Tomorrowland (2015)

  • Time: 130 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Mystery
  • Director: Brad Bird
  • Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Judy Greer, Hugh Laurie


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.”


  • In the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, I read that George Clooney seemed bent on being pickier via his upcoming projects (after Batman & Robin, who could blame him). He has in fact, stayed mostly true to this notion for most of the way. However, with The Monuments Men and another misguided mishap in 2015’s Tomorrowland (my latest review), the Cloonster isn’t being pickier. Now he’s just “picking”.

    Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and featuring plenty of green-screen overload, “Tomorrow” is a sci-fi threadbare that seems too complex for its own good. It’s being promoted as a kid’s movie mind you, a Disney movie. But there’s too many thoughts and ideas coiled up here to facilitate even 130 minutes of running time. The pace for what its worth, is dictated on characters who bicker, fight, and talk rapidly. This is for all intensive purposes, to thrust the story along. What a travesty. Honestly, if I was a budding ten year-old, I’d probably exit the theater halfway through the second, combative act. Could it be that my inner brat is trying to get out and break free? Oh you know it.

    With injecting humor that is uncomfortably tongue-in-cheek (more like tongues bitten right off), enough cartoonish, PG-rated violence that is manageable, and a showcase of steely-eyed contraptions that would make Inspector Gadget jealous, Tomorrowland’s structure is predicated on two flashbacks (one long and one short). The proceedings chronicle young Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). She’s the daughter of a NASA engineer, a curious science nut, and after finding a pin that transports her to a futuristic borough (just think of ‘Tomorrowland’ in the same vein as The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz), well she’s tapped to save the world. In order to succeed, she aids in the help of an inventor who’s already taken in the sumptuous scenery (Frank Walker played by George Clooney) and a robot that doesn’t age over five decades (Athena played by Raffey Cassidy who gives the film’s strongest performance). As the three renegades faithfully come together, the only obstacle standing in their way is another inventor who eventually becomes governor of ‘Tomorrowland’ (David Nix played by Hugh Laurie). He’s content with our world frolicking in natural disasters, calamities, and civil disorder. This dude can see into the future and it don’t look too bright.

    Now in terms of the acting, the leads are standardized in bringing their characters to life. It’s the smaller roles and bit parts that come off as incredibly laughable. Anyway, Britt Robertson plays Casey Newton with a ton of overacting and reacting. After the final credits rolled, I realized that she’s the closest thing to a female Shia Labeouf. Hollywood will probably embrace this and give said starlet more top billing. Does that mean I’m okay with it? Not really. But it doesn’t matter because I don’t have any say in the workings of Tinseltown. Then we have of course, George Clooney. He channels Frank Walker with a side of grumpy, a side of gruff and grizzled, and plenty of obligatory, Clooney head tilts. He looks bored but at least he looks bored and restless at the same time. That’s a step up. Finally, we have Hugh Laurie playing the villainous David Nix. Listen, I think Laurie is a heck of an actor. What I don’t get is why he would agree to spout such farcical soliloquies contained in “Tomorrow’s” script. His speeches about the so-called “end of the world” and such feel more like acts of grandstanding than ploys to move an audience. And don’t you just wish he’d don an American accent this time instead of using his normal, British one (that’s just a personal preference for me)?

    Bad lectures and Shia Labeouf clones aside, “Tomorrow” is the type of ragtag conundrum that harbors a big budget ($190 million). I predict that it might not find its audience after opening weekend. I mean yeah it is somewhat visionary but its vision is also kind of skewed. Granted, this could almost be 2015’s version of Dune or Wild Wild West (I have opted to call Clooney’s latest, the “Tinkertoy” movie). And I might as well say this: Two instances could have occurred during production. The first one could’ve involved an inebriated David Lynch wandering on set and whispering something into director Brad Bird’s ear. The second could have revolved around Bird emailing the Wachowski siblings for secretive consultation. You know I’m kidding right. Or am I?

    All in all, Tomorrowland may have tip-top intentions and stilted aspirations. But it’s mauled over with a preachy schtick and a little bit of manhandled cynicism. In one fell swoop, it settles in the “land” of the grandiloquent. The result: 2 stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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  • (Rating: ☆☆ ½ out of 4)

    This film is mildly recommended.

    In brief: A cockeyed optimistic kiddie movie.

