The Ninjabot

TOMORROWLAND Review; A Film Based On Misplaced Optimism

Posted on May 21, 2015 at 1:32 pm by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

Brad Bird is an amazing storyteller who has revels in tightly paced, character driven films like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. His pacing, tone and flow are second to none. Which is why it is so shocking that his latest film Tomorrowland is a total mess on all of those fronts. Bloated runtime (130 minutes), excessive exposition and hammering social messages over the audience’s head turn this fun family film into something too basic for adults and too long for kids.

In 1964, young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson), a brilliant inventor who’s unhappy with his unsupportive father, finds his way into Tomorrowland thanks to the help of a young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Tomorrowland is a shiny, futuristic utopia where scientific discovery is always positive and everyone is optimistic. Cut to the present day and we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a rare optimist who looks at the horrors of the world and wants to figure out how to save the future. Athena, who hasn’t aged, decides to give Casey a pin that transports her to a vision of Tomorrowland, but the vision doesn’t last. Casey and Athena then set out to find an adult Frank (George Clooney), who is still depressed about his exile from forty years before, so they can all work together to return to Tomorrowland and save our world.

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An early scene in the film finds a young Frank entering an inventor’s competition carrying a heavy unwieldy bag. The judge Nix (Hugh Laurie) watches bewildered as Frank opens the bag and assembles a non-operational jetpack. Nix explains that it’s not an invention if it doesn’t actually work, but Frank insists that he deserves credit for the potential of his endeavor. This scene mirrors the film itself, which relies on optimism and a shiny appearance to tell a story that also does’t function as desired.

I can clearly see the hand of Damon Lindelof here. The master of having amazing ideas that he is unable to fully flesh out in a manner that is satisfactory to audiences. On numerous occasions I’ve applauded Tomorrowland for being sparse with what they have showed in their marketing materials (clips, trailers, etc.) Now I see the truth, they didn’t show us anything because they had nothing to show us. This film, like the titular land itself is an illusion. It is meant to lure you in with mystery and intrigue with the promise of a fulfilling narrative only to leave you left wanting in your seat with an empty soda cup and half a bag of popcorn.

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The film is very much in the vein of live action kid adventures like Flight of the Navigator and Explorers, but with a runtime so bloated by unnecessary story exposition and side quests it will surely be a stretch for any kid’s attention span. The film also feels the need to beat it’s social message into us at every corner. The message that we have resigned ourself to the fact that the world is too far gone to save is hammered into us again and again. It isn’t until near the end of the film that their is a glimmer of hope that we can fix it, and that maybe we aren’t all totally screwed after all. For a film based around the premise of hope, the film sorely lacks it for the first 100 minutes.

The film takes forever to get where it is going, and then quickly resolves itself. Too much of the film is dedicated to bringing the group together, and even when they are all in the same place it takes several detours to get where they are going. We get it, Clooney is jaded and resigned to his fate, the little girl’s got a secret, and the smiling idiots are the bad guys. A slow burn only works if the pay off is amazing.

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The saving grace of the film is it’s lead actors. It is criminal how long it takes for Clooney to enter the film, but when he does he’s great as the jaded, former boy genius who knows too much. Cassidy’s Athena is arguably the film’s strongest performance and is sure to be a point of contention amongst audiences. I found her charming, interesting and fun, but I could see some people being irritated by her cheer and accent. Finally Robertson brings the two worlds together as the dreamer who wants to fix the world. She seems to be the only one who wants to help heal the world, and lucky for the world she is also the only one who can do anything about it… maybe. That thread sees lost in the third act, but she is the only thing driving the narrative while Bird seems content to go as slow as possible to the finish line.

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Performances aside, it’s hard to really hammer down something that I really enjoyed. I love movies with a message of hope, but that message seems garbled and unable to get around the traffic jam of story bloat and uneven pacing. If the film had been 30 minutes shorter I could see this being a family masterpiece that would be on a regular loop on any children’s television, but as it is now I don’t think that will be the case.

Tomorrowland_14302462129051Snackbar’s Grade: C-

Pros – Stellar performance by the main cast, visually fun
Cons – Bloated story, excessive runtime, poorly paced

Have you seen the film? Let us know what you thought of the movie in the comment section below.

Follow Snackbar on Twitter @snackie_cakes for all your Geek News

    • Jennifer

      Well, damn

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