Now, the mixed-bag that is Tomorrowland has been well documented by many critic and reviewers, do I really need to add anything? I feel like I do, or at least I want to, because I’ve been a bit slow on this blog lately and because this was a movie that I was really hopeful for. Upon what were those hopes founded? Really, not much, except for the trailers. Or just certain bits of the trailers. The imagery of young Casey being transported upon touching that pin – the cleanness of the transition and the frightening mystery of what is happening really gripped my imagination.
This is of course, not the first time that any of us have been misled by a trailer. I myself am still feeling the burn after seeing Man of Steel. And looking back at it now, I can see the signs of the film’s weaknesses, signs that others seemed to have picke up on before me. Certainly, by the time I had seen the Tomorrowland, the movie’s decidedly half-hearted reviews were well publicized. And my perception does nothing to challenge those views. This is a film that is raised from mediocrity by some memorable imagery, an engaging middle third, and a genuine attempt to share some high-minded ideas. However, it is pulled back down again by really uneven pacing and an ultimately pedestrian story that features a fairly predictable final act.
And really, with movies, one is forced to translate “mediocre” to “disappointing” – because we go into them with our expectations rightfully high. What disappointed me about Tomorrowland, and made it into a movie I can’t really recommend, in spite of some good stuff? (Spoilers ahead)
Well, I was disappointed by how long and ponderous the opening sequences of the film were. The movie simply took too long to get to the heart of the story. Instead of a strong narrative drive, there was some soap-boxing that was a little too obvious. Instead of a genuine sense of wonder or fear (the two are often closely related), we got some spectacle which was clearly trying for “magical,” but fell short.
I was also disappointed that the film didn’t know whose story it was telling. Supposedly, it was Casey’s–certainly, we were seeing most things from her point of view (except for that really long opening). But she ended up kind of getting lost in the climax, and so in the end it feels like her character didn’t serve much purpose other than as a vehicle to get Frank into things again. But with Frank, we were missing all sorts of key emotional beats – such as why he was kicked out of Tomorrowland in the first place – that kept us a bit detached from him.
I was disappointed by the fact that we never came to really understand Tomorrowland as a place, or its people as a culture. We got a brief glimpse of it at the beginning, with young Frank. We see fake Tomorrowland in Casey’s vision. And when we finally get to Tomorrowland at the end, it seemed mostly empty, with just evil Hugh Laurie and about five other guys (or were they robots? It was hard to tell). What was going on there? How were they living? Where did they get their food? What did they do all day? Where in fact were all the other people? Did none of them care that our world was ending?
I was disappointed that this obvious “message” movie had such a confused message. The world is going to end–it’s either our fault, or it’s not, it’s hard to tell. And the answer is apparently to take all the clever, dreamy people and let them live in a giant theme park. Because if that farmer and that mathematician and that ballerina can just get together without the distractions of their actual work, they can…what exactly? Come up with new ideas? Live a better life? Eventually help other people with their problems? Which problems, exactly? Tomorrowland already has life-prolonging milkshakes and jet packs and artificial intelligence and interdimensional travel and disintegration rays…what precisely are they hoping to work on next? Seems like the real issue going on here wasn’t the lack of dreams, it was the lack of moral guidance, but it’s not like you see a bunch of spiritual leaders being sought and chosen at the end.
I was disappointed by the lack of logic in the conclusion. Was it humanity’s fault that the world was going to end or not? Or was it the evil Monitor’s? Or was it Frank’s, for building the thing? Or was it Nix, for using it to tell everyone that the world was going to end in the first place? If the world was already going to end before Nix used the monitor, than how could it have been the Monitor’s fault that it was going to end? And if so, than why would destroying the Monitor make any difference?
I was disappointed by the presence of those goofy robots who kept getting crushed or blown up or their faces bent out of shape by baseball bats. It reminded me of the worst elements of a cheap Robert Rodriguez “for kids” movie (a la Spy Kids or Shark Boy and Lava Girl), far too goofy for the tone that Tomorrowland seemed to be going for.
I was disappointed that Brad Bird couldn’t pull something together a bit more cohesive and compelling. After all, the guy did The Incredibles and Iron Giant. But of course, the guy also did Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a movie that is high on my list of overrated failures (see comments here), so maybe my hopes were foolish in this case.
So in the end, I was disappointed by so many things that it’s really hard to remember the stuff that I liked. Which is too bad. Because there was stuff I like. Like Britt Robertson, who plays the (supposed) lead, Casey. She’s quite good. I didn’t remember this until I looked her up, but she was also the most memorable part of Dan in Real Life, where she played the eldest daughter, the one who screams out, “Your the murderer of love!!”