A few months ago I saw one trailer for “Tomorrowland” and managed to avoid everything about it since. That one trailer promised to transport us to the futuristic world of the title and the film does just that but not in the way I imagined. For a sci-fi movie the grounded atmosphere, in one sense, follows in the the legacy of Spielberg’s “Close Encounter of a Third Kind” and “ET – The Extra Terrestrial” and in another sense it pays many sweet homages to the U.S.’s view of the future as it was imagined up to and in the 1960s and sci-fi films since.
George Clooney’s Frank Walker, coming from a long line of Disney’s disillusioned inventors, has been kicked out of Tomorrowland (for spoiler reasons I will not go into) and is persuaded to return by two of the films real stars Britt Robertson as Casey and Raffey Cassidy’s Athena. Robertson is one of the coolest rebel girls-next-door characters you could meet and you root for her all the way while Cassidy plays Athena with a curious grown-up mix of charm and underlying agenda.
There are nods to “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang”, “The Jetsons”, even “The Matrix” and more. In one scene there is an entire shop full of homages. It is plain to see that Brad Bird had dealt mostly with animated entertainment up to now as the action is directed very much with that kind of an eye, for instance, there is a lovely moment with Clooney’s guard dog that is straight out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. More of the movie’s style come’s from his animation backgrounds, the chases, the set design’s, the humour (one character nods directly to his earlier movie “The Iron Giant”). Bird infuses the story with his always unsentimental warmth, packed it full of great gadgets, and lots of universally accessible humour.
While I would recommend it and the clear message it delivers to children (and adults) about holding onto your early dreams and being overwhelmingly positive, there is something lacking in the movie as a whole. Perhaps the evil threat (while all encompassing) wasn’t delivered with the impact it deserved, or the baddies, while entertaining, were a little to distant and even somewhat benign. Or Perhaps Bird was making a film about ‘chasing your dreams and not giving up’ for his own generation and somewhere along the way today’s children were a little obscured from the vision.
The verdict… it is lovely, entertaining and funny but not as consistently so as three of his previous film which I have adored, “The Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”.
Tomorrowland is in cinemas now 7/10