Movie review: Disney’s ‘Tomorrowland’

As a concept, “the future” is both fascinating and frightening. It’s the ultimate unknown, left open to our speculation. Are we headed towards an exciting explosion of technology, the sort of world depicted in “Star Trek” where people head out to explore strange new worlds and travel at faster than light speeds? Or does the future actually offer us a far bleaker prospect: a desolate “Mad Max” wasteland filled with violence and dwindling resources?

According to Disney’s new sci-fi family film “Tomorrowland,” both those possibilities could be true—it’s up to us to determine our own future. We can bravely face the challenges that await us and find ways to achieve innovation and progress, or we can give up and allow our world to implode. The choice is ours.

Critics are split on this film, with about a 50 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I like the concept for this movie, but does its execution live up to its potential?

“Tomorrowland” follows teenage dreamer Casey (Brittany Robertson) as she discovers a new dimension called “Tomorrowland” where virtually any scientific marvel is possible. Once she gets a glimpse of this world, she knows she has to go back, and must enlist the help of jaded inventor Frank (George Clooney). The residents of Tomorrowland have developed a way to glimpse the future, and they’ve determined that Earth is actually headed towards apocalyptic destruction. Casey is unwilling to accept that, and she eventually inspires Frank to help her change the Earth’s grim fate.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect walking into this film and ultimately had mixed feelings about it. I did enjoy watching it in the theater; the visual effects are gorgeous—I loved the depiction of Tomorrowland, a futuristic city surrounded by a field of wheat waving in the wind. In the scenes of characters flying around the city in jet packs, you feel as though you’re right there with them, darting around skyscrapers. One of my favorite parts was the geek memorabilia store in the middle of the film (I could probably fill up a whole blog just listing the sci-fi pop culture references found in there), and the Eiffel Tower turning into a space ship was very cool. It’s nice to see a kid-friendly, live-action family film that has a good message. This one encourages kids to dream and explore, and to look for positive opportunities in the world. I also appreciated the fact the film highlighted the shutdown of the U.S. space exploration program, one of my personal soapboxes. I think it was a mistake to shut down the program, and I hope future generations will be inspired to bring it back.

That said, I felt the film didn’t quite live up to its potential, and it didn’t inspire quite the same sense of wonder I was hoping it would. I liked the film’s message about the power of optimism and the dangers of numbing ourselves to the world’s problems to the point we just give up and lose hope. However, I thought the presentation of that message was a bit too heavy-handed (i.e. Hugh Laurie’s “villain” monologue towards the end of the film). I also wished they had shown more about the development of Tomorrowland itself; supposedly famous inventors from the 1880s put together a secret society that led to the creation of this utopia (wouldn’t that make a cool prequel?).

What do you think? Did you watch “Tomorrowland”? Did you like the direction the film took?

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