    GRADE: B-

    To this day, I still have fond memories of going to the 1964 World Fair in Flushings, NY. As a teenager, the experience was just so COOL, even if I had to be there with my family! Especially impressive was seeing the technical progress that laid before me, a Jetson-like paradise of robotic marvels and futuristic buildings of chrome, glass, and steel that only hinted at my future, my tomorrow land. Monorails and talking robots, with not a hint of doomsday or post-apocalyptic disaster so commonplace today! Like I said…COOL!

    Tomorrowland (the movie) isn’t. The film takes that premise, of our space-aged dreams ready to be fulfilled, of a promised future filled with new technology and yet-to-be-invented inventions, and it certainly promotes creativity and imagination to the nth degree. The film celebrates inspiration but never inspires. What it lacks in logic and truth, it more than compensates in its buoyancy and unmitigated confidence.

    This Disney-inspired and Disney-produced futuristic fantasy romp is surely kid-friendly fare, although some children may get a bit bored in between all of the hyper chase scenes. Adults who have never dreamed will be disenchanted also. Directed by the talented Brad Bird, the film tries to meld the past with the present before we get to the future, with varying results.

    The set-up: Well, it’s a small world after all. A prologue takes place in that aforementioned Disneyesque wonderland before a magical lapel pin abruptly transports our teenage heroine, Casey (a winning Britt Robertson), into the future and into the world of a now cynical inventor named Frank Walker, well played by George Clooney, Frank was once a young idealistic boy, who visited the World’s Fair and believed in America’s bright future. Bought together, these misfits decide to join forces and change the world.

    Tomorrowland works efficiently, like the well-maintained animatronics on display. Whenever the film is concentrating on the action set pieces, the movie keeps one riveted to the screen. But far too often, it stops dead on its own tracks. This happens frequently ad nauseam as the characters need to stop and explain some scientific jargon or feel the urgency to provide more exposition and background information. The CGI is, for the most part, effectively done, with some less than stellar images thrown in that become too jarringly bogus as the overenthusiastic music score swells endlessly to signal its insignificance.

    However, the film’s production design is the film’s most valuable tool, especially since the dialog and characters lack any cleverness or depth. The screenplay by Mr. Bird and Damon Lindelof (of Lost fame) just gets lost in its own platitudes and preachiness, leading to an ending that is a gross simplification about the magnitude of the issues it tries to present. Apparently, subtlety is not in our future either.

    High on optimism and low on any resemblance to reality, Tomorrowland fills the screen with heady bromides and feel-good positivity which tends to self-destruct its own worthy message. The film plays it all too safely, never achieving any degree of importance or creative ingenuity. It’s a kiddie adventure movie trying to play grown-up, a hippie-dippy parable with a liberal mindset.

    Tomorrowland is entertaining enough, but it ain’t that COOL!

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  • Quickie Review:

    In a world where pessimism is so easy to succumb to, Casey (Britt Robertson) remains hopeful and optimistic. When she glimpses a futuristic world by the touch of a pin, she feels destined to revisit that world. An ex boy-genius turned disgruntled old man Frank (George Clooney) and Casey work together to journey back to Tomorrowland. There is a lot to like about Tomorrowland, mainly the characters and the world building. There’s a great sense of adventure for most of the movie but the last act of the film ended up being a disappointing destination to an stimulating journey. The themes and message of the movie is hammered over the head, draining out all of the fun. While not a complete disaster, the movie leaves much to be desired.

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    I am a huge fan of director Brad Bird’s work, The Incredibles, Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. With such an impressive filmography, it’s hard not to be excited for his latest project.

    While it is visually spectacular especially with the depiction of Tomorrowland, this movie is completely character driven. I’ve seen Britt Robertson in her TV and movie works where she was certainly serviceable, but as the lead in this movie she really gets into her stride. We are experiencing this adventure through her so it was important that she got us to mirror her emotion. She definitely achieved that with ease because I was just as curious and thrilled to visit Tomorrowland. It’s no surprise that George Clooney was good in this movie, but what is surprising is the character he plays. He is cranky about everything but with very few scenes he was able to show us believably that his cynical nature is just an outer shell he has built up over time. So, the character differences between Casey and Frank do lead to some funny back and forth dialogue. However, the secret weapon of Tomorrowland is Athena played by Raffey Cassidy. Normally I’m cautious of child actors, but Cassidy held her own even with George Clooney. She completely stole the show, the biggest redeemable aspect of a somewhat mediocre movie.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some people complained that there wasn’t enough of Tomorrowland. Though a valid complaint that honestly is not the biggest problem, because the characters were so likeable that whatever they did you enjoy the journey with them. The main issue I have is with the last 20-30mins of the movie where the message of the movie is spelled out for us. It’s more the execution of conveying that message I have a problem with. I like movies when they are thought-provoking. The key word here being provoking, not spoon-feeding. Instead I felt like I was being lectured and schooled on morality during what was supposed to be entertainment. There was no subtlety in it and felt like the audience was being treated like a child. It’s unfortunate that just the ending alone brought down the whole movie, but that really is the case.

