Movie Review 'Tomorrowland' Helps Audiences Find an Optimistic Future

Filled with nostalgia and adventure familiar to classic tales of yesteryear, Disney’s TOMORROWLAND builds off the sci-fi genre to bring the search for a better future to today’s audience.  Brad Bird, director of THE INCREDIBLES and MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL, is back with what seems more of a passion project rather than a guaranteed formula based movie.  This thought-provoking film is perfect for the entire family, but as with most people, you may be wondering what this film is really about.

TOMORROWLAND’s core story and theme is actually quite difficult to show within a 2 ½ minute trailer.  It’s not that it is terribly complicated, but the entire premise of the movie is going on the journey with the characters for the final reveal.  There is no one particular genre this falls under.  It really is so many movies in one.

The audience is treated to an ‘adventuresque’ young-teenager coming-of-age being the chosen one to solve matters to save the world type story.  Yup, that’s how I am going to explain it. It is as if WALL-E, MEET THE ROBINSONS, and Spielberg’s SUPER 8 merged together to bring the morals and themes of the first two and the feel of the latter as the audience awaits for answers about this mysterious land.

It’s a film that may require the expectations being set before going in. Some people may see the trailer and see it as sci-fi, others maybe more of a mystery, and others even will see it as an action flick. Well, it’s all of them. But make no mistake, it does have long scenes explaining the scenarios and building the relationships between the characters.  When the action comes, it’s beautiful and well done, but really shouldn’t be the purpose of seeking out this film.

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Imagine a world was created by a team of the top innovating influential people in the world before the turn of the last century.  A world built to create a better tomorrow away from the politics and greed we know of today.  It’s a world between time and space, which cannot be seen without an invitation, just as the movies slogan says “where nothing is impossible”.

A very optimistic teenage girl Casey Netwon, BRITT ROBERTSON, fascinated with space and plainly the improvement of our society, has been mysteriously presented a magical pin that allows her to see into this futuristic world.  Her curiosity takes hold and her search for answers leads her to a former boy-genius Frank, GEORGE CLOONEY, that we are introduced to at the beginning of the film. Being chased by a group concerned by her knowledge of Tomorrowland, Casey and Frank must embark on a mission to this secret land.

That may not reveal enough for you, but this film really is about allowing the movie to reveal the secrets and meaning behind Tomorrowland along with the reasoning behind Casey being sought out as a “chosen one”.  I was fortunate enough to see a screening Brad Bird introduced. He expressed his feelings that this is a “true Disney film” with action and adventure, but at times brings to light items related to today’s world.  In order to maintain the mysteriousness and the rewarding factor of learning the story throughout the film, it leaves me at a little lost for words.

For those of you that are looking forward to 1964 World’s Fair connection, don’t expect to get too much more than the a preview that can be seen at Disneyland. I for one was really looking forward to the connections this land has with Walt Disney and the many scenes that take place at the New York World’s Fair.  Sadly there is only one scene there and they don’t really ever mention Walt Disney.  Frank as the young-boy is shown being taken to Tomorrowland via the special pin in through a secret trap door for the boats within “it’s a small world”, which originally debut at the fair.  Being a fellow Disney nut, the movie sadly doesn’t connect Tomorrowland and the Disney made attractions for the fair more than a brief opening scene.  I thought a few of you may want to be forewarned prior to seeing the film so you’re not let down.

UPDATE 5/21: It appears that Damon Lindelof addressed the lack of Walt Disney and Disneyland references in an interview with Screencrush.  I think it may be interesting in case you were wondering why it appeared absent:

There were very explicit references to Walt’s involvement in Plus Ultra [the secret society that creates Tomorrowland], and on the DVD you’ll see a scene in Blast From the Past where they say explicitly that Walt was a member, and Casey even says, “Like the Tomorrowland in Disneyland?” That prompts them to explain that the theme park was actually a cover for the real Tomorrowland. But, aside from the fact that those scenes are pure exposition that can make you feel like you’re sitting through a history lesson, it felt like we were inside a Disney movie and every time we saw Disney get mentioned in it, it was a wink to the audience. Like a meta self-aware thing that took you out. When the characters of the movie have to say the title of the movie. We have to be very discreet about when and how we use the word “Tomorrowland” in this movie. It’s not like Bruce Willis ever needs to say “die hard” in those movies.

There were some very specific mentions to Walt in the beginning of the movie at the World’s Fair, because in addition to the Small World ride, Walt brought the Carousel of Progress and the original opening of the movie had the little boy going through that attraction. They also brought the animatronic Lincoln to the World’s Fair. So there was a much more pervasive Disney presence in the film.

As we get into the characters, HUGH LAURIE’s character, David Nix, is indeed a major part of the story and fits the roll perfectly.  His sequence, as seen in extended clips, is very similar to role in House, which matches the stern, rude, yet incredibly brilliant character he plays.

Nix’s sidekick Athena, RAFFEY CASSIDY, a young freckle-faced girl that recruits for him if you will, has a lot hidden from first glance, but she’s a special character that really ties Clooney and the rest of the cast together. I really enjoyed how she played this character and she really brings across the most emotional scenes.  In fact, her character was probably the most challenging to portray, but this young actress brings Athena to show some great emotion even though her character doesn’t allow for much. My apologies for being so… vague.

Regardless of the great three dimensional characters, TOMORROWLAND revolves heavily around the absolutely stunning landscapes and effects seen in this futuristic world.  Getting in to my Disney theme park routes, Tomorrowland in the film is much of what we all wished the land at Disneyland looked like. I won’t go into the challenges the theme park has faced in  keeping the land current, but the movie brings across “The Future that Never Was” concept. A look and feel that Walt Disney World attempted in the 90’s as the prediction of the future today is no longer the optimistic beautiful future people had imagined in the 1950’s.

TOMORROWLAND reminds us of this grand exciting tomorrow that everyone used to envision. You know, the days of the Jetsons or that were depicted in silly 1950’s flicks.  It really nails it to the what is seen with society today. We have lost sight of the potential of a better tomorrow. Now we find ourselves saving what we have today, but tomorrow often seems bleak and dark.

I found myself inthralled in the story and the journey we took to get there. It’s by no means the thrill ride of the century or the biggest mystery of the year.  However, TOMORROWLAND is an enjoyable thought provoking film that can be enjoyed by most audiences.  Those that are reminiscent of the past or huge fans of Walt Disney the man will find many themes to love.  I myself wish this movie the best as it would make for a perfect representation of what Tomorrowland should be in the theme parks.  The movie may struggle to find its audience, but its core morals and meaning should hit close to home for everyone.

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Joel Covey
Joel has been writing for SoCalThrills for the past decade covering entertainment, events, and theater since joining the site. He is a CSUF alum, studying within the Communication and Radio / TV / Film colleges.