Britt Robertson, George Clooney, High Laurie, Tim McGraw, Raffey Cassidy, Pierce Gagnon, Keegan-Michael Key
Disney has had varying success when it comes to creating the ride first and the movie second. That awful dreck Haunted Mansion sullied one of my favorite rides at the park. For the first Pirates of the Caribbean, there are the other four films of motley quality. Now The Incredibles’ Brad Bird and Lost’s screenwriter Damon Lindelof present a frustrating a movie based on a whole Magic Kingdom land.
Tomorrowland suffers under Lindelof’s favorite gimmick – not even hinting what the *#&^! movie is about until 20 minutes from the end! It’s what makes his scripts for Prometheus and Star Trek: Into Darkness lacking. All of his work is filled with cool stuff to see; the story never raises the stakes early enough, so we flounder, waiting for reasons to care. He thinks doodads create mystery and motivation.
It is sort of funny to think of grim Lindelof writing a family film. If Tomorrowland succeeds with the kids, it’s because director Bird has a great sense of pace and visuals, working around serious script flaws.
Robertson is the daughter of NASA engineer McGraw. She’s so fascinated in science that she sabotages McGraw’s work tearing down the shuttle launch pad. After getting caught, she’s given a strange pin that shows her a mythical, utopian world – we never know if this world is an alternative dimension or the future, though they call it the future. She becomes determined to go there. One mysterious creature (Cassidy) tries to help her; robots try to kill her. Clooney once went there. He may be the only one who knows how to get back.
Underneath this is a granola-nut-crunch message about love and peace and saving the world for the children. Noble intentions aren’t enough to make an engaging film. False starts only make the movie more frustrating.
Another favorite Lindelof gimmick is to introduce and then drop things randomly. We don’t know where Robertson’s mom – McGraw’s other half – is. Robertson has a little brother (Extant’s Gagnon) who serves no plot purpose whatsoever. Some people age; others don’t. There’s wheat everywhere in the future – apparently they’ve ended gluten intolerance… Evil robots appear and disappear based only on the need for action when the film lags. The film even has a stupid National Treasure moment involving the Eiffel Tower.
What are worse are the obvious names. Robertson’s last name is Newton. Laurie’s evil character is called Nix – as in “NO!” (As in, “No, don’t see this film in the theater.”)
I must admit that the film is visually stunning. Again, that falls to Bird, because the script is seriously lacking.
I sat there wondering why I would root for supposed “genius” Robertson. I never saw her specifically do anything brilliant that would indicate she’s anything but a tech-savvy vandal. In fact, that seems to be her only personality trait. The movie loses her as a protagonist for the last half of the film.
What would’ve been great is if Robertson’s character had a deep want that could elicit audience empathy. Then, most importantly – within the first ten minutes of the film – something BIG happens. As the movie progresses, the stakes could get raised even further. Tomorrowland doesn’t have anything significant at risk until the film is almost over. Small hints within the film are barely blips. Dialogue made up of gobbledygook science mumbo-jumbo doesn’t help at all.
This film should’ve been mind expanding and hopeful from the beginning, like the Disney parks land it represents. The script is all ideas and no execution. Tomorrowland makes us a promise it never delivers with its last-minute plot.