    I must stress though, I didn’t hate the movie, but there were some obvious areas the movie could’ve improved upon. Luckily following the quest of the main characters was entertaining due to good development of their personalities. I can recommend checking the movie out when it’s out on VOD, and yet if it weren’t for my cinema membership I don’t know if I’d pay full price for this.

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  • What to expect from Tomorrowland, a Disney movie based on another one of the areas in it’s amusement park? Pirates of the Caribbean has become a profitable franchise and that seems to be the direction to go with movies. Squeeze as many sequels, prequels, and any other ‘quels as can be squeezed. The comic book super heroes are at it again this summer. The Priates are making another one with Johnny Depp’s dogs in dire jeopardy. Maybe I mixed something up but they are in Australia making another one. The Hungry, Hungry Hobbits or something like that, I’m getting all confused, have joined the teenaged werewolves and vampires only to be replaced by someone else. A woman, at the end of this movie, questioned why they didn’t set up a sequel for the next movie. I just laughed and said they’re not passing up a chance to do a sequel. I didn’t say it but I wondered what the woman thought she had been watching. And so here we go again.
    Tomorrowland didn’t drop with a dull thud. In fact, it didn’t drop. It just sort of rolled over, unravelling exposition like a ball of yarn falling down the stairs. Writers Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird left most of the stones unturned as they established what Tomorrowland is, what it isn’t, and why. There were a couple of “fight to the death” scenes that were inconsistent with the action later in the movie when the bad guy, who really wasn’t all that bad considering he’d try to kill off the good guy until the good guy was face to face and the bad guy just explains everything. The exposition unraveled faster than a no seams sweater.
    Between his writing and directing, Bird, tries to distract us from the obvious even though there is barely any conflict and what is there is seriously contradictory. Obviously it worked for the woman I spoke to as we were leaving the theater but the pandering to youngsters just never stopped. Not one adult robot was sent to find people, kids, who would have the imagination to work in Tomorrowland. And let’s face it, no one has solved the problem of incinerating your legs from the knees down if the exhaust and thrusters from the jet back aren’t diverted away from said appendages. I also question the destruction of the earth with such a variety of approaches. There’s no indication that anyone is getting even close to this kind of assault during the scenes on earth.
    The actors were saddled with so much contradictory material they could never really dig themselves out from under it although some did better than others. Hugh Laurie as Nix sank in the confusion of his character’s contradictory demands. That is not to say Laurie didn’t deliver his lines well but the actions he was responsible for were those of sociopath with no empathy flipping with an old friend who sees what’s really going to happen. George Clooney’s Frank Walker came off a little better because he only had to react to what was being done to him. If Frank had to fight in order to stay alive, he did. If he had to be grumpy, he was.
    The kids got a little better treatment. Britt Robertson, a twenty-five year old so not actually a kid, plays the female lead, a student of indeterminate level named Casey. This character is old enough to know better but still does things that would be more affectively accomplished in the daytime with groups of people. Her performance is saved by having to react more than instigate. The other kid of note is Raffey Cassidy who plays Athena. Part of what saves her character is that she isn’t supposed to have significant emotional reactions. This makes her final scene more touching than anything else in the movie although it does come off as gratuitous emotional content because there hasn’t been any emotional content prior to this.
    I still enjoyed myself at this movie even though I give it 2 inconsistencies out of 4. Watching the Eiffel Tower become a launch pad was fun but when the movie was over I couldn’t help feeling as if I had just watched a very long preview for coming attractions.

  • “It’s not personal, it’s programming,” a character declares at one point in Tomorrowland. Though the reverse of this statement will be declared by the film’s end, “It’s not personal, it’s programming” is an apt description of Tomorrowland’s root problem.

