Director: Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
Running time: 130 minutes
“This part may get a little weird” declares Frank, played by George Clooney, as the cast of sci-fi mystery Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird, catapult in Frank’s transportation device in the hope of saving the mysterious place that goes by this name.
Fast-forward to the present day, and the film begins with a warning message from Frank and teenager Casey (played by Britt Robertson) about the future. Frank declares that when he was younger, the future was different, and tells his story of when he first discovered Tomorrowland. As a young boy in 1964 he took his contraption to the World’s Fair in New York, where he met a robot called Athena and was taken to the new post-apocalyptic world, which he believed was then destroyed. Frank was probably right, this is a little weird.
The focus then switches to Casey, who discovers the mystery of the same world, which she is transported to simply by touching a small pin. This hook is executed well through both the juxtaposition of the appearance of the two worlds and the mystery that is brought from such a small and harmless object. The idea brings a refreshing twist to a teen sci-fi genre riddled with love triangles and unoriginal plots.
Unfortunately, the story can’t stay away from the stereotypes of this genre for too long. Its attempt to keep up with the dystopian theme of modern franchises seeming to be Tomorrowland’s downfall, with its recurring theme that Casey has been chosen because she is ‘special’ and action sequences that too often take a turn for the bizarre. On a few occasions the action seems too abrupt, to the point where a robot getting suddenly run over mid-sentence and two policeman being obliterated by the supposed secret service inspires more amusement than shock. The dystopian theme is used effectively if not thoroughly enough throughout, with Tomorrowland seen as a place to escape from the trouble brewing in the real world, which is more poignant when this world is very much based on the here and now.
The problem with keeping the world a mystery is that never really know what it is. We learn that there is bright scenery, acres of fields, and pretty buildings, but with only this visual aid for the very short film sequence actually spent in Tomorrowland, we are given little knowledge as to why this world is so exceptional. Our ignorance intrigues us, but when we’re told that the world is gone because of something that Frank created, resulting in him and Athena being banished, we are left frustrated by not knowing what went wrong in Tomorrowland and what its significance is at all. The film never solves the problem it has created, which is not always a crime, but leaves you at the end wondering whether it actually fulfils its message. We’re taken on a journey on a jet-packed plane, constantly doing a loop-the-loop around an exciting but complicated and uncertain plot, but at the end you realise there’s still an awful lot to solve. “This is a story about the future”, a future that is not that much clearer at the end of the mystifying flight.