After films such as Pixar regular Andrew Stanton‘s adaptation of John Carter (which others enjoyed much less than I did), it has been frowned upon to let those with roots in great animation try their hand at live action filmmaking. This is why people where uneasy of the news that Brad Bird of Ratatouille and The Incredibles was doing a live action film called Tomorrowland, fearing another John Carter was to come.
I wasn’t entirely void of hope, however. After all, don’t we remember since Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol that Brad Bird can do live action well if need be? Does it just seem less promising because he’s doing live action for Disney, just as Stanton did with John Carter? And most importantly, just how bad, if at all, is the film at hand? I’d say, hm, bad enough.
Supposedly in celebration of Disneyland turning 60 years this year, Tomorrowland is based on a futuristic Disneyland attraction which I’ve never been on because I just don’t get to experience that kind of fun in my life. It concerns Casey (Britt Robertson), a young troublemaker who continuously breaks into a deactivated NASA launch site to damage the machines that are taking it apart. During one such stunt, she is arrested, but is eventually released, at which point she finds a strange pin amongst her newly retrieved belongings. When touched by Casey, the pin projects a seemingly alien landscape around her (I know, just go with it). After discovering this, she encounters Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a mysterious little girl who reveals herself to be a robot and escorts Casey to a man who holds the answers to the nature of Casey’s pin – Frank Walker (George Clooney, who narrates the opening while doing a bit unfunny enough to rival Jimmy Vulmer).
Frank lives in a house full of advanced machinery, and uses one of his own inventions to teleport our heroes to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Here they enter a steampunk-looking rocket that, as I understood it, was constructed by Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison because they thought it would help them reach a dimension in which other inventors and great thinkers would create the sci-fi world of Tomorrowland, which is also the world Casey sees every time she touches her pin. I’m not joking, by the way. Just thought I’d affirm that.
As they reach Tomorrowland, they’re met by its leader Nix (Hugh Laurie) who totally won’t be the bad guy later or anything, and Casey learns the she might be (*sigh*… are you ready?) the “chosen one” in helping the people of Tomorrowland avert a chaotic and possibly apocalyptic future. As I’m 90% sure you can tell by yourselves, this film’s pretty short on the originality, even for a film that got its start as a Disney theme park land.
What’s more, the movie is silly, but possibly in the right ways. It is filled with improbable action and equally improbable devices that are supposed to signify a world unknown to us and more advanced than our own. It made me think of Spy Kids in a way, where the kids watching will want to go on a cool adventure with cool gadgets and be cool heroes like the protagonists. However, this worked more handsomely in Spy Kids since Carmen and Juni were believable and interesting as characters, which isn’t as much as I can say for Tomorrowland‘s Casey. I’m no huge fan of generic troublemaker teens, even if they mildly resemble Chloë Moretz.
In terms of visual effects, though, Tomorrowland is almost excusable in how the outcome of its story progression is easier to predict than the 2012 doomsday. However, since I am not one who judges a film solely based on how pretty its world is, I ultimately think that Tomorrowland leaves a lot to be desired. I can only recommend it if you want to show your children a series of cool images of cool gadgets, but if you want them to enjoy and admire the characters that get to take part in said coolness and the world-saving adventure the coolness allows, show them any Spy Kids movie that doesn’t have 3D or Jeremy Piven in it. In any case, HAPPY 60th, DISNEYLAND!
Well, I guess that’s that. Now I ask you, Brad Bird, was getting to direct this movie really worth putting the task of making Mission Impossible 5 in less qualified hands? Or, Rouge Nation or whatever it’s called this time. God, I miss numbers.