    A cynic may well describe Brad Bird’s sophomore live-action effort as the most expensive promotional film for Walt Disney’s theme land. Tomorrowland also certainly serves as a synergistic tie-in for many of the studio’s products and partnerships, with references ranging from the glaringly obvious (Star Wars merchandising abounds in one sequence) to the subliminal (a dialogue snippet recalls Song of the South’s “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” tune). That aside, Tomorrowland is beset with narrative issues from second one when George Clooney’s Frank Walker attempts to tell this story about the future and is constantly interrupted and criticised by Britt Robertson’s Casey Walker, who firmly believes she’s better equipped to tell this tale. In all honesty, Tomorrowland may have stood a better chance if the mysterious young girl Athena (the impressive small wonder Raffey Cassidy) had taken the narrative reins. She is far and away the best thing about Tomorrowland.

    When we first glimpse the self-possessed Athena, she is approvingly observing the young Frank (Thomas Robinson) as he proudly presents his homemade jet pack to the all-too-aptly named Nix (Hugh Laurie) at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Athena gives Frank a small badge pin bearing the letter “T” and urges him to follow her into the secret realm that is Tomorrowland, where the best and brightest have converged to follow their imagination and better the world.

    Almost half a century later, the bright-eyed and hopeful young boy has become a cantankerous scientist in exile when Casey comes knocking on his door. Casey possesses Frank’s intelligence and scientific acumen. More importantly, she still has the curiosity and the sense that anything is possible. And she also has the pin, courtesy of the strangely ageless Athena. Together at last, the trio embark on a quest to return to Tomorrowland and, in doing so, potentially save the Earth from self-destruction.

    Tomorrowland contains numerous visual tricks. The seamlessness with which Casey finds herself suddenly and instantaneously whisked to Tomorrowland and back is deftly executed. Once at the retro-futuristic magic kingdom, Bird and cinematographer Claudio Miranda have the camera swoop, curve, and launch itself this way and that to absorb the sleek, Calatravan lines of their surroundings. Setpieces such as the Eiffel Tower splitting apart to launch a rocket or an attack on Frank’s home that unearths all the gadgets, gizmos, and booby traps are fine examples of how the production team’s inventiveness is both retro-forward and tongue-in-cheek. There are individual moments sprinkled throughout the film that work, but they are not enough to offset the film’s faults.

    Apart from the unwieldy narrative, arguably Tomorrowland’s chief flaw, there is the pacing. The rhythm of the film is not quite right – it’s either a beat too long or a beat too off. It even manifests itself in the editing, which can be shockingly clumsy at times. Most of the dialogue is yelled, and most of that yelling is done by Robertson, who is a charming and has that Zellweger-like smushy-faced moxie but comes off as an overbearing irritant. Clooney and Laurie both have a naturally engaging way of delivering dialogue, but there is not much either of them can do with dialogue that is either expositional or hokey or both. They also engage in the most awkward mano-a-mano matchup since Hugh Grant tussled with Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones films. Tomorrowland feels engineered to the last pixel – Paris has never felt so generically Paris, all the gee-whiz gawping is so aw-shucks wonderment – and that final five minutes wades deep into Kumbaya territory.

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  • The last time I saw a film based off of a Disney theme park was Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s sequels. The original Pirates of the Caribbean film I hold at high regard. I knew that Tomorrowland would not be as good as the Pirates’ films but I still had above-average expectations. The movie was maybe slightly above average at best, but I did not by all means walk away in awe as I did after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean. Although George Clooney and Hugh Laurie give their all, with meager script-writing and a less than climatic ending, the audience cannot help but walk away seeking someone more.

    As seen upon in the trailer, the place known as “Tomorrowland” is the future. It is a place where all of the geniuses in Earth’s history came together to try to change the world for the better. People like Shakespeare, Newton, Edison, Einstein, the list goes on. This should be the main attraction and should be given a large majority of the screen time of the movie. Unfortunately, this is not the case. They spend too much of there time trying to get to “Tomorrowland” and not enough time actually being there. When they finally get there, there is not much more climatic actions happening than those that have already happened. It feels as if they kind of lost energy towards the end of the screenplay and just said whatever it will be decent.

    They wrapped up the end nicely and were able to bring up some actually pressing issues in our world today without overcomplicated itself. To put it simply, the movie’s first half is above average but the second half is not.

