Arts Review, Movies
Starring: George Clooney (Frank Walker), Thomas Robinson (young Frank), Hugh Laurie (David Nix), Britt Robertson (Casey Newton), Raffey Cassidy (Athena), Tim McGraw (Eddie Newton), Kathryn Hahn (Ursula), Keegan-Michael Key (Hugo Gernsback)
Whatever happened to the world of tomorrow? Zoomers will recall the future promised to us as kids. By now, we should be living in a technicolour paradise, surrounded by sleek, gorgeous uber-art deco or art moderne architecture, while taxis would fly us from place to place in gleaming cities, with every possible type of convenience made available to us. Robots would be doing our work and the atom, our friend, would provide us with more energy than we’d ever need. Look back at old science-fiction magazines or educational films from the Fifties and you can see that “tomorrowland” was just around the corner.
Brad Bird, Pixar’s and Disney’s go-to director, has fashioned a tomorrowland in the first half-hour of his new film that is wonderfully evocative of that memorable phantasm of the past. Taking us back to the iconic 1964 New York World’s Fair, which represented the apex of the optimistic thinking of the era, Bird sends young science nerd Frank Walker into the imaginary future we all believed in. He meets the cool, stylish young Athena and the enigmatic scientist Nix. All seems right in this future world—for a while.
In the present, teenaged science nerd Casey Newton is also given a glimpse of this paradise. But when she tries to find out more, she finds herself attacked by robots and menaced by mysterious forces—and the police. Then, she meets the grown-up Frank, grumpy and brilliant and all the shenanigans really begin. They’re pursued by truly murderous robots in Frank’s house—a bravura scene—and eventually escape to a tomorrowland that isn’t anywhere as nice as the one envisioned in the Sixties.
Tomorrowland is shot through with crazy, interesting ideas that aren’t properly pursued. In the last third of this massive, odd film, the dysfunctional future that we now fear replaces the proposed paradise of the past. Ecology rears its formidable head—with concerns of climate change, water pollution and the rest—and we’re treated to end-of-the-world doom and gloom.
Sadly, there are many problems in our world but nothing that Disney can’t cure with a sock in the jaw to an enigmatic villain and a good ol’ return to optimism. Brad Bird, who has already won two Oscars for the animation features Ratatouille and The Incredibles, can direct live action with lots of f/x brilliantly so there’s much in Tomorrowland to admire. But in terms of well thought through ideas, this film is a mess. Go see it for the thrills and its visual beauty but please don’t take away any messages from it.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Good Day GTA.