Tomorrowland - Review

Taking once again inspiration from one of Disney's theme park attractions, Tomorrowland starring George Clooney, is the newest full-on Disney live action adventure.
With trailers showcasing loads of creative futuristic landscapes and gadgets, Tomorrowland seems to be packed full of fantasy knowing no bounds.
Yet still, specific info about what Tomorrowland's story is all about is fairly slim. Even trailers of the movie only gave viewers a very rough idea of what they are in for with Brad Bird's newest movie.
Having directed hit movies like The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird showed that he can direct blockbusters both targeted towards kids and adult audiences.
Yet with Tomorrowland the goal seems to combine both target audiences into one. Did Brad Bird achieve this goal or was it a task too hard to handle? 


The plot:
Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as "Tomorrowland.
Source:Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Coming from Walt Disney Pictures, Tomorrowland is another adventure movie loosely based on a Disney theme park attraction of the same name.
Much like Pirates of the Caribbean before it, this means that Tomorrowland's director Brad Bird has no preset storyline to follow and therefore somewhat has complete creative freedom.
With that said, it comes to no surprise that Tomorrowland actually turns out as a pretty different movie compared to what trailers made viewers initially think. The trailers for Tomorrowland sure enough gave viewers a good idea of what the movie is going to look like and what they are in for, yet specific details about the plot were generally kept secret - and this decision truely benefitted Tomorrowland as a whole.
Though not without its flaws, Tomorrowland is a movie with a lot of creative new ideas that alone make it standout in the sea of sequels, reboots and remakes Hollywood is currently drowning audiences in. The fact that its trailers only gave away so little of its story enhances this surprise and excitement factor even more.

No, this isn't Tokyo.

But what is Tomorrowland actually about?
Well, without giving away too much than what the official main plot already told, Tomorrowland is one of those movies where the actual "adventure" in this adventure movie actually doesn't mainly take place in Tomorrowland but rather focusses on the quest or journey to get there. Tomorrowland being the hidden utopian city that it is therefore marks the goal to reach for the movie's protagonists Frank, Casey and Athena (we won't spoil why they want to get there though). Even though the visuals and imagery of Tomorrowland itself are stunning, happenings actually taking place in Tomorrowland therefore only make about 30 minutes of this 2 hour movie - yet this is not a bad thing.
With Tomorrowland being such a sacred and hidden place, making the journey to Tomorrowland the actual meat of the story here grants the movie a whole lot of great dynamic. With evil henchmen trying to keep Tomorrowland a secret at all costs so that unworthy visitors are kept away from it, Tomorrowland is an adventure film that surprisingly enough manages to smoothly blend together kid-friendly adventure movie themes with some aspects from more adult movies. There are definitely multiple instances in which Tomorrowland manages to surprise not only through its creative gadgets and visuals but also with its various unexpected styles like for a example some Men in Black- or even Terminator vibes mixed into the story (without feeling like rip-offs).
Most certainly, it all makes Tomorrowland an adventure flick that can be equally well enjoyed by youngsters as well as adults.

That moment, when the journey itself is the goal.

What marks the biggest shortcoming in Tomorrowland's otherwise lighthearted adventure movie presentation though, is the fact that the movie obviously shows more and more pacing issues as its story goes on. Especially in the final act of the movie, the previous dynamic of the journey quickly seems to fade away as the heroes finally reach Tomorrowland. Scenes and situations suddenly seem to drag on for way too long with way too obvious (and to a point even clicheed messages) thrown in, while other aspects of the story seem too rushed to create the impact they obviously aimed for.
Though the pacing issues in Tomorrowland only start to become lightly annoying in the final act, it feels very unfortunate that the movie seems to stumble upon itself towards the final stretch in what could've otherwise been a perfectly solid Disney adventure movie.
Regarding the movie's ultimate message, it's a message that will undoubtedly heavily polarize viewers' opinions. Without giving too much away, on the one hand, Tomorrowland's delivered ending message is a very heartwarming one focussing on believing in yourself along with other positive aspects that are just typical Disney optimism. On the other hand, there are easily going to be a lot of viewers who will find the ending message very unimaginative and overly Disney-clichee since there are dozens of movies that told you the exact same thing a hundred times already.

The face that some viewers will get during the final act.

Taking a look at the characters and the acting, George Clooney as grizzled inventor Frank Walker, Britt Robertson as young rebel inventor Casey, and Raffey Cassidy as future droid Athena make for a very enjoyable protagonist trio. Not only does each of the three protagonists show unique characteristic traits, which make for nice comedic as well as dramatic tensions inside the group, but the way each of the three come across one another and try to cope with each other is a fun treat all on its own. While George Clooney's performance is fairly standard fare (even though his more sad scenes in the movie could've been pulled off a bit better), it's especially the younger two actresses Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy who steal the show. They are both hands down the best actors in the entire movie. Whether it's up to playing hysterical, charming or sad, they both nail their parts perfectly and easily make the most relatable characters in the movie.

Frank, Casey and Athena make for a nice varied trio of protagonists.

What doesn't fare that well is the movie's main villain, David Nix, played by Hugh Laurie.
What initially doesn't work here is somewhat of a "Ben-Kingsley-effect", meaning that even though the villain's identity is cleary supposed to be a big mystery throughout most of the movie, it's painstakingly obvious who the main villain is (or will be) right from the start.
With Hugh Laurie being presented as the leader of Tomorrowland and Tomorrowland's security droids trying to prevent our heroes from getting there for the entire movie, one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who the villain is.
It's therefore a no-brainer that the intended villain reveal in the movie's final act has as good as no shocking effect whatsoever. It doesn't help that Hugh Laurie's performance as David Nix is also quite short-lived and very forgettable.

Oh dear. I wonder who the villain is.

Looking at the action and effects, Tomorrowland is mainly very well paced in its action segments and use of CGI-effects (up until the final act).
As already mentioned, with the story mainly being about the heroic trio trying to actually get to Tomorrowland, the Men-in-Black-ish vibe of secret Tomorrowland droids hunting them in present day gives way to nice and subtle use of effects and action.
Without overblowing those action scenes too much, the scenes are narratively placed very well so that they never tend to get boring. What additionally makes those moments exciting are the movie's numerous aforementioned futuristic gadgets.
Almost like out of a Ratchet & Clank game, the featured gadgets do great in combining serious scientific use along with plain goofy fun. Whether it's a bathtub that serves as an emergency rocket or a grenade that's able to freeze time within a created bubble, the futuristic gadgets and imagery do a great job in showcasing the movie's more serious science-fiction tones blended together with traditional Disney fun, all wrapped together and executed very well in the movie's great action scenes.

Action scenes are well placed, tense and very entertaining.

Overall, Tomorrowland is a flawed yet nevertheless enjoyable and fun adventure movie that unfortunately doesn't consequently pull through with its dynamic towards the final lackluster act.
With its trailers giving away so little about the movie's actual story, viewers are sure to be quite surprised about what Tomorrowland's story has in store for them. Being more about the journey to Tomorrowland than Tomorrowland itself, the movie has numerous strongly blent in vibes from other more adult movies like Men in Black or Terminator, which are smoothly and fittingly woven into the main family friendly plot and make the movie easily recommendable for both younger as well as older audiences.

Tomorrowland surely isn't going to make it into the rows of the best classic Disney adventures, but for what it's worth, it still offers enough new and welcome ideas to entertain audiences with. In a time in which sequels, reboots and remakes take over most the Hollywood movie industry, Tomorrowland's attempt of actually trying something "new" alone might be rightfully worth the price of admission for many movie goers.

Final Verdict: 6 out of 10


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