Director Brad Bird is back with Disney’s next attempt to turn one of their Theme Park Attractions into a movie franchise. The previous attempts being the successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and The Haunted Mansion that got one film and no one cared! Now I really enjoy Brad Bird as a director so I was actually willing to consider this film to be a potential success even before I had seen it as the man is known to take concepts that sound a bit shaky but could potentially work well and use his skill to make them a success, see The Incredibles as an example. Also Disney really needs this to be good considering that their last live action film was the disastrous attempt to re-boot The Lone Ranger and if you haven’t seen that film, consider this, I have rarely found a critics top ten worst films of 2013 list that didn’t have that film on it!
How does Tomorrowland hold up? The plot of Tomorrowland really kicks off when Casey Newton, (played by Britt Robertson) is released from custody after trying to sabotage the destruction of a NASSA Landing Port to keep her father in work. She discovers a pin in her belongings that she doesn’t recognise and when she touches it she can see a futuristic city that she desperately wants to go to. She encounters a girl named Athena (played by Raffey Cassidy) who takes her to meet her friend Frank Walker (played by George Clooney). Frank initially refuses to help her get to the eponymous Tomorrowland, however things change after they are pursued by Androids led by Governor Nix, (played by Hugh Laurie) and now it’s a race against time for the three of them to get to Tomorrowland and fix what’s going wrong. That’s the basic gist of Tomorrowland, but most of what I have actually stated doesn’t actually happen until around the 30 minute mark. This film’s first act is loaded with padding! The film has pacing issues throughout, but it’s really noticeable in the first hour or so. Taking us through it’s a small world after all is not good idea to entice me to your film. I will say the film’s characters are rather likeable, but they are not that interesting. Frank Walker’s character should be really interesting, especially since he has been in Tomorrowland since he was a young boy and is essentially a child prodigy, but we don’t get as much of an insight into him as we would have liked. I think if they had just done his younger self going to Tomorrowland and made a whole film out of that, it could have actually worked and may have been a better film. I could definitely see Brad Bird directing that! The character though who unfortunately gets the biggest shaft is ironically the main character Casey. No disrespect to Britt Robertson, she plays the role fine but her character really doesn’t have that much to her, except the fact she is an optimist and likes the idea of future technology. The characters keep banging on that she is special but we are given very little until the third act to actually suggest why, it would have been nice to see something along the way that would have actually suggested why she is so important apart from the fact that she’s optimistic! Lets get a few of the positives of the plot out of the way because there are definitely some positives to the film. The film has an excellent theme of bouncing the optimistic view of the future with the pessimistic view of the future and it keeps us going throughout the film and at a consistent pace. Sci-fi typically likes to see our future as either being like Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (the optimistic future) or Ridley Scott’s Alien (the pessimistic future). Tomorrowland seems to play right down the middle suggesting that either future is possible and it’s our actions that will determine what will occur. The film’s protagonists are also likeable at least. I never found any of them annoying and they do occasionally get a funny line in every so often, particularly Raffey Cassidy’s Athena who is probably the most interesting character throughout the entire film. The weakest character is definitely by far, Governor Nix, again Hugh Laurie is not a bad actor and I will get more into that when I get to the acting stage of this review but his character’s motivations are really weak and he just doesn’t come across as an interesting enough villain for the film. This film really needed a Panto boo hiss villain and it doesn’t really provide one, which most family films really succeed at. He is not dark enough to fit that criteria and he is not sympathetic enough to make him a sympathetic villain. They try to hit the middle ground and it ends up coming across as doing neither very well. This film’s world also could have done with being fleshed out a little more, we learn very little about Tomorrowland since we never actually get to it until the third act of the film and even then we still learn very little about it, I think this was Disney’s way of gaining some interest in the hopes of trying to get a sequel going, but I don’t think anyone is going to be interested enough to want to see another film. The film goes on for just over 2 hours and a good chunk of that could have been used to actually be in Tomorrowland, but as it stands I think we are only there for 40 minutes at most, not counting the early sequences that were seen in the trailers. So basically this plot had every attempt to be very good, it just never quite hits its mark. At times it’s really enjoyable and I would hardly say this is a bad movie, in fact there is nothing really inherently wrong with it, it’s just kind of dull and I think it’s also slightly too long. I think especially younger viewers may have trouble following the plot and may eventually get bored of the film towards the end.
