Friday, May 22, 2015

Tomorrowland - 2 1/2 stars

Tomorrowland is kind of a mess.  As far as I understood it, Tomorrowland is a place that exists in another dimension.  It was either discovered or created by people like Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Jules Verne.  It was established as a place where the brightest, most creative thinkers and inventors could let their imaginations run wild without the problems of bureaucracy or politics.  For some time, it thrived with amazing things like jetpacks, rocket ships, and swimming pools suspended in mid-air (those were really cool).  Then something happened and now it’s deserted and run down.  At the same time, the end of the world is coming unless one person can do something to stop it.  The movie never explains what that one thing is, but then I don’t think that’s the point of the movie.

The movie opens with Frank Walker (George Clooney) narrating his part of the story.  When he was a boy, he went to the 1964 New York World’s Fair where he enters a competition for inventors.  The jet pack he created doesn’t really work, but he meets a mysterious girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy).  Athena gives young Frank a special pin and leads him to Tomorrowland, a place where anything is possible. 

The look of Tomorrowland is incredible.  It’s hard to be impressed by digital effects anymore but the imagination on display just blew me away.  If the movie had stuck with young Frank for a while, it would have been much better.  Instead we immediately shift to Casey (Britt Robertson) who starts narrating her part of the story.  We jump to the present day and watch as Casey tries to sabotage the cranes that are demolishing the Cape Canaveral launching pad.  She gets arrested and when she gets out, she finds a Tomorrowland pin.  When she touches it, she’s able to see Tomorrowland and this is where the movie takes off.

For a while, the movie gets pretty interesting.  Casey starts investigating, meets Athena (who hasn’t aged a day) and the old Frank, who doesn’t want to get involved in whatever’s going on.  There are mysterious robots out to kill them and gun fights ensue.  Bit by bit, Frank tells Casey about Tomorrowland and what it all means.

Basically the first half of the movie is really fun and interesting.  Then we get to the halfway point and it all goes downhill.  The more things are explained, the less interesting it seems.  And the movie starts to get overly preachy with its message about not giving up hope and nurturing imagination and creativity.  Those are good messages, but it’s just too on the nose and overly melodramatic.

There are also too many details left out.  I really wanted to learn more about what happened between young Frank and Athena, or why Frank was kicked out of Tomorrowland, or what day to day life is like there.  Are people living there and raising families, or are they just working?  As cool as Tomorrowland is, too much of the movie is set on Earth.  It’s like the movie kept building and building the anticipation, then instead of delivering it just started to drag. 

At the same time, it’s hard to hate this movie.  Its heart is in the right place and there is a really good story in there somewhere.  I feel like one or two rewrites and some tighter editing could have made this something special.  Director Brad Bird just wanted to do too much with this story and he made the movie overstuffed and uneven.  So I guess it’s not a bad movie, just a disappointing one.

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