“Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.” — The Amazing Criswell in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
There’s a sense of adventure and discovery in the best of the live-action Disney films that seemingly disappeared in the 1990s. Before that, the live-action films from Walt Disney Studios, even the mediocre ones, had that infectious Disney spirit. Walt Disney was a true film-making pioneer, and many of the films made between the 1950s through the 1980s share his adventurous attitude.
Although John Carter and The Lone Ranger were both, unfairly, brushed off as dismal flops, they nonetheless captured some of that infectious Disney feeling of adventure that had been missing from their live-action films for some time. One of the best elements about director Brad Bird’s new film, Tomorrowland, is the way it totally captures Walt Disney’s love of innovation and limitless imagination. This is the first Disney live-action film in a long time that feels that Walt would have green-lit the project himself.
Tomorrowland reminded me a little bit of Ex Machina in the way that they’re both science fiction films that dare to contain ideas and ask provocative questions. Both films also feature artificial life-forms as main characters (the movies couldn’t be more different in all other respects, though).
The two most obvious inspirations for the film are Walt Disney, of course, and Ray Bradbury. Like Bradbury’s best stories, Tomorrowland challenges its audiences with questions regarding technology, mankind and the future. One of the film’s main themes is optimism versus pessimism, and this theme is best represented in the film in its two main characters. Britt Robertson (who you may remember from the ridiculous television version of Stephen King’s Under the Dome) plays Casey Newton (note the last name) whose character is bright, plucky and upbeat (like most Disney heroines). George Clooney plays bitter, former boy genius Frank Walker.
The chemistry between the grouchy Walker and the cheery Casey makes for a good onscreen duo. The third main character, as alluded to earlier, is Athena (played by Raffey Cassidy), an advanced artificial life form. The plot has to deal with an alternate dimension where there is a place called Tomorrowland where all of our world’s biggest dreamers and visionaries (including Edison and Tesla) could go to create and build, without worrying about greed, politics and the like.
Tomorrowland is a adventure film with big ideas and a bold and beautiful vision. The design of Tomorrowland itself is breathtaking; the film’s production team that is respectful of Walt’s original conception of a possible future, while also expanding his ideas. Disney fans will also appreciate the many references to Disney movies and several Disneyland rides. Brad Bird is able to present a film that contains both state-of-the-art special effects (courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic) and a story that allows original thoughts.
Tomorrowland is not a great movie by any means, but it has likable lead actors, an involving story and allows the audience to theorize and think for themselves. It’s also a great deal of fun.
Tomorrowland. 2015. Dir. Brad Bird. With George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key. Written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird; story by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird and Jeff “Doc” Jensen. Cinematography by Claudio Miranda. United States/Spain.