Tomorrowland is a movie you want to like because it tries new things, an all-too-rare venture in Hollywood, but it doesn’t quite put them all together.
After a much too long layover in 1964, the plot starts with genius miscreant Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) finding a mysterious pin that transports her to a pocket dimension called Tomorrowland. After discovering a world still excited for new technology, Newton is desperate to return, and starts on a journey to do so with the help of Tomorrowland’s android recruiter, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), and now exiled golden son Frank Walker (George Clooney, Thomas Robinson in the 1964 scenes).
The movie’s got some pretty interesting storytelling concepts going on. It starts with a double narration — first from Walker talking about an apocalyptic future decided by greed, politics and willful ignorance, despite being raised in the ’60s when “The Future” was something out of The Jetsons. He’s interrupted by Newton, arguing for that limitless future, despite being raised in modern times when “The Future” always has something wrong with it. It’s an interesting dynamic that’s sadly dropped as Athena takes a more prominent role.
Then the movie dawdles in ’64 for 15 minutes, then there’s another 15 minutes of pipelaying for Newton, then at long last the adventure starts, and it’s awesome. There are androids, blasters, holograms, dimensional portals and space ships, right next plot elements like mystery and character development. It’s exciting! There’s always tension and the setting is always changing, but it’s a little too goofy. Examples include the android cop (Matthew MacCaul) overacting his character’s overacting and the Eiffel Tower turning out to be a silo for an interdimensional rocketship.
Then they actually get to Tomorrowland, and it sputters to a halt as Walker and Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie) argue about whether or not humanity can be saved.
Tomorrowland is, more than anything, really mixed up. It’s a movie based on a Disneyland ride targeted toward children, but only the only child character is an android old enough to be George Clooney’s love interest. In the closing scene, Walker seems to be encouraging a large group of children to go into the world and make a difference, but these turn out to be androids as well.
It’s a well-crafted film that makes good use of its entire 130 minute runtime, but it doesn’t make the attention span concessions necessary to include a child audience. While advertisements teased a whole load of mind-tickling gadgets, the movie is mostly a talkie about how positive thinking can save the world.
These are also reasons to applaud the film. It’s telling a complex, imaginative story about hope and despair, the corruption of technology and “The Future” as a function of the present, but those themes won’t go through to the target audience and the rest of the movie is cartoonish enough that it becomes awkward to watch.
It deserves to be recommended, but to whom? People could enjoy the strange, innovative storytelling in the first portion, they might enjoy the campy, Spy Kids middle or they might just want to see Frank Ocean and Dr. House arguing about humanity being worth saving, but they’d have to suffer through the movie’s other sections.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Get a vape, loser! I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.