VOD film review: Tomorrowland: A World Beyond
Sum of its parts7
Nathanael Smith | On 07, Oct 2015
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy
Watch Tomorrowland online in the UK: Disney+ / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The trailer for Tomorrowland’s home entertainment release was a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the fact that the film didn’t do terribly well critically or at the box office. It opened with ‘studio logos’ referencing classic sci-fis like Blade Runner, before it ran through footage of the gloomiest dystopian films out today. Its conclusion was that contemporary audiences’ obsession with a grimy, doom-laden future is why we can’t have nice things. Tomorrowland was trying to do something different from the glut of teen-killing YA adaptations, promoting instead a vision of the future where the world’s best and brightest can work together to fix the future. It was that rare thing: an optimistic sci-fi (something built on recently by The Martian).
Critics weren’t having it, however, suggesting that it was a little toothless and dull. They were wrong. Tomorrowland is a film built with that antique material: wonder. It’s a film where dreaming is not an arbitrary term used by a lazy screenwriter, but the main motor of the narrative; the plot revolves around optimism as a force for good. Tomorrowland dares the audience to dream, too, of what they could achieve with the right spirit. Perhaps this was all a little too cloying for our cynical world, but the film’s sweetness is offset with the big, genuine heart worn proudly on its sleeve. The plot offers little in the way of narrative resolution, but that almost doesn’t matter; the final note is still triumphant, upbeat and rather moving.
Aside from its infectious optimism, there’s a lot more to celebrate about Tomorrowland. For one thing, it’s an original sci-fi property with inventive storytelling that drip-feeds information to the viewer. There’s a real sense of mystery to the unfolding events, and director Brad Bird masterfully holds much of it back, making it engaging until a slightly misjudged finale where Hugh Laurie lays out the themes a little too thickly. George Clooney has great fun playing a grump – former inventor Frank Walker – and his connection with two younger dreamers, Casey (Robertson) and Athena (Cassidy), is charged with wit and energy. Add some incredibly inventive set pieces, with a house of jerry-rigged defences and a secret in the Eiffel tower the best of the bunch, and you have an incredibly entertaining film with a tone and spirit that is unique in blockbuster cinema.
So as Tomorrowland hits living rooms across the UK, leave your cynicism at the door and embrace its shameless, relentless optimism. This is a film that aims high and, in many respects, hits the mark. At any rate, it’s something a little different from the usual diet of superheroes destroying skyscrapers and mid-budget adaptations of clumsy teen novels.
Tomorrowland is available on Disney+, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.