Jun 1, 2015

[Movies] Tomorrowland (2015)

I wasn't sure how to feel about the news of a movie based on a section of Disneyland, but the first few trailers for Tomorrowland were pretty intriguing. I wasn't quite sure where all the action was coming from in a movie about what appeared to be quite the bright and shiny future, but it certainly had me curious enough to want to see the movie on the big screen.

Tomorrowland turned out to be an interesting little celebration of retro futurism to some extent, which largely matches the general aesthetic of the Disney theme park zone of the same name. It's a movie with a rather strong message that is delivered in a somewhat heavy-handed way, but that's not entirely wrong in a story largely meant for families including younger audiences.

What many people forget is that Walt Disney was a bit of a futurist at heart and was particularly passionate about the curent generation leading to a brighter tomorrow. Sure, we know him mostly for his cartoons and his theme parks, but if you look at the other Disney effort, his passion for a brighter tomorrow was also pretty evident as well.

Synopsis: Tomorrowland is a 2015 science fiction adventure movie directed and co-written by Brad Bird together with co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof. The movie has received mixed reviews after initial release.

The movie begins with a flashback to the 1964 New York World's Fair. A young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) has brought his supposed jetpack to the contest for investors but is unable to impress David Nix (Hugh Laurie), who was the man screening entrants for the competition. He does manage to attract the attention of a young girl named Athena (Raffrey Cassidy), who sees potential in Frank. She manages to slip him a small pin with a T symbol on it along with instructions to follow her. Frank manages to keep up with their boat that entered the "It's A Small World" attraction only to discover a whole different world named Tomorrowland.

In our present, we meet young Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who is the daughter of a NASA engineer named Eddie (Tim McGraw). They're facing his inevitable unemployment as the NASA launch pad at Cape Canaveral is already being disassembled after the shift in the budget. Casey is quite intelligent and has a knack for machines and this is knowledge that she uses to break into the NASA facility in order to commit minor acts of vandalism and sabotage in the hopes of delaying the inevitable. And a young girl who appears to be Athena again takes interest in her activities and recognized great potential in her.

Now I feel very strongly about how well Brad Bird managed to tell his story in this movie. Theway he chose to establish the setting followed up by the revelations of what was possible was handled very well. Beyond the initial 1964 flashback sequence, Casey's tale was particularly engaging and did a lot to set our expectations for how things would turn out over time. That moment when she first touches the Tomorrowland pin is an amazing one and her initial efforts to figure out what the pin was for really capture the charm of the movie.

I also enjoyed the strong performance by Raffrey Cassidy as Athena. Hers was a pretty complex role and I really enjoyed the complex emotions she managed to convey without the use of too many words. She has quite the intense little stare, one that her freckles oddly emphasized at times, at least from my perspective.

The action included in the early part of the movie and the whole angle of the forces working against Casey felt a little contrived. It made for great material for the trailer, but it didn't seem to perfectly fit the narrative. And to have Hugh Laurie playing the big villain of sorts wasn't too much of a surprise (since he was too recognizable a character to appear for only a cameo in the movie) and his performance here felt a little off.

The movie's message is pretty clear - that we need to be more optimistic about the future and that we need to focus on coming up with solutions for the problems that we face today instead of focusing on how bad things are and how much we wish for things to be better. We're the ones responsible for the changes that will save us. And the movie delivers this message quite bluntly, but it's not exactly a bad message to preach loudly as the central theme for this movie.

Tomorrowland is a movie with dazzling special effects, creative scenes, and a strong message of hope. But it can also feel a little shallow and in need of a bit more narrative development or something, but it's still a pretty good movie. So it gets a good rating of 3.5 enticing scenes of a possible future out of 5.

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