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  • Brad Bird is a Disney favourite, having written and directed both The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Bird’s first live-action foray for Disney is Tomorrowland, set in a futuristic world where innovation is a treasured skill. The story has been inspired by Disney’s concept ‘worlds’/amusement rides

    In 1964, Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) is a young inventor with somewhat working jetpack. However Frank’s work fails to inspire David Nix (Hugh Laurie), who fails to see it as anything more than a toy. Frank’s invention draws the eye of Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who sees his potential and provides him with a “T” pin. When Frank boards the “It’s a Small World” ride, he’s sent through a vortex into a futuristic world known as Tomorrowland. Blast forward several years and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is similarly enthusiastic about science and innovation. Athena repeats the same process with her and she travels to Tomorrowland to meet the older Frank Walker (George Clooney).

    The fact that the pathway for Frank to get to the world of Tomorrowland happens to be a Disneyland ride says it all. This overtly optimistic, ambiguous mess of a film is full of fancy gadgets that I’m sure will make for great pieces of merchandise, but it fails to engage with any sort of quality storytelling. The core message that Bird is trying to get across to the younger audience is that imagination and innovation can make the world a better place, undoubtedly two of Disney’s own strong points – They’ve played a key role in filmmaking technology over the years – and a worthy message it is, however it gets lost in the diluted plot lines, weird Disneyfied scenes of teenager ‘rebellion’ and a utopia that’s ultimately as soulless as the characters that inhabit it.

    With a massive budget and CGI focused imagery, Tomorrowland certainly looks gorgeous, which is one of its only strong points. The world itself pops from the screen and some of the elements feel a little steam-punk. However this is all ultimately rather superficial when the weak plot can’t support the depth of the visuals…

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  • “If I was walking down the street and I saw some kid with a jet-pack fly over me… I’d believe anything’s possible. I’d be inspired. Doesn’t that make the world a better place?”

    Worldwide, there should be an obligation for doom-sayers, negativists and pessimists to watch this film. I’m sure it won’t make them happier, because most of them are hopelessly lost and trapped in their negative spiral. But maybe there will be a few individuals who’ll understand the message of this action packed futuristic Disney movie. The message that positivism and optimism are better features to make a better world out of the present world. Perseverance and self belief will make you reach your goal. Such optimism luxuriated in the sixties. Because of that optimism progress was possible and the future looked brighter. In today’s world, the future looks frightening and menacing.

    And that’s how we get to know Frank Walker. An eager young inventor who firmly believes that his jet-pack could be useful. Even if it doesn’t work flawlessly. We meet him during the World Expo at Flushing Meadows in 1964. With the aid of the lovable girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy) he discovers a futuristic world called “Tomorrowland”. A safe world situated in a parallel dimension where technological progress hasn’t stopped and serving as a shelter for visionaries and geniuses. However, they couldn’t avoid one particular fact. The world we’re living in, is heading towards a devastating catastrophe. And that’s when Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) comes up. Together with the older Frank Walker (George Clooney), who’s banned from Tomorrowland, and Athena, she tries to turn the tide.

    You’ll easily see this is a Disney product throughout the entire film. It’s all beautifully visualized with breathtaking images and unparalleled special effects. It certainly would fit nicely as an attraction at a Disney theme park. Tomorrowland looks extremely futuristic and you won’t be able to take it all in. It reminded me of futuristic cities from comic strips and went from one surprise to the next. You’ll be awestruck by the dazzlingly spectacular images of flying vehicles driven by an unknown traction, floating pools and curved landscapes (same as in “Interstellar” and “Elysium”) full of strangely shaped buildings. The “Eiffel Tower” moment is fantastic and grotesque at the same time.

    Unfortunately the Disney input ensures that it sometimes feels rather childish. Towards the end, the message sounds quite moralistic. It gave me that 60s feeling full of values and standards which were applicable at that time. In our case we have to take care of the current environment and try to bend our egocentric thinking into a sense of solidarity. Of course in the end we got an obligatory emotional moment. Fortunately we could also admire some excellent performances. Clooney has omitted his pose as Nespresso charmer and appears as a capricious genius. But especially young Cassidy steals the show, both in the action-packed as the sentimental moments.

    “Tomorrow Land” (or “Project T” as it’s known here because the original title is a registered name of an eponymous music festival) for once isn’t a book-based movie, prequel, sequel or reboot. It’s a unique project targeting the whole family. It was pleasantly entertaining and exciting enough. Besides the corny, predictable end it was actually all right and I don’t really understand all the negative criticism.

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