Saturday, May 23, 2015

Movie Review: "Tomorrowland"

The latest Disney film, Tomorrowland, is a wonder of imagination, breathing with more originality than the title leads one to believe.  As a matter of fact, this film has very little to do with the Disney parks other than the concept of what Walt Disney always wanted Tomorrowland to represent.  While there is a very fun excursion to the 1964 World's Fair where Disney premiered the "It's a Small World" ride, that is where the Disney connection ends and the real story begins.  So what is the titular Tomorrowland exactly?

Well, Tomorrowland is a city in a parallel dimension to our own where some of the brightest minds -- both creative and scientific -- convened to try and create a better future for our tomorrow.  In the film, teenager Casey Newton (played very likably by Britt Robertson) is given a tiny pin with the Tomorrowland logo on it that when she touches it she is presented with visions of Tomorrowland.  These visions set her on a quest to figure out what this amazing place is that she is seeing, and on that quest she meets an android girl with some pretty awesome martial arts moves named Athena, a cadre of robots hunting Casey down trying to keep her from uncovering the secrets of Tomorrowland, and a grumpy George Clooney, who portrays Frank Walker, a former child genius who once lived in Tomorrowland but was exiled.  Frank is the only one who can take Casey there, and thus their adventure to reach Tomorrowland shifts into high gear.

Few movies nowadays have the breadth of imagination that this one has, not to mention its sense of optimism for the future.  Yes, the world is ultimately at stake here from annihilation (but would it be an adventure film if it wasn't), and yes, the movie probably wont appeal to all, but to anyone who still dares to dream, Tomorrowland is the old-fashioned sci-fi adventure film you didn't know you've been waiting for.  

Director Brad Bird has crafted a film that mixes mystery, wonder, and suspense beautifully with touching human moments between characters, both man and machine, and some wonderfully executed comedic beats as well.  This is the kind of movie that I grew up on, the kind that Disney used to make and should make more of.  I could easily have seen Fred MacMurray in the George Clooney part and Haley Mills as Casey, that's how old school Disney this film feels to me.  With that said, George Clooney proves to be a worthy successor to MacMurray, and Britt Robertson really proves herself here as a leading lady.  It is Robertson's awestruck reactions and well-timed comedic chops that sell the wonders of this movie and grounds them in humanity.  From top-to-bottom, Tomorrowland just works.

The musical score by Michael Giacchino is one of his best in years, mixing his usual style with that of an old-fashioned adventure film score that really sells all of the epic, beautiful, and wondrous moments that this film features.  Then there are the fellow cast members, with Raffey Cassidy being a particular standout as the android girl, Athena.  The warmth and charm that Cassidy has as Athena really contradicts the traditional portrayal of robots onscreen and actually makes you believe that maybe our future with robots is not annihilation, but actually to live side-by-side with them.  Ultimately, that's what this movie is all about.

Tomorrowland is a movie about the future and about recapturing our collective sense of optimism as a race.  As a whole, we are too pessimistic and cynical.  The news that is reported is all mostly negative, the movies that we watch are all dystopias about death and destruction more than they ever are about hope.  This is the idea that Bird and company wanted to get across with Tomorrowland and they do so brilliantly.  Add on to that the idea that anyone can be special and change the world if they just have a dose of optimism, and I really think that Walt Disney himself would have loved everything that this movie says and does.  So if any of this sounds appealing to you, go see Tomorrowland.  You wont regret it.

I give Tomorrowland a 9 out of 10!

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