The first film from Disney based not on an attraction, but on a whole land itself, Tomorrowland takes the audience on a wild ride through a thought-provoking film. Tomorrowland supposes that the world’s scientists and inventors created a world where they could make everything they dreamed about a reality. They call themselves ‘Plus Ultra’ and set about recruiting candidates to help them make utopia come true.
At the beginning of the film we see a young genius inventor find his way to Tomorrowland via an inventor competition at the 1964 World’s Fair. The film’s larger theme is presented in flashbacks, inventors and optimists want to make the world a better place, but people who are afraid of the unknown, who don’t want to change, are holding them back. Tomorrowland is supposed to solve all that.
We then switch to present day and we see what we all know already, the promise of the World’s Fair and Tomorrowland never materialized. Instead we’re tearing down our future, literally. There is one young girl who is still an optimist for the future and fighting to save it.
That’s Casey, she’s the mirror through which the audience views the film. At this point I can’t say much more without giving the film away.
Through the film Director Brad Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof have a lot to say about the nature of dystopia, utopia, and the contribution of pop culture to one or the other. They’ve made a solid film that sets a flag pointing toward a path to the future, one where a sense of optimism and curiosity are listened to, cultivated, and celebrated.
If this makes you think of Walt Disney, that’s definitely the creator’s intention. However, for a film about Tomorrowland, there actually isn’t much ‘Disney’ in the film. It’s implied that he’s a part of Plus Ultra since one of the ‘transport points’ to Tomorrowland was built inside one of Disney’s 1964 World’s Fair attractions, plus a giant Space Mountain shaped Easter egg. But as a Disney fan, who shares Walt’s optimism for the future, I found a lot to like in the film.
Yes, other critics have identified how parts of the film get muddled and confused. It is one of those movies where explanation sometimes gets cut in favor of pace leaving the audience to hold on for the ride while trusting the film makers to make sense of it all at the end. I would have liked a bit more background both through the movie and at the end, but the movie doesn’t really need it to get its point across.
One of the things that did shine in the movie were the solid acting jobs by young and old Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson and George Clooney respectively), and the young actresses who play Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and Casey (Britt Robertson) manage to hold up large swaths of the film just on their own. Cassidy in particular had a very tough role and really shined through. The less I say about Hugh Laurie’s Nix the better. Keep an eye open for composer Michael Giacchino with a cameo as a Small World ride operator too.
Although I left the theater feeling a bit confused as to whether I really liked Tomorrowland, over time, the flaws become less glaring and the big questions of the film remain. Can we, as a people, regain that sense of optimism that drove people like Walt Disney to work to make the planet a better place for humanity?
So put away your cynicism for a few hours and enjoy the ride that is Disney’s Tomorrowland. It just may change the future.
Can’t get enough of Tomorrowland? Google recently invited Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof to their campus for a discussion, You can watch the mostly spoiler free interview here:
Will you be seeing Disney’s Tomorrowland? It opens in IMAX tonight and tomorrow at a cinema near you.