In Orlando, is this ‘Tomorrowworld?’

P art of you has to be impressed with a film that begins with a humanity countdown clock and ends upbeat. That’s a neat trick, huh? The first half of Tomorrowland is a top-10 film. No question. Brad Bird is 100% in touch with what makes a kid tick and demonstrates in two different eras with two very different pre-adults.

At the 1964 World’s Fair, young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson — how would you like to play the guy who grows up to be George Clooney?) is showing off his home-made jet pack. The aptly named Nix (Hugh Laurie) ain’t buyin’. It takes a special fellow who enjoys crushing a child’s dream, and Nix is up for the quash but not before quizzing the kid, “Why did you build this?” “Because if I saw a kid with a jet pack, I’d believe that anything is possible.” Dammit.  I hate it when Disney is right. Surreptitiously encouraged by Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a girl around Frank’s age, Frank acquires a pin that makes the “It’s a Small World” ride take you to a secret, future not-so-small-world instead. You can just hear the dreamers in the audience, “I knew it!”

Two generations later, curiously same-age Athena delivers a similar pin to juvenile delinquent Casey (Britt Robertson), who spends her free time infiltrating NASA. Should we be a little embarrassed as to how easy it is for Casey to break into a NASA facility? Yes. Yes, we should. Upon being sprung from the joint, Casey encounters the pin for the first time. When she touches it, she is transported into an alternative universe in the middle of a wheat field with a giant matte painting in the background. Oh, I’m sorry, the painting is supposed to be Tomorrowland, the utopia of the future. In Disney fashion, of course, Tomorrowland looks and feels like an amusement park.

Ok, you’ve got me, Disney. You’ve got me exactly where you want me. I’m ten years old and I want to go to this Tomorrowland with jet packs and space ships and everything is possible. I want to see how this present turns into that future, even if we are doomed.

I’m also curious as to what reality Tomorrowland existsimage in. Clearly not ours, and yet it’s intimately connected to ours as Casey finds out when she can’t board a shuttle because she’s actually in a swamp. How does that work?

Point to all of this is the film started as well as any film in recent memory; I can’t tell exactly where Tomorrowland lost it, but it did. Was it the super-smiley alien destructobots? Was it adult Frank’s house of fun ‘n’ horror? Was it gloomy doomy Clooney? Was it when the Eiffel Tower became a Transformer? Was it the return to Tomorrowbland?  Dunno.  Or maybe it was just the simple fact that Disney –being Disney– wasn’t willing to explore the apocalypse: “Present a doomsday clock.  Allude to it every once in a while.  Give no real description of what happens when the clock runs out.   Pretend everything got resolved anyway.”  Bottom line?  This film was decidedly better when it started and the Earth was doomed than when it ended and the Earth had hope. Weird, huh?

Points for making me care.

♪The world’ll end
It might be hard to swallow
That tomorrow
All is gone!

Just thinkin’ about
The sorrow
Clooney’s Chicken Little
Says tomorrow
We’ll be hosed!

No time left
To borrow
Oh yeah
This was supposed to be upbeat! ♫

Rated PG, 130 Minutes
D: Brad Bird
W: Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
Genre: Disney Commercial
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: The late Walt Disney
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: Doomsayers

♪ Parody inspired by “Tomorrow”

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3 Responses to “Tomorrowland” Subscribe

  1. A2 June 4, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    psst, assuming you aren’t trying to sound like my 4 year old daughter, check the 2nd paragraph where you refer to “Its a Small World” as a wide instead of a ride.

  2. Gren June 5, 2015 at 12:47 am #

    There were two bits of this film I didn’t understand. The first you’ve already mentioned; at one point does the real world crossover into Tomorrowland? One minute they’re the same place, causing you all manner of inconvenience, but then they’re not?

    Secondly, why do the inhabitants of Tomorrowland give up on life? If Earth is doomed surely that’s more reason for them to make it a better place. Or are both worlds doomed but they forgot to mention it?

  3. Jim June 5, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Thank you, A2. Although I’m sure there’s nothing cooler this sounding like your daughter, that wasn’t my intention.

    Gren, I think the failure to address either very valid confusion here is what kept Tomorrowland from being a great film. It certainly had a chance. My thought is Disney wussed out; it wanted to be all end-of-the-worldy for dramatic purposes, but when it came right down to it, they didn’t want to scare anybody and, hence, deliberately pulled punches on the potentially unsettling.

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