Producers: Walt Disney Studios
Runtime: 130 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
EE Critic Score: 6/10
So, in a rare instance of my seeing a movie on opening weekend, I saw Tomorrowland recently. I’d heard good things about it, bad things about it, and I had to see it for myself.
I can see why it got such mixed reviews. It is simultaneously one of the best original movies in years and one of the most disappointing. I’ll start with the good things.
Brad Bird does the great job everyone expected him to. The cinematography is really good. The design worked better than I thought it might; Tomorrowland looks very much like a future designed in the 50s, but it doesn’t look like a live-action Jetsons cartoon. That’s good.
The acting is also great. George Clooney plays an unendearing old man, for a change. Britt Robertson is very believable. Raffey Cassidy shows real talent.
And the story is engaging. I’ll try not to give too much away. Britt Robertson plays a girl who wonders why people complain about their problems instead of fixing them. (This is the central theme of the movie, by the way. If you were listening to the 5/26/15 episode of the Glenn Beck Program and heard Pat Grey say it was all Clooney’s environmental views, just know that it’s not. Climate change is mentioned, as part of a list of the crises that make up today’s news. The theme is whatever problems you have, don’t give up hope and try to fix them.) This mindset attracts Cassidy’s Athena, an agent of Tomorrowland, a trans-dimensional colony of inventors and artisans who work to solve problems without interference from the peanut gallery. Or at least, that’s what we see of it in some flashbacks. Something seems amiss now. Our protagonists are chased by a group of androids sent by Tomorrowland officials to stop Athena and her recruit. Why this is happening remains unexplained at this point of the movie.
The androids are one of the best-done things in the movie. They look human, and they always have this Calrissian-esque winning smiles on their faces. I got the impression that they weren’t originally made to be lethal hunters, and that just made them creepier.
They get to George Clooney’s hermitage, and he grudgingly agrees to take them to Tomorrowland, from where he had been banished. There’s a fight scene, a cameo appearance of Paris, France, and our heroes have reached Tomorrowland.
It is at this point that the film gets so very bad.
We finally meet the villain, the Governor of Tomorrowland, face-to-face. He’s not threatening, or nefarious, or insane, or evil, or bent on conquest, or manipulated by dark powers, or anything. He’s an overwhelmed politician who accidentally made a bad thing worse and has given up trying to fix it. He’s a nice dark mirror of Robertson’s hopeful problem-solver, but that’s about it. It is this character, who fails so completely as a compelling threat, that ruins the climax of the movie.
A bad scene, though, does not a movie ruin in its entirety. The anticlimactic ending might actually have worked if it had been handled as an anticlimax. The epilogue of the movie gets us back to the good of the first acts. Actually, if you went for more popcorn during the Governor’s scenes, your moviegoing experience would be about perfect. I’ll give you an alternative story:
Our heroes get to Tomorrowland. The Governor says that the world has run out of inventors and artisans of the sort it used to have. Clooney presents Robertson as proof that it hasn’t. The Governor resigns, leaving Clooney in his place. Clooney appoints Robertson as the chief researcher and sends out — Oh look, your back with more popcorn — a new generation of recruiters to find a new generation of inventors and artisans. Roll credits.
Just do as I say, skip the half-hearted evil plan/robot battle scenes, have my story in your head when you get back, and you’ll be fine.
I really want a sequel to this movie (with a better villain I don’t have to mentally write out of the script) because it has great potential. I don’t want it to flop and further cement the message that people today want only dark, gritty reboots of their childhoods. This isn’t a total failure. 80% of the movie is fantastic, the remaining 20% isn’t really bad, just not the best. Go see Tomorrowland.