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New Release Review - TOMORROWLAND: A WORLD BEYOND

A teenage girl is sought out to save the mystery realm of Tomorrowland.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brad Bird

Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidey, Kathryn Hahn, Judy Greer




"As a movie, Tomorrowland is a mess, and as a commercial for Tomorrowland the theme park, it's a complete failure. There are far more enticing rides at the multiplex this summer."



In recent years we've become accustomed to having product placement brazenly shoved in our face in Hollywood blockbusters. Tomorrowland takes that extra step, giving us an entire movie that exists to sell tickets for the theme park of the same name. It also takes great pains to remind us that Disney has acquired the rights to the Star Wars universe, setting one pivotal sequence in a sci-fi store packed to the rafters with SW merchandise, John Williams' iconic score blasting through the store speakers. Of course, this isn't the first time Disney have looked to a theme park for cinematic inspiration; their Pirates of the Caribbean ride went on to become a hugely successful movie series. The subject of Pirates gives a screenwriter considerable leeway; a theme park based around Uncle Walt's ideal future not so much.
Brad Bird and infamous screenwriter Damon Lindelof (the scribe responsible for such sci-fi misfires as Prometheus, Cowboys & Aliens and Star Trek: Into Darkness) have cobbled together a half-story in their attempt to mine another franchise from a theme park, but their valiant efforts ultimately result in a dud, the first major turkey of 'Hollywood's biggest ever summer!'
The story (and I use that term loosely) begins with whizzkid Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) attending the 1964 World's Fair with a self-made rocket pack in tow. Initially impressed by Walker's invention, tech guru David Nix (Hugh Laurie) dismisses the boy upon learning the rocket pack can't actually leave the ground. Nix's assistant, Athena (Raffey Cassidey), a mysterious young girl, is intrigued by Walker and introduces him to the secret realm of Tomorrowland, a place where science and progress thrive at a rate well ahead of Earth, and home to some highly unimaginative futuristic production design.
Cut to modern day, where we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a precocious science obsessed teen whose father is about to lose his job at NASA thanks to the scaling down of their operations. Arrested for trying to sabotage the demolition of a NASA launch site, Casey is bailed out to find a mysterious pin among her returned possessions, one that magically transports her to Tomorrowland. Athena, still resembling a young girl, contacts Casey and attempts to take both her and the now adult Frank Walker (George Clooney) to Tomorrowland, now lying in ruins, in an attempt to save the realm.
The movie's first half coasts along with a breezy pace, resembling something Joe Dante or Robert Zemeckis might have knocked out 20 years ago. Robertson is a likeable lead and Cassidey is a revelation with her tween riff on The Terminator. Unless you're a luddite, you'll find yourself warming to Tomorrowland's commendable pro-science agenda. All the while though you'll be scratching your head as to where the narrative is headed. Truth is, even the filmmakers don't really seem to have an answer. Once Clooney arrives as the adult Walker, the movie instantly deflates, its fun chase scenes and kid-fu replaced by an extended technobabble exposition dump that involves Laurie and Clooney delivering some of the most embarrassing dialogue of their careers.
By the movie's conclusion, and the inevitable sequel setup, you'll be no wiser about the details of Tomorrowland than while queuing for your popcorn. As a movie, it's a mess, and as a commercial for Tomorrowland the theme park, it's a complete failure. There are far more enticing rides at the multiplex this summer.



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