Tomorrowland: A World Beyond
Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland: A World Beyond takes viewers into another dimension of limitless possibilities and infinite wonders the likes that only geniuses could dream up.
Following on from the Pirates of the Caribbean trend of adapting theme park rides into major motion pictures, Tomorrowland: A World Beyond really doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to giving the audience something impressive to look at. This film is wall to wall visual spectacle with hardly a scene missing some kind of visual flair. It all looks pretty great especially on an IMAX screen but at times it looks like a computer threw up on the screen with all the CGI on display and barring some dodgy effects shot it all hangs together pretty well.
Any scene set in Tomorrowland certainly looks the part with advanced technology flying around and the whole thing generally looking like something of a Utopia. In concept it was certainly very solid and the film does a great job of evoking the sense of wonder and excitement that people are supposed to feel when on a ride. There are some really standout shots such as a memorable sequence involving the Eiffel Tower and the various journeys through Tomorrowland.
Unfortunately the plot of the film lets it down quite a bit as it moves along too slowly to remain compelling for too long. It feels like the characters are being led to the next effects driven exposition dump with very little of it managing to be interesting for very long. There is too much emphasis on telