Like many other Disney films before it, Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland has a parabolic quality, imparting its chirpy American wisdom in the hope that its audience will leave thoughtful but smiling. However, unlike the more whimsical lessons of ‘love conquers all’ in Beauty and The Beast, or the importance of family in one of Bird’s other films The Incredibles, Tomorrowland sets its sights on far weightier and zeitgeist-y topics.
Famine, global warming, war and a smattering of other current preoccupations are at its core, as the film stares its audience in the face and asks, “What are we gonna do about all this?”. Invoking the go-get-‘em spirit of the 50s and never giving up hope, Bird flips the Disney tradition on its head and invites us to make a world in which we can all live happily ever after.
Many of you may have seen the trailer for Tomorrowland, in all its technical and visually exciting glory. It promises a whirlwind of adventure, supplemented with flashy CGI and frenetic cinematography. You may also be left wondering what the film is actually about. Though being in a position of having seen the film, I am in fact none the wiser on this issue, testament to its messy constitution.
Broadly, the film centres on Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a spunky young school girl with a heart of solid Disney optimism. Having been given a brightly coloured badge by a young android Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Casey is able to access the titular Tomorrowland, a dimension on earth created by and exclusively for the brightest and most creative among us – a eugenic zenith in which the sharpest minds are allowed to exert their genial energy in an effort to right the world’s myriad wrongs. Having been identified as special, Casey is able to counteract the prediction that the world will finally rupture, due to our perpetual molestation of it, in 55 days time.
Considering the fact that the world as we know it is at stake, the film is overwhelmingly tepid. All the energetic fight scenes and stunts in the world cannot save it from the unbearable drudge of its narrative pace, which holds the film back considerably. Establishing the scene and ironing out all of the core ambiguities of the plot does not finally take place until some 100 minutes into this 123 minute long film, making its big climax feel jumbled, confused and overall rushed.
Such a glacial progression of the storyline had me reiterating Casey’s almost choric declaration of, “What’s going on?!” on more than a few occasions and 'till very late in the film. I wonder how children will be expected to sit through a relentlessly delayed plot, one that fails to successfully or comprehensively resolve itself.
Perhaps the answer to this is through the distraction of the film’s captivating and dizzying cinematography, with Life of Pi’s cinematographer Claudio Miranda sitting capable at the helm. The cityscape of Tomorrowland, resembling a digital-age Disney palace, is quite a sight, towering over the flying cars and floating trains which whiz by. The film can also boast committed performances, in particular from Clooney, who channels his real-life humanitarian side in the conscientious, albeit, grouchy nature of his character.
As Disney’s summer release, Tomorrowland is certainly a disappointment. Ill-disciplined, preachy and narratively flawed, the film makes for a laboured and dour watch, whose good intentions get lost in the mire of confusion surrounding its plot.
Tomorrowland is released in UK cinemas on May 22nd