By Thomas Simpson
Hollywood is often criticized for its lack of original ideas. Films are generally adaptations, remakes or reboots of some sort. When it comes to Disney nothing is off limits, including drawing inspiration from its theme park rides. Pirates of the Caribbean raked in almost $4 billion at the box office so it’s no wonder Disney started perusing the park for more ideas. Which took them to Tomorrowland. A pretty obscure choice to bring to the big screen. With Brad Bird directing a script by Damon Lindelof it was clear Disney were taking this seriously. Could audiences?
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is your everyday sassy and rebellious teenage girl. She exhibits a too cool for school swagger but her heart is in the right place. When she attempts to sabotage a NASA launch pad to ensure her Dad isn’t out of a job, she finds herself arrested. Upon release she discovers a strange pin has been included in her possessions. Upon touching this pin she is given a vision of an alternative world called Tomorrowland. Her newfound toy attracts some sinister attention and she is advised to seek out Frank Walker, a former boy genius who has been to Tomorrowland. Frank has grown up to be a grumpy George Clooney and he has no desire to entertain Casey. He is forced to change his mind when he realizes Casey might be the key to changing a catastrophic event.
Tomorrowland hasn’t fared too well at the box office, and that’s a shame. It’s a fun kid’s film with a surprisingly grim undertone. The action is light and breezy to begin with but the utopian dream that is being sold gradually fades as something more devastating is revealed.
Perhaps the plot unravels too slowly. The film doesn’t drag, far from it, though once we reach the third act I realized there wasn’t much time left to wrap things up and it ended up feeling rushed. The story is left open for a sequel which now looks unlikely for a film that has barely clawed back its budget.24
Clooney is great as the bitter old scientist and is the perfect fodder for Robertson’s optimistic and bright eyed Casey. Raffey Cassidy plays Athena, a resident of Tomorrowland and childhood friend of Frank. Her deadpan delivery provides appropriate comic relief and she gets bonus points for not being an annoying child character. Her relationship with Frank could easily have been creepy yet it’s handled delicately and with warmth.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why Tomorrowland has flopped at the box office or why critics have been so harsh. It’s an entertaining and enjoyable sci-fi that should leave kids in awe and adults pondering. Hopefully it finds its audience on DVD as Tomorrowland really deserves a second chance.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.