When I hear the word "Tomorrowland," I think of Space Mountain, the Peoplemover and monorails. On May 22nd, Walt Disney Pictures expands your vision of the future with a film that shares the same name as this iconic Disney park location, Tomorrowland. And yes, it does include nods to Space Mountain, the Peoplemover and monorails.
Anyone whose read a biography of Walt Disney knows about E.P.C.O.T. Not the theme park at Walt Disney World, but the actual city of the future that was his last great dream that never became a reality. The premise of Tomorrowland is this: What if the world's greatest thinkers succeeded in creating a world of tomorrow that has been kept a secret all these years?
There are two main characters in the film, both of which are telling the story as a flashback. There's Frank Walker, who is played by both George Clooney (adult) and Thomas Robinson (child). Frank found himself in Tomorrowland as a child after receiving a pin from a young girl at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Then there is Casey Newton, a brilliant teenager played by Britt Robinson who discovers a mysterious pin in her personal affects after getting in trouble with the law. Their paths collide as she seeks to discover the mysteries behind the world she saw when she touched the pin... and that's all I can say without getting into spoiler territory.
Tomorrowland is a family-friendly sci-fi action film, a sub-genre that is rarely done right. At the hands of director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), the film has enough intrigue and suspense to keep adults interested, but when it comes to action it plays more to kids (such as a robot's eyes bulging out). With Lost writer Damon Lindelof on the team, I was disappointed by how soft the villain is in the film. If Star Wars has taught us anything, it's that villains can be strong in a film aimed at the whole family, so in a film with many nods to Star Wars it's surprising that they would go the opposite route.
The visual effects are very impressive and the world of the future that is depicted on screen is amazing. It would not be unreasonable to expect an Oscar nomination in this category next year. As for the acting, Britt Robinson is mostly delightful, but at times the characters' overly optimistic attitude comes off as annoying (there's even a joke about it in the film). George Clooney's character is very straight with little emotion, so when it comes time to actually feel for him it's not very effective. The most winning performance goes to young Raffey Cassidy, who plays a character named Athena... and that's all I can say about her.
One of the highlights of the film is the score by Michael Giacchino who, among many other credits, also wrote the music currently heard in Space Mountain at Disneyland. It's memorable, inspirational and would be a welcome addition to the background music of the land, Tomorrowland, at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The film has a great premise and manages to not get boring during the 130 minute run time. And it does have a strong ending that is sure to give goosebumps to anyone who believed in Walt's vision of the future. If this had come out when I was 10-years old, I would probably be obsessed with it for life. But there are too many flaws for adults that make it hard to give a perfect score to.
I give Tomorrowland 3.5 out of 5 Mystery T Pins.