“From the jump, Tomorrowland is devoted more to looking good than being good.”
“… narrative muddle, really irritating dialogue and a plethora of unanswered questions…”
“I wish – oh how I wish – it was a little bit better than it is.”
“The year’s biggest letdown.”
These are just a few snippets from reviews of Disney’s 2015 epic-that-almost-could’ve-been, Tomorrowland. As it stands right now, it has a 50% on the website that tells you how to think and feel about all movies, Rotten Tomatoes. The scoring is always a tough one. A lot of times, newer comedies and horror films that are perfectly fine get rotten ratings while some old movies that don’t hold up or new releases that get a lot of buzz and hype but you see and don’t like get fresh ratings. I believe its function is to mainly show the divide of critics and audiences; however, Tomorrowland is a special case in that it was received just as badly by critics as it was with audiences.
Whoa! What was that?! That was super trippy! I only recently saw the trailer because the release completely escaped me when it came out. In fact, I hadn’t even been to Disneyland yet when this was made, so I didn’t know about the real Tomorrowland.
Wait. Maybe you don’t either.
Tomorrowland is an interesting story. Currently it’s one of the many sections of the Disneyland and Disney World theme parks. There you have rides like Space Mountain and Star Wars attractions, among many others. One of these rides is called Autopia, in which folks of all ages can drive a car (it’s on a track, in case any of those meddling children you see around the park get any funny ideas), but as you wait in line, some odd advertisements are shown about the future.
One of these ads comes straight out of the '60s and describes a place where you wake up, drive to work everyday where your car can park in a special garage in your office, and there you work distraction-free in a society free from negativity, like politics. It may be a part of a theme park, but there are rumors that Walt Disney himself wanted to provide a society like that for the world’s greatest artists, inventors, scientists, etc. And that’s basically what Tomorrowland is about.
The movie follows two stories, one of an inventor named Frank Walker (played by George Clooney), and the other of a teen named Casey Newton (played by Britt Robertson) who hasn’t figured out what she’s going to do with her life yet but knows how things work. She spends a lot of time at night flying a drone inside a NASA facility to break down some equipment that, if it were to start working again, would put her engineer father out of a job. Through both stories, we get to see the world of Tomorrowland, which is what conspiracy theorists would call a breakaway society. It’s basically as described above, where smart people don’t like our society because we fight a lot so they want to have forward progress on their own. Together, Walker and Newton have to team up to save the world due to technology gone dark in Tomorrowland.
Overall, I would say the criticism of the story not having much to it is valid. At times, its message for a better tomorrow if we all work together is a bit heavy-handed and its 130-minute run time shows, but it’s freaking fun and looks great. Sometimes that’s all I need in a movie, to be honest. Everybody puts too much of a premium on story and plot oftentimes these days.
As a writer, I understand all that storytelling jazz is important, but whatever happened to just making things that look cool? I watch movies sometimes for the story but sometimes I just want to shut my brain off and watch something fun. I see a lot of movies these days that are not fun. It even feels like the people making them didn’t have a good time. There are certain superhero movies that are quite popular that I see that make no sense and get too serious for reasons that baffle me. I would be lying if this film doesn’t take itself too seriously in one specific scene, but otherwise it’s more popcorn fun I’ve had compared to so many other movies that have come out in the past few years.
For me, Tomorrowland hit all of the marks. It’s got action, adventure, cool visuals, a sound mythology, and even a body count. (Aside from The Good Dinosaur, I can’t think of a Disney movie that has had a body count that stood out to me in a while.) It feels at times like a classic Steven Spielberg flick with some old school Disney magic like in Escape to Witch Mountain. If you don’t like it, then sorry for the recommendation, but instead of paying money to rent it, you can always try to pirate a friend, relative, co-worker, or even a complete stranger’s cable password to get into Starz and watch it now free. If you’re looking for a good ride, then give Tomorrowland a chance.