Tuesday 26 May 2015


(Brad Bird, 2015)

Narratively, Tomorrowland is a mess.
It has a charming but disposable prologue that goes on for about ten minutes longer than it should. It starts after that, then restarts a while later. It doesn't introduce its big star until almost half way through. It doesn't really explain who the bad guys are or what they're doing until the last act, meaning that we don't understand what's going on or what the stakes are for most of the film. Even then it all culminates in a pretty stock "blow-up-the-big-bad-device" ending, with a couple of simultaneous fights going on. Much of the story is made up of (admittedly impressive) action sequences, though they never flow into one another and rarely arise organically from the story. Inbetween the action scenes, there is a hell of a lot of what Bird identified in The Incredibles as "monologuing", as characters explain the story to one another (and the audience).
There are many good things too. This is an ambitious and even personal blockbuster film, about optimism and dreaming. It's very earnestness is unfashionable, and it makes that unfashionability part of its theme.
The design is fitfully lovely and sometimes lazy (the future as a pastel world of odd fashions and flying skate-boards, essentially), and after taking forever to set up the relatively dull real life of its heroine, Casey (Britt Robertson), it feels like it skips through the interesting stuff later in the film at hyper-speed, making the climax rushed and under-explained.
The cast are solid - Clooney gives good grump, young Raffey Cassidy is excellent, and Laurie monologues better than most - and Bird delivers on thrills and incident, but it never really works, hamstrung by that bizarre structure, and the way so many incidental details are far more fascinating than anything happening in the main plot.
And then there is Bird's usual theme of special people, doing special things, twisted here around a strangely polemical disappointed tone: how dare we mess up the future and let down the dreamers and the optimists? We could have built a utopia! Instead all we want to do is sit around and watch disaster porn.

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