Tomorrowland - Spoiler-free Review
May 28, 2015
| Rica Wiersema
Depending on how you look at it, the future can either be a terrifying unknown or an exciting adventure waiting to happen. Some people envision a coming apocalypse that will destroy humanity in the end, but others dare to dream and imagine how mankind’s achievements will lead to incredible discoveries and widespread enlightenment. Most science fiction films fall into one of those two categories. However, Disney’s Tomorrowland is a PG adventure that attempts to address both perspectives about the future.
The movie starts off slowly. Narrated by Frank Walker, played George Clooney, the story flits between his childhood as the younger Frank and the present-day adventures of a teenage renegade named Casey Newton. Both are dreamers with idealistic hopes for the future, and both receive mysterious pins that somehow transport them to another world, a futuristic city called “Tomorrowland,” where anything is possible.
Tomorrowland is known only to a select few, but the intention was always to reveal it to the public one day as a beacon to guide humanity towards a better future. However, that big reveal never happens, and why it doesn’t is not explained. Instead, Tomorrowland shuts itself off from the rest of the world and exiles several of its key members, including Frank (again, never explained). In the meantime, mankind has steered its destiny towards destruction, and the end of the world is coming in just a few weeks. Casey and Frank team ups to reveal Tomorrowland to the rest of civilization, so that they can convince humanity to change its ways, or face certain annihilation.
From the very start, the film adamantly preaches the power and potential of the future, stating that we “make our own destiny” and can steer the world either towards utopia or destruction. And unfortunately, it is the only clear element in the entire movie.
Despite the fact that the film is called Tomorrowland, we know very little about it. What we are told is that Tomorrowland has been a sort of gated community for the world’s greatest minds, located in some parallel dimension. It has housed incredibly advanced technology for centuries, and has kept those discoveries secret from the rest of the world. Tomorrowland has been constructed in seclusion from the rest of humankind so that its population of elite dreamers” (anybody from idealistic inventors to vandals like Casey who destroys government property) can create whatever they desire. Free from the usual constraints of financial restrictions, limited resources, and corrupt politics, residents of Tomorrowland are able to create the “perfect” world. According to the characters, all that we need to make a better society are some good intentions and some good inventions.
But, we never learn who founded it in the first place, how they created it, what purpose it was ultimately meant to serve, and why it was never made public. According to multiple sources, the scene containing that rather vital backstory was deleted so as to shorten the film. In this reviewer’s opinion, there were certainly plenty of other scenes that could have been cut instead.
Unfortunately, Tomorrowland’s unfettered inventions and shut doors to the public are ultimately the reason why the apocalypse is about to occur. In fact, Casey and Frank spend most of the movie fighting off Tomorrowland’s aristocratic rulers and deadly technology more than any other obstacle. Yet, they still believe that the city and its original values are worth upholding as a hope for all of mankind.
Tomorrowland has been promoted as a whimsical and optimistic PG adventure. However, the film actually contains a fair amount of violence and grim doomsday themes reminiscent of Terminator, The Day After Tomorrow, or The Day the Earth Stood Still. Many characters (both adult, child, and robot) are graphically sliced to ribbons, hit dead-on by speeding vehicles, or crushed by falling buildings. Some of the deaths (or near-deaths) are even meant to provide slapstick comedy to the audience, and it’s a little sickening. There were also scattered drug references and arguably positive portrayals of teenaged delinquency.
The makers at Disney may have had an admirable goal of trying to address the future of our world, but in the end, Tomorrowland is a convoluted and muddled mess with a message, but no clear storyline.