Director: Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Hugh Laurie
Backed by the Disneyland attractions of the same name, Tomorrowland has all the promise of an excellent adventure movie for kids and adults alike – mixing the childlike hope of director Brad Bird (Iron Giant, Ratatouille, Incredibles), the sci-fi concepts of writer Damon Lindelhof (Lost, Prometheus, Star Trek: Into Darkness), and the star power of George Clooney.
Frustrated by the continual doom and gloom of the prospective future, a teenage science enthusiast (Britt Robertson) is granted a vision of a spectacular alternate dimension – Tomorrowland. Her search for answers and access will lead her to Frank (George Clooney), a former boy genius who shows her that this gleaming future is not all that it seems.
Considering Bird’s previous animation experience, it’s no surprise that the film is visually phenomenal. The retro-futuristic society of Tomorrowland is a magnificent modern ode to the pioneering dreams of the 50s and 60s, cities sprawl and loop into the sky as giant new structures are continually assembled by massive robots. It’s a world plucked straight out of the vivid imagination of a daydreaming child, where jetpacks or hovertrains are the transport of choice and a spaceport fires explorers out into the cosmos. The rest of the film is similarly well-shot, as bright and colourful as any Disney Pixar production and laced with gleefully wacky technology. If a bath-tub escape pod or actual time-bombs can’t excite your inner child, you might be in need of professional help.
Unfortunately Tomorrowland: A World Beyond doesn’t quite soar with space shuttle elegance, instead it flies around as messily as the young Frank’s makeshift jetpack. The narrative is poorly structured throughout and completely falls apart in the final act, unlikely to be an issue for kids but unsatisfying for the grown-ups in attendance. The odd pacing could benefit from at least ten minutes shaved off the two hour runtime and there simply isn’t enough of the utopian Tomorrowland featured.
Playing the ever-optimistic Casey, Britt Robertson outclasses her contemporaries with a stunning and compelling style (looking at you, Miss Lawrence & Miss Woodley). She laments the lack of modern scientific inspiration with genuine heartbreak and breathes in the majesty of tomorrow with believable, her wide-eyed wonderment perfectly complementing Clooney’s giant saucers of sadness. If you were to strip Tony Stark of his lavish lifestyle and leave him in a depressing rural shack for a decade, the result would be George Clooney in Tomorrowland. His grumpy and jaded persona is miles away from his typical “Danny Ocean” playboy roles and Clooney embodies it with a world-weary conviction. Raffey Cassidy shows great promise for such a young talent, giving a performance beyond her years. Hugh Laurie is also present but allowed disappointingly little exploration, leaving an underwhelming character that feels like a tacked-on appendage.
Bird’s past works have united child and adult enjoyment with greater harmony but Tomorrowland still has more than enough to offer its younger audience. The central theme of light and hope triumphing over darkness and despair is well-executed, aiming to inspire kids to become dreamers and work together to create a better future for all. While the anticlimactic ending may leave a lot to be desired, 10 year olds on the journey home are more likely to be discussing the robots and rockets, rather than Damon Lindelhof’s recurring issue of flimsy third acts.
★ ★ ★
Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is on wide release in UK & US Cinemas now.