Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and
a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets
of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Lawrie
If there were any doubt about it, given the ‘It’s A Small World After All’ and ‘There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ musical accompaniment, this is Disney all over, at first. Add to this, if you must, the rather heavy-handed ‘never giving up’ philosophy applied on more than one occasion in even the first twenty minutes and the most hardened reviewer will have to concede that the values and tone employed here are admirable. The cynics in the audience may rightly cast a quizzical eye at Disney for their potential indoctrination of the young as little more than marketing guinea-pigs and the source of continued business dominance, but nonetheless, give the masses what they want and they will, seemingly, be happy enough to pay you money for it.
And yet here, the more vociferous naysayers have been the most vocal when it comes to critical opinion on this occasion and the good feelings imbibed from the trailers have been overshadowed by the voices of those that, well, didn’t really achieve the kind of satisfaction they were expecting, and have gone on to voice their displeasure maybe more harshly than you would initially have anticipated for a project that seemingly had such good intentions. Does the film warrant such a negative reaction? Surely not. It may just be a movie based on a theme park ride, but really, it can’t be that bad, right? Cynical? Pessimistic? Conniving? Possibly so. You may also throw in realistic and even a call to arms.
The young have a capacity for wonder and invention which, it could be argued, is greater than most, so it is natural to have high expectations for a project of this nature that is largely aimed at this demographic and furthermore, it is refreshing to see a vision of the future loaded with promise and not laden with doom (okay, just for a little while). There is ‘mild peril’ to contend with, but look at it, just LOOK AT IT! It’s all so shiny and clean! Who couldn’t be excited by living there?
To be fair, it has all the potential design trappings of a Bioshock game. Those of you that have played those and know a bit about Rapture in particular cannot help but be reminded of this when looking initially at this mostly rose-tinted version of our potential future, yet still somehow managing to maintain a fifties charm. So much so at times, that you may helplessly associate, maybe unfairly, the dark machinations of the dystopian underworld at work here too. In short, this is more what Tony Stark’s Dad might have imagined, making way for tomorrow today etc, and less what you and I might initially expect.
But for all of this promise of Shangri-La, Brad Bird has another message to lecture us about. For this is not just a skip and a trot on the light fantastic, there is caution and consequence bubbling under the surface that overtakes the fun and the frolics, too soon to really enjoy the experience and what at first seemed like an odd vehicle for Clooney starts to make a little more sense. To tell you why would spoil the party for you too, but you will know exactly the point at which this revelation occurs to you as well. As the light bulb goes on, you will begin to realise that, much like the world around us that Brad Bird wants to release you from, this is not the story you were expecting, or for that matter, looking forward to. Like the promise of Tomorrowland, the film itself is not quite what it seems.
In all, not quite the thrilll-a-minute experience we maybe expected and anchored by an unfortunate message for all of us, that is nonetheless true, despite its uncomfortable telling. Globally resounding should you choose to hear it above the robots and lightshows, Tomorrowland maybe tramples a little too heavily on the conscience of the viewer to make it purely entertaining, a fact that Bird clearly has no qualms risking, even if it is at the cost of alienating some of his audience.