Like the world’s most repetitive motivational speech, Disney’s latest big budget flick, Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, is helmed by The Incredible’s Brad Bird. Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Hugh Laurie, this technology-based spectacle, inspired by a theme park attraction, is one for all those perpetual dreamers out there.
Curious teen Casey Newton (Robertson) is unexpectedly handed a glance at the future when she winds up with an invitation to the mysterious Tomorrowland, a hidden city where the best and brightest live and work to create freakin’ awesome inventions. Chosen by robo-girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Newton is thrust into the path of the reluctant former child genius and ousted Tomorrowland citizen, Frank Walker (Clooney). Together the trio must find a way into the troubled utopia and stop the hideously dressed, yet scene-stealing baddie, Nix (Laurie), from helping to destroy the earth.
The world’s a flippin’ mess, and Tomorrowland isn’t afraid to remind us of that. Walker’s opening remarks that “this is a story about the future – and the future can be scary” is an eerie reality check for the 21st century as we are talked through all the terrible catastrophes that have affected the planet. War, drought, earthquakes… its modern day relevance hits you firmly in the face. Yet this is Disney, and the expected inspirational message, in this case that we, the human race, can change this world-ending outcome through big ideas and ambition, slams into us even harder.
Tomorrowland begins like you’d expect from a sci-fi Disney flick: full of big ideas and flashy gizmos. Yet along the way, in-between killer robot agents and the Eiffel-Tower-turned-old-school-rocket-ship, it all becomes a little messy. Gone is the fun and theatre of it all, and in comes the philosophical jargon which goes above the heads of its intended audience.
Its fluffy, heart-warming sentiment would be acceptable if it weren’t slammed down our throats at every turn. Newton’s portrayal as the saviour of this futuristic land is cranked up on the cheese scale to sickening effect. She’s a dreamer with a hell of a lot of youthful spirit, and we’re never given the chance to forget it. Thankfully Hugh Laurie, as the straight-edged Nix, adds a touch of eye-catching villainous panache to proceedings.
Neither flashy nor shiny enough for the kids to moon over, and too sentimental to keep the older generations on board, it’s difficult to see Bird’s dreamy extravaganza capturing the imagination of the hoards of cinema-goers who’ll take the trip to see Disney’s latest offering. It’s a here nor there kind of flick; a story promoting the power of ideas and progress, yet ultimately failing to capture the same sort of imagination in its own storytelling.