75%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
80%

A mostly good live-action offering from Pixar genious Brad Bird.

 

I honestly don’t know a single soul who isn’t a fan of Brad Bird. The genius Pixar director-turned-live action director has a rich history of warming hearts and evoking the sense of wonder and imagination matched only by, say, George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. He is the genius behind 1999’s The Iron Giant, which taught plenty of youths (myself included) that hope can never die, and two of the best movies Pixar has to offer: Ratatouille and The Incredibles, in 2004 and 2007, respectively. His debut jump to live-action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in 2011 proved to be both a box office and critical smash hit, and cemented him as one of the very best directors working today. Very few directors can use a camera like Bird to show us something imaginative that we haven’t seen before, especially nowadays, with the domination of comic book movies, reboots, and sequels. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland is not a genuine continuation of Bird’s wondrous gold streak. At least, not completely.

 

 

Tomorrowland is directed by Bird and co-written by Bird and Damon Lindelof, and stars George Clooney, Brit Robertson, and relative newcomer Raffey Cassidy. Robertson plays Casey Newton, the intelligent daughter of a NASA engineer, who comes into contact with a special pin that transports her to the world of Tomorrowland when touched. Clooney plays Frank Walker, a paranoid man with a rich history within Tomorrowland, a resident long ago where he met Athena, Cassidy’s character. The trailers and marketing do little to explain the nitty-gritty of the story, and for good reason, because Bird’s directing aids the story in a visual way that demands to be seen rather than read about.

 

 

Brad Bird has proven himself to be a master behind the camera, using directing to explore ideas and visual landscapes that tailor to the dreamer in all of us. He’s done so in the aforementioned films in his backlog, and Tomorrowland is no different. The film is chock-full of grandiose visions of a universe of ideas and intellect, all rendered and shot gorgeously by Claudio Miranda and his team. There’s an incredible tracking shot following Casey the first time she really gets to explore Tomorrowland, quietly floating behind her as she experiences attraction and spectacle throughout this incredible world, speechless to the point of simply observing. The sheer number of technical marvels only the most creative minds can think up (Disney minds, mostly) seen in this one shot is jaw-dropping, and it makes you want to spend much, much more time in this world to explore yourself. Unfortunately, this relates to many of the problems Tomorrowland possesses.

 

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Tomorrowland is technically a kids’ film. While some dialogue doesn’t necessarily convey that, the fact remains that Tomorrowland pertains to a young, impressionable audience, and the writing reflects that. Many times an audible groan was heard in the theater from adults for a particularly cheesy line of dialogue, and to me, it’s almost unbearable at times. But to a child who hasn’t been watching films since The Lion King, this wouldn’t be an issue. For that reason it’s truly difficult to clearly decide if the dialogue is a problem with the film or not.

 

 

There are other problems as well. Damon Lindelof is no stranger to writing screenplays that tend to ask more questions than answer, and has given many people “cinematic blueballs,” as they call it. Whether or not you agree with this is up to you, but Tomorrowland’s last half hour completely abandons any and all of that inventive imagination Bird employs throughout the rest of the film. What goes from imaginative creativity and a sense of exploration and wonder falls to a, frankly, awful blend of cliché and conventional action tropes. I won’t spoil anything here, but a villain is formed, a danger is revealed and stopped, a major character’s fate is realized, all the clichéd action dialogue quips are spoken, and all within the last half hour. It’s almost shocking how a script can rise and fall so quickly. It’s actually upsetting, given Bird’s incredible talent with the proper script. Again, for a young child viewing this ending, it might not be such a bad thing, so does the script do its job? Does it do it properly? This is something to ponder as you walk out of the theater, because Tomorrowland is absolutely worth seeing for the fist 4/5ths of the film. There’s also a very weird love-connection between Frank and Athena, but that’s on you to experience. One more irk is the full-on introduction of overly preachy environmentalist “the kids are the future” message that’s about as subtle as a crowbar to the face. It came out of nowhere and was very off-putting.

 

 

Overall, Tomorrowland is a visually spectacular feast of grand ambitions and inventive ideas, with mostly excellent acting and excitingly creative camerawork. It’s an endlessly entertaining and original work that, sadly, completely falls on its face during the final sprint. It’s a complete shame, but luckily the faults are saved for the end, so you get a great film beforehand. Yes, it is technically for kids, but both kids and adults alike will find something to enjoy. As Frank Walker says, “you wanted to see Tomorrowland. Well, here it comes.”

 

 

 

About The Author

Steve Carley

Steve Carley is a Michigan-born lover and resident of the film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. When he's not infiltrating the nearest Waffle House or giving up on the most recent movie-adapted book he can be seen lounging in his apartment complex's pool and regretting the way he wrote his Film Takeout bio.