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Sadly, Tomorrowland was as disappointing as most critics said it was. Many things about the movie are commendable; I genuinely liked it, and, when I left, couldn’t really figure out at first why I was vaguely disappointed. George Clooney was decent as the cranky, brilliant scientist with all the answers, but two young women steal the show and help the movie almost pull off what it was trying to do. Britt Robertson as Casey Newton, a precocious teenager with a big brain, and Raffey Cassidy, playing Athena, an enigmatic being who moves back and forth with supernatural ability, do such good jobs at delivering their lines with the enthusiasm and commitment required that the movie picks up every time they enter the picture, which is much of the time. Action, this movie does not lack, and I thought the set design was fun, given that they almost had to make Tomorrowland look like the 1964 World’s Fair/Disney theme park section from which it derives its name. Critics who said they didn’t see anything they hadn’t seen before missed the point.

The problem in this movie is payoff. Its premise is (spoiler alert, sort of) that humanity has adopted such a negative view of itself that it is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: the world will end, and probably soon, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. It turns out that this narrative of the future is being helped along by an evil governor of Tomorrowland, who has created a computer program, feeding this prophecy through media, weather, and just about everything we experience. Destroy the program and at least humanity can hope to have a chance.

It’s not a bad idea, and could have produced a great movie, but it doesn’t. The solution (sort of) for which Casey is brought to Tomorrowland because she is the one prophesied (sort of) to come and save humanity (sort of) by solving the problem (sort of) of stopping a clock that is ticking down to humanity’s extinction (sort of) is dreamed up in about two seconds off the top of her head at the end of the movie, when the viewer is beginning to wonder where this whole thing is going. The lack of clarity is palpable especially since one feels one does understand what is happening most of the time, i.e. in the short run. It’s the long run, the real purpose of Casey’s adventure, that is confusing, and remains so at the end. Sort of.

Brad Bird, the brains behind the superb PIXAR films The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles, wrote and directed Tomorrowland. Kids might really like it, and I, for one, do enjoy a good old-fashioned adventure movie where good guys are good guys and bad guys are bad guys. I admit, too, that that sort of movie is very, very hard to pull off perfectly in our cynical, anti-hero age. It hasn’t been in Tomorrowland, but it’s a very good try.

Drew Trotter

May 28, 2015

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