Posted May 21, 2015 by Daniel Hodgson in
Tomorrowland is violent. In a home-invasion scene that revels in its own brutality, a teenage girl bludgeons an intruder’s head in with a baseball bat. In another, falling debris crushes a man’s leg. Buildings blow up. Human beings are disintegrated with futuristic weapons. A severed head is carried out of a ruined store front.
Violence can be entertaining. It can be celebratory, fun, or shocking. In Tomorrowland, it is appalling, because it is meant for a family audience. It is rated PG, meaning that most parents will assume it is safe for their kids. However, Tomorrowland is a family film that is not family-friendly. In that way, the film is a big-budget failure.
The plot is a convoluted mess that no child will be able to follow. -I- couldn’t follow what was going on. The story follows 16-year-old Casey Newton, the rebellious daughter of a NASA engineer. Casey comes into possession of a pin which allows her to see Tomorrowland, a futuristic utopia where scientists and inventors are free to invent and discover our universe.
Casey tracks the pin down to a geeky toy store, filled with action figures from Star Wars and the like. The clerk (Keegan-Michael Key) is curious about her pin, and starts asking questions—too many questions. He reveals himself to be a robot from the future, and attempts to vaporize Casey with a ray-gun to get the pin.
Casey is rescued by Athena, another robot from the future, who looks like a 10-year-old, and speaks with a British accent. Athena takes Casey to Frank Walker (George Clooney), who once lived in Tomorrowland, but is now a shut-in. Frank is the only one who can get her to the utopia, but he has given up on the future. He has his reasons.
However, Tomorrowland is not as linear as all that. The first 20 minutes flashes forwards and backwards between their childhoods, unsure if it’s supposed to be about him or her. Casey anchors us into the story, but the story is ultimately about Frank. She is the optimist, and he’s the pessimist, and the film is about how Frank learns to hope again in a world that seems doomed.
It’s a depressing film, asserting that the world is almost sure to end, and only the ubermen, brilliant scientists and inventors, can save us from ourselves. It’s a grim view of the future and humanity, embracing the very pessimism that the film thinks it opposes.
As to why the robots are trying to kill Casey and Frank, I can’t begin to explain. I’m sure the reason is buried underneath a mountain of exposition that composes the film’s dialog. It’s the kind of movie that might make sense after you’ve seen it several times, not that it merits that.
The film is directed by Brad Bird, helmer of such acclaimed Pixar films as Ratatouille and The Incredibles, as well as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. With his track record, Tomorrowland disappoints high expectations. But it’s ok. Every great director has that one project that doesn’t work out. His next film will be better, I’m sure. 1 star.