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Tomorrowland

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: May 22, 2015

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Movie Review - 'Tomorrowland'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 22, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In Tomorrowland, Frank (George Clooney) and Casey (Britt RObertson) work together to discover the secrets of Tomorrowland. What they find changes the world forever.

Basing movies on theme park attractions has been hit-and-miss for Disney. "Pirates of the Caribbean" turned into a blockbuster franchise, but "The Haunted Mansion" was a flop. With "Tomorrowland," the Mouse House went a little bigger in scope, using the theme of an entire section of Disneyland as the basis for a film that explores the ideas of American exceptionalism and free will. It's a concept that has a lot of potential but doesn't quite fulfill it due to an uneven story that feels like it went through one too many revisions.

Director Brad Bird ("Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol") takes his time setting up the world of "Tomorrowland" with an extended introduction. Though it is all technically proficient, the first hour of the film doesn't really do much to advance the story (or actually get us to the titular Tomorrowland). Thirty to 40 minutes of screen time could have easily been removed without impacting the story in any meaningful way.


Once the unnecessary filler has passed, "Tomorrowland" starts to shine, both in terms of its story and its two female leads. The overall plot plays out like a criticism of Randian politics, complete with technology run amok and an egotistical leader. Anyone who has played Bioshock, Bioshock 2 or Bioshock Infinite will recognize the story beats. "Tomorrowland" feels as though it was directly inspired by that series, from the initial "transport" capsule to the clockwork rocket and the decaying paradise.

Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) carries much of the film, with the story centering around her quest to discover the truth about Tomorrowland. Robertson does a great job of portraying Newton as a stubborn, yet optimistic teenager who is just a bit out of her element. Robertson also serves as a great foil to George Clooney's character, Frank Walker. Just as Newton is trying to learn about Tomorrowland, Walker is a grumpy, middle-aged man who is trying to forget it. Both are opposite sides of the same coin.

The one flipping that coin, though, and the real start of "Tomorrowland" is 12-year-old Raffey Cassidy, who plays the role of Athena. An advanced robot, or Audio-Animatronic (in a nod to real-life Disneyland), Athena has taken it upon herself to defend the future of Tomorrowland by seeking out Newton and Walker. She has the determination of a Terminator and the fighting skills of Chuck Norris, cut with the experience of someone many times her own age. Cassidy continually impresses throughout the entire film, putting in a better performance than any of the other actors.


Rounding out the main cast in a supporting role is Hugh Laurie as David Nix, who is a scientific genius that has become disillusioned with the world. He isn't a bad guy, but much like Walker, he has given up on humanity. Nix's nihilism is a stark contrast to the optimism of Athena and Newton.

Visually, "Tomorrowland" is sharp and vibrant on the big screen. The sets are a mix of practical effects and CGI, which adds a sense of grounded realism to what you're seeing on-screen. The futuristic city of Tomorrowland looks as though it could actually exist, and it is treated with the same reverence that TV shows and movies of the '70s and '80s treated fantastic visions of the future. Although the movie is showing in IMAX, it is not in 3-D. It looks good on the IMAX screen, but ultimately, it is just a bigger picture. None of the scenes really take advantage of the IMAX format, so you're best off just opting for a regular theater.


Despite the slow burn beginning, "Tomorrowland" delivers a decent middle act and a reasonable ending, even if the last act does feel rushed. When the credits rolled, it still felt like we had just been given a quick tease of Tomorrowland and were never really show the meat of the city.

Ultimately, "Tomorrowland" is a good idea that stumbles in execution. The film isn't perfect, but it does provide an enjoyable adventure that should please pre-teen viewers. More importantly, "Tomorrowland" manages to capture the feeling of a traditional Disney movie in its last act, with its focus on optimism and the future. It may not be a film that Walt Disney would have made, but he certainly would have approved of its message.

Score: 7.0/10


"Tomorrowland" is rated PG and has a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. It is showing in 2-D and IMAX.


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