Cast: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Thomas Robinson, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key
Director: Brad Bird
Writers: Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird
One of the biggest complaints about Hollywood these days is that there aren’t any more original ideas. According to the Box Office takings for 2015 so far, all ten of the highest grossing films of the year worldwide are sequels, remakes and adaptations. The highest grossing film with an original story, in 13th place (symbolic or what?), is the lacklustre Jupiter Ascending, a film that barely managed to secure a profit. Therefore it is unsurprising that Hollywood continues to produce films based on ideas that have already seen much success in the past, given that original films have proven to be risky moves that do not always pay off. The modest performance of Tomorrowland this past week suggests that audiences have not taken to it and that the trend is therefore set to continue. Even though it isn’t strictly an original story, it did not have a plot or characters to which the audience had already formed an established connection and was therefore a risky move on Disney’s part. I for one think it is a shame that Tomorrowland has not taken off with audiences because I thought it was a breath of fresh air and enjoyed it a great deal.
Tomorrowland is the story of Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a bright, plucky daughter of an engineer who remains largely optimistic in an increasingly dreary and pessimistic world. Whereas others around her are resigned to how morbid and hopeless the world has become, Casey remains steadfast in viewing these troubles as problems that can and should be solved. She comes across a strange pin that, upon being touched, immediately transports her to another world. It is a magnificent world of scientific wonderments, such as jet packs and holograms, and provides Casey with a living representation of hope and of a better future. She resolves to find out more about this world and sets out on a path that leads her into the company of Frank Walker (George Clooney), a brilliant scientist who has lost his enthusiasm, and Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a mysterious young girl whose answers only lead to more questions. Together they set out on an adventure to find Tomorrowland and to save the world and its future from a foreboding and imminent danger.
What I really enjoyed about this film was that watching it was really like going on an adventure. My unfamiliarity with the story and its characters meant that following Casey in her quest to uncover the truth about Tomorrowland was like setting out on a journey of discovery. I was fascinated with the mystery behind this world and wanted to learn more. The mystery itself is well crafted and is uncovered at just the right pace while still allowing room for good action and fun interactions between the characters. The three main characters are fun and compelling in their own ways and share an interesting dynamic between them. Casey is the optimist of the group and is an enjoyably quirky character who adds much heart to the film. Frank is the pessimist who has lost all faith in humanity but detects a glimmer of hope in Casey’s arrival. Athena is a realist whose spirited and idealistic disposition comes as a surprise given what is revealed about her character. The world that Brad Bird has created is visually stunning (in fact, I’m almost surprised he didn’t make the film in 3D) and invokes a sense of wonder and amazement from the audience. I was thoroughly absorbed.
However I do have one major gripe with this film which occurs in the third act. As the characters learn more about Tomorrowland and the nature of the threat they have to face, the film starts to deliver a message that I felt was pretty forced. I can’t really get into it because spoilers, but the delivery of this message was very blatant and sort of broke the illusion for me. Although I can understand why the writers felt the need to include it and appreciate that it it is an important and a serious message, especially considering that this is a kid’s film, I do think the same message could have been delivered with more subtlety. The way they kept trying to hammer it in drew me out of the film and disrupted my viewing experience of it. I don’t know whether this is something that would bother the rest of the audience but, for me, it was quite a glaring problem that I wasn’t able to ignore.
On the whole Tomorrowland is a very fun and enjoyable family film that deserves a much better reception than the one it has thus far received. The originality is very refreshing for a blockbuster of its size, the story and the characters that it offers are entertaining enough to provide a satisfying experience for the audience, and the world that Brad Bird creates is astonishing to behold. I entreat anyone who is unsure about this film to go and watch it. It is films like this which show that originality is not dead in Hollywood and I sincerely hope that the audience will embrace this film so that we may get others like it.