*** This review contains minor spoilers ***
Disney's Tomorrowland implores us to imagine a world without limitation. One where nothing is impossible, and all of our wildest dreams can come true. (Sounds very trademark Disney, doesn't it?) In the movie, that world exists in the form of a secret utopian society that has been built by only the brightest of minds. It is a place that exists free of politics and corruption, where people can push the boundaries of possibility as far as their imaginations will take them. Tomorrowland is a world meant to inspire, to evoke wonder, and to nurture creativity. It's a stunning shame then, that all I ever felt while watching the movie was sheer boredom. For all of its endless opportunity, Tomorrowland ends up being almost completely uninteresting. With Tomorrowland's lifeless fantasy world, bland characters, second-rate special effects, forced dialogue, and uninspired story, your own future will undoubtedly be better off if it doesn't involve ever watching this movie.
With the star talent of George Clooney, the directorial skill of Brad Bird, and the film's promising trailers, I must admit that I was caught off guard by Tomorrowland's lackluster execution. The greatest compliment I can give the film is that it's blandly passable, but in no area is it particularly good, engaging, or thought-provoking. For being a film that is about celebrating creativity, it sure is lacking in that regard. Tomorrowland itself feels like a poorly-realized pipe dream. It's supposed to be this wonderfully ingenious world of innovation, but nothing about it struck me as notably exciting or exceptional. From the surface, it looks like your typical futuristic metropolis, complete with jetpacks and flying cars. Beyond that, I couldn't really tell you what makes Tomorrowland so special, and I believe that's largely because we're given so little access to it. The movie treats us as outsiders to this place, and we spend the majority of the film tagging alongside the two main characters as they try to get in, but we're never given any sort of rewarding payoff once we get there. The world of Tomorrowland is practically nothing more than a shallow, fantasy world facade.
The movie starts off with an uncomfortably awkward recruitment video recorded by Tomorrowland's two main characters, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), in which they argue over how they should tell their story. It's a poor attempt at humor with banter that feels entirely forced. If anything, this overly long introduction should have served as an early indicator that I was about to embark on a two-hour snooze-fest. From there we transition to each of their character's respective origin stories, and their separate journeys that led them to Tomorrowland.
Frank's story takes us to the 1964 World's Fair at Disneyland where as a young boy he's trying to enter with his faulty jetpack creation. His invention is rejected, but he still manages to catch the attention of a girl named Athena, who gives him a special pin with the Tomorrowland logo. Young Frank is ordered to secretly follow her in the theme park, leading to the "It's A Small World" ride, where he's magically transported to Tomorrowland. Here we're given our first glimpse of this futuristic world, but the entire sequence isn't nearly as fun or awe-inspiring as it should be. Frank takes to the skies in his newly-repaired jetpack and yet this significant moment somehow winds up feeling surprisingly empty. The movie fails to capture that youthful element of whimsy and excitement that comes from discovery.
Next we learn the much more recent story of Casey, an enthusiastic high school student with a passion for making the world a better place. She's the daughter of a struggling inventor who gets herself in trouble with the law after trying to sabotage the government's planned demolition of a NASA launch pad. Once bailed out of jail, Casey finds a mysterious Tomorrowland token among her belongings, and upon touching it, she is magically transported to a wheat field with the distinguished metropolis of Tomorrowland in the distance. However, when trying to reach this futuristic city, she finds that boundaries in the real world inhibit her in this golden future world, even though she cannot see them while holding the token. It's a novel idea, and one of the movie's better moments, but if you've seen the film's trailers then you've already seen most of how it plays out.
The trailers also spoiled Tomorrowland's best, and arguably only good action sequence, in which androids invade Frank's house in an attempt to capture Casey, who possesses that coveted Tomorrowland token. It's a well-crafted and exciting moment that demonstrates Brad Bird's talent, but it's also an unfortunately rare instance of entertainment in what is otherwise a dull film. As for the aforementioned androids, they're unbelievably cheesy and lame. These robot villains are sourced from the pinnacle of technological advancement, and yet they're remarkably derivative and hokey. The most original thing about them is that they blink their eyelids alternatively. That's some real cutting edge creativity right there! To top it off, Tomorrowland even throws in an android-to-human love story for good measure, because why not? Robots need love too, you guys!
You know what the most troubling thing about Tomorrowland is for me? The fact that Brad Bird was the very first choice to direct Star Wars: Episode 7 and he turned it down to make this movie instead. That is almost incomprehensible to me. Even more so when you consider that Tomorrowland features a comic book store scene that is literally brimming with Star Wars props. It's a decision that may come back to haunt him, but given how poor this movie is, I'm now actually thanking my lucky Death Stars that he's not the one making the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
In the end, Tomorrowland is a movie that I don't feel any connection to. I wasn't captivated by the characters or the performances (not even George Clooney could save this one). The plot was a total bore. The sci-fi elements missed the mark. The visuals were mostly just decent, and tended to look more fake than impressive. The underlying message of hope was weak, and please, don't even get me started on that cliché "two wolves" story that was needlessly tacked in. Nothing about the movie ever reminded me of the actual Tomorrowland from Disneyland Park, nor did it share its level of creativity. The longer the movie went on, the more I wanted it to end. I can honestly tell you that I have had more enjoyment standing in line for two hours for a ride in Disneyland's Tomorrowland than I ever had while watching this movie. If this is how dull our ideal future is going to be, then sign me up for a front row ticket to the apocalypse where the future belongs to the mad!