Acting wise there are only really 4 performances to take into account, which are the main characters. George Clooney is pretty good as Frank Walker, though he does feel slightly like he is slumming it in this role in which he’s slightly miscast despite the fact Brad Bird wrote it for him, though I would be hesitant to say he is giving a bad performance. He still does a decent job. Britt Robertson is also pretty good as Casey, she definitely has her moments and she is at least an enjoyable presence on the screen. Hugh Laurie is trying his hardest but he really isn’t good at playing this particular villain. I still think he could do some villain roles, but he just plays his performance like even he doesn’t quite understand what his characters motivation is!! He also can’t seem to decide whether he wants to have a British or American accent and he seems to keep shifting back and forth. Again I like Hugh Laurie as an actor, I just don’t think this is one of his best performances. The best performance by far is Raffey Cassidy who is an excellent young actress who really sells this performance. She should really be one to watch out for. The rest of the cast are just a bit so so, they aren’t on screen long enough to really leave much of an impression and I will say, like most of this film they are a bit of a mess.
Now one area where this film really could have been excellent would be in its special effects and action sequences and for the most part they are pretty good. I was actually surprised while watching this film that it wasn’t shot in 3D because a lot of the sequences looked like they were aiming for a 3D release and some of the shots even would have potentially suited that conversion. I suspect that this may have been on the cards at one point, but then Disney chickened out at the last minute! Never the less the effects are very good, if not a bit too heavily reliant on CGI and there is an amazing action sequence set in George Clooney’s character’s house that almost looks like it was done in one take and was used to great effect. So when the effects hit, they hit really well. The downside is there are a couple of them that are so CGI heavy and they really can take you out of the film and you are more wondering how they actually got the effect to work than actually concentrate what is going on with the story, and that is not that great. Some of the action sequences are actually quite gruesome and it actually does warrant it’s BBFC rating of 12A, however they are also getting around this by having most of the more gruesome stuff happen to Robots, albeit Robots that look like humans, in a similar way to Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack. I’m not saying that this is necessarily that bad for kids but I do think some of them may come out a bit more disturbed than when they entered. Though I do believe you should treat kids with a lot more respect and suggest by actually checking what does or does not disturb them, rather than telling them. So take that comment with a pinch of salt. I saw the film in IMAX and I would actually recommend seeing it in that format if you have the opportunity because the wider screen and enhanced sound really does allow the effect to pop out at you.
If I sound like I am being a bit too harsh on this film it’s only because I think this film could have been a lot better that it was. it’s not a bad film by any means, it just doesn’t really hit the mark for me and I think it will be actually quite forgettable in time. It has good themes and likeable characters and some fairly decent performances, but I would hardly rush to get this on DVD and more recommend it as a rental. The plot isn’t quite fleshed out enough despite its 2 hour running time and it really needed a better villain. Those are the biggest problems I had with the film, other than that it’s actually kind of enjoyable and I suspect it will be a success with schools breaking up for half term and may even warrant a sequel that I wouldn’t object to seeing. Most of the performances are pretty good and I would say there are worse films coming out in the next few weeks, so you could do a lot worse, though granted by the time you see this review I suspect that there will be less screenings of it and it will make most of its budget back during the half term week which has already passed. Brad Bird, I really like you, but you have made better films!!
So what were your thoughts on Tomorrowland? Did I get it on the mark or have I missed a couple of points. Please leave a comment below on the film or if you want to answer my question, please feel free to leave a comment on that too. My question for this week is?
“What’s the most annoying experience you have ever had in the Cinema?”
I bring this up because there was a family two rows below me who just wouldn’t “shut the hell up”!!!
I know this film is essentially a theme park ride on a screen but that is no reason to talk throughout half the film!!!
Thanks for reading the first of my reviews to come out in June.
If you want to know what’s coming up next, go to my review of Poltergeist, which is online now.
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