Director(s): Brad Bird
Writer(s): Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof
Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Bauer, Thomas Robinson, Pierce Gagnon, Matthew MacCaul and Judy Greer
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)May 22, 2015 - Wide
Tomorrowland heads back before it moves forward, starting at the 1964 World’s Fair, where a young Frank Walter (Thomas Robinson) shows off his jet pack prototype to an officious judge of inventions, Nix (Hugh Laurie). A young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) sees the spark in Frank and gives him a pin and instructions to follow her. When he does, he lands in alternate future universe of flying cars and soaring buildings.
Flash forward to present day Cape Canaveral, Florida. Casey (Britt Robertson) challenges her teachers’ bleak views of the world by day and tries to sabotage the dismantling of a NASA launch pad – and the dreams it represents – by night. When she gets in trouble with the law, she finds herself in possession of the same type of pin Frank had and finds herself whisked back and forth to Tomorrowland.
It soon becomes apparent that the future’s not so bright. With the help of a still young Athena, who had planted the pin on her, Casey meets up with an older, broken and cynical Frank (George Clooney) and the trio must save the world before it is too late.
Like the pin that takes you to Tomorrowland, the film wears its message of hope and optimism on its sleeve. Writer-director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, Up) and his co-writer Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness) gives us a character in Casey that still has the audacity to believe that the world can be a better place despite being chased and shot at by the very forces that have crushed the will of the once idealistic Frank. Casey’s the optimist and dreamer who doesn’t just get petitions signed but puts herself on the line to effect change. Britt Robertson gives Casey some real world grounding and captures both the thrills and the disappointments.
Frank represents the disillusioned idealists that are tempted to give up when messages of change and hope give way to the politics of “business as usual”. George Clooney plays world-weary well – though damn, who looks that handsome unshaven? – and though he carries his body like one big sigh, there’s still enough anger in him at the status quo that he’s able to ignite his energies when he needs to.
Hugh Laurie channels officious nastiness well as Tomorrowland’s leader, Nix. I just want to know why everyone in the future dresses with a hat tip to the past? Apparently in the future, brands are dead and tails are back in style. Check your closets.
Raffey Cassidy is a real find as Athena. Despite being one of the youngest cast members, she steers the action during most of the story and handles the task with a maturity beyond her years that still has a hint of mischievousness in it. The rest of the cast, which includes Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Robinson, Pierce Gagnon and Matthew MacCaul, all add their spice and flavor to the main dish.
The effects and props team gives us a mix of images and places that go from the current day to steampunk with a hint of hacker heaven in Walker’s home. Bird and Lindelof keep the pace fast, while still giving us time to reflect on where we are headed.
I can see some corners attacking the film’s message – Fox News will surely have a fit at the hint that exceptionalism can occur outside U.S. borders – but to me the message is clear: Whether the future holds dystopia or utopia is dependent on society losing its myopia.