Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tomorrowland Review

The Reel Perspective with Nathan Unck

Tomorrowland     Rated: PG for thematic elements, sci-fi action violence and mild profanity

7 out of 10

Writer, Director and Animator Brad Bird has done a lot of amazing things over the past two and a half decades. Originally a screenwriter and a showrunner for The Simpsons during what I call "The Simpsons Zenith Years" which consists of seasons 3 through 9, Brad worked his way up pretty fast by with his unique style by giving audiences both style and substance. His credits over the years include, writing and directing for The Iron Giant, writing and directing The Incredibles for Disney/Pixar (which I am also happy to report that he has started officially writing The Incredibles 2, the one Pixar film besides the Toy Story sequels that actually deserves a sequel.) Wrote  Ratatouille (My personal favorite Pixar feature film) and director of Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol. All of these films are some of the most fun I have ever had in theaters or on the small screen, (I am a huge Simpsons buff as well), so I have had Tomorrowland on my radar for a while now.

Not exactly based on the section of Tomorrowland at Disneyland, although it does share some similar styles as far as the way the future city looks, that's pretty much where the similarities stop, though there are little Easter Eggs hidden in the film that should make huge Disneyland fans happy, but not big enough to notice. I was also super excited that the film stars George Clooney who is a personal favorite as mine as well. The trailer seemed to keep the mystery of the plot under wraps, which is good because the less you know about the plot, the better the movie is, so I will just give you a quick rundown of the plot.

The film starts in 1964 and shows Clooney's character, Frank, as a child who likes to tinker and invent things. As a child, he takes a prototype of a jet pack to the World's Fair and tries to sell it off. The jet pack doesn't exactly work, but the fact that Frank is a dreamer and doesn't give up gets the attention of a young girl named Athena. We quickly learn that Athena has a secret, and Frank is shown a way into the future. After a great action sequence, the film then changes focus to a 16 year old girl named Casey. She is smart and kind of sassy, and after she gets arrested for trying to ruin plans NASA has to take down a platform, putting her father out of work, she discovers a small lapel pin  in her belongings. When she touches the pin, she is able to see the future, but only while touching the pin with her skin. The pin has a countdown on it that only allows her to see into the future and explore it for just a short amount of time. 

However, when she tries to find the mystery behind the pin and some crazy secret agents start to hunt her down, is she rescued and helped by Athena. After a little road trip, Athena leaves Casey  abandoned far from home, but on the farm of a now grown up Frank. Frank was kicked out of the future and sent back to his own time for a reason that gives too much away, so I will stop there. The film then takes us on an adventure back and forth between now and the future.

As I was leaving the theater, I overheard a lot of mixed reactions for Tomorrowland. Some loved it, some didn't. Some thought that it was too preachy, and it didn't bother others. I fell in the category of, it was a fun escape for a couple of hours, but knowing what Brad Bird has been capable of in the past left me wanting a little bit more. There are some hit and miss moments, but I felt that the hit moments were wonderful and won me over the miss moments. It was fun. Kids in the audience really got into it and loved it, which helped me think of the film from the perspective of a child around 9 or 10 years old, which was a good thing. Tomorrowland kind of takes us back to the early 80s when Disney had some fun family sci-fi adventure films like Flight of the Navigator, or other similar films, and this return to that style was actually pretty welcoming to me. It brought back a little nostalgia for me, and that was really cool. '

The special effects in the film are actually pretty impressive and fantastic. The parts of the future we see have some really neat and artistic senses to it. My personal favorite was a little section of the city that had some floating swimming pools where the water was being held by anti-gravity barriers that would allow people to swim in the water above the ground, but the coolest part about the pools is that they were layered and floating over each other, so a swimmer could swim to the bottom of the pools, dive out of the bottom, do some tricks and then land in the next pool below the one they were just in. There were moments like that where I was fascinated and loved. The film has a strong artistic theme that plays throughout the movie, and the views of these things were spectacular.

The actors all did a great job, especially Clooney and Hugh Laurie, who is always great as well. The language was very mild, but had the H word a handful of times and unfinished phrases of S.O.B., so it was kept kid appropriate. The action sequences and special effects are very much worth the trip to the theater. The violence was very cartoony, and although people were blown up, it was done in a silly way with purple goo and light, leaving no trace of gore. The content was very mild and this is very much a family friendly Disney adventure.

However, the film does try to make a point that the future is what we make of it, and we need to be more optimistic and work hard. Nothing is going to take care of itself, and will only lead to the Earth becoming not so pleasant if we don't. When overhearing people talk about that element after the film, I could understand why they felt they had been preached to. The film blatantly tells us it's message straight out in the script. Something that didn't really need to be done. However, as I was thinking about it from the perspective of a kid, the message seemed to really sink in and mean something. It gave the children ideas and made them think about how they want to live and treat the Earth. I think that it's a film the whole family can enjoy, but I think that it's enjoyment hinges on your personal interpretation of the message and if you can or can't think like a child. Not childish, but like a child who is full of wonder and amazement and optimism.

That's the frame of mind you should be able to be in in order to fully get on board with Tomorrowland, and if you can, the adventure is a fun one and worth the trip. If you can't, then there are a bunch of grown-up films about the end of the world that is probably more your speed. Tomorrowland was a nice, refreshing change of pace from your typical futuristic story about doom, gloom, and survival, and it's worth the trip. The bottom line is Disney and Brad Bird were able to make a fun sci-fi adventure for families with a good message and an homage to the older Disney sci-fi adventures of the past, though not as amazing as some of Brad Bird's earlier work.

Tomorrowland is rated PG for thematic elements, sci-fi action violence, and mild language.

Nathan Unck
Media Critic
The Magna Times