. The movie did not feel the need to explain everything that had happened. Her and Frank’s (Clooney) story was really touching.
The other great thing about the film is the design, which really feels like the film’s raison d’etre. It is basically a concept art showroom. I would have loved to have seen even more of it. I would also have liked to see a bit more of the “normal” people in Tomorrowland to see how exactly they lived, their goals and aspirations. Were they trying to improve our world by eventually sharing the technology they created in Tomorrowland, or was the city basically just stealing all our best minds and leaving the rest of us with a diminished shared IQ? Does the whole family move or is every dreamer forced into genius fostercare?
The exact purpose of Tomorrowland is a bit vague, and so is the movie’s “villain.” The antagonist is global warming, political unrest, food shortages, water crises, etc – basically every way we can muck up the planet. Gouvernor Nix, played underwhelmingly by Hugh Laurie (he is given way too little to do), is also an antagonist, but his motivation boils down to a speech about us failing to save ourselves. How can we do that when our brightest minds are hiding away in Tomorrowland? Who knows.
The film’s lack of drive in the last third is really my only real problem. The resolution therefore feels a bit undeserved. Gouvernor Nix even gets a classic Disney end, but was he really that villainous? The explanation and resolution behind the “doomsday” device was not what I was expecting going in, and I actually really loved that whole idea, but the end fight just didn’t feel right. Maybe it lacked a sense of personal stakes, higher stakes (though what could be higher than the end of the world?), or just more engaging characters? I don’t know, but “meh” with a positive shrug at the end does perhaps sum it up.
I was surprisingly entertained throughout most of the film, more so than the first reviews suggested to me, but Tomorrowland does lack that extra punch that makes all those amazing CGI vistas worth fighting for. It actually felt a bit too short. But all in all a nice Sunday evening.
Dice roll: 3