I must admit I have some in-built snobbery that left me feeling somewhat cautious about this film, which is based around the futuristic area found in Disney’s theme parks. As with Pirates Of The Caribbean before it, Tomorrowland isn’t a long advert for the corporation’s premier attractions, per se, but there are times when it feels like director Brad Bird can’t quite mask the commercial interests of the corporation funding his film. I don’t mind the fact that the futuristic setting here looks like a theme park, because that’s what it’s based on, after all, but when a fight scene set in a toy store foregrounds a bunch of Star Wars-related merchandise it feels both cynical and aggressive, and even as a big fan of that particular franchise it turns me right off.
Tomorrowland was primarily marketed at kids or young teenagers when it was released earlier this year, but it’s also the kind of flick that had to seek adult approval to recoup its huge budget, which is possibly why there’s an uneven tone throughout; in fairness people of all ages can marvel at some of the CGI here, at the very least, which is often very good indeed. The young, plucky heroine is a teenager named Casey (Britt Robertson, 25), and she suddenly gains the ability to travel between present day Earth and a futuristic city in another dimension, where people fly around using jetpacks and rockets, there’s no litter and everyone’s clothes are pressed as if they’ve just been collected from the dry cleaning store (in short it looks awful). Casey learns that Earth is about to be ravaged by all sorts of terrible pestilences and environmental problems, and she sets out to change the course of the future with Raffey Cassidy’s childlike robot and George Clooney’s jaded inventor in tow. Somehow Hugh Laurie’s character becomes the villain of the piece, but for an actor whose roots lie in comedy his performance is curiously restrained, and as such it’s a missed opportunity for some much-needed silliness, wit and colour.
The film is a little slow at times, going by the speed of other movies with similar target audiences released this year, and writers Bird and Damon Lindelof sadly allow the plot to meander. Their execution of the film’s moral messages – so integral to Disney films, and here encouraging viewers to be positive and to be kind to the environment – comes far too late in the day. When it does finally arrive your receptiveness will depend on how you usually take Disney’s didacticism: some will be charmed and inspired, others will be reaching for the Mickey Mouse-branded sick bucket. At least if you do barf the hurling will be soundtracked by Michael Giacchino’s original score, which gently floats about in a pleasant enough way without ever insisting on your attention.
Directed by: Brad Bird.
Written by: Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, Jeff Jensen.
Starring: Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie.
Cinematography: Claudio Miranda.
Editing: Walter Murch, Craig Wood.
Music: Michael Giacchino.
Running Time: 129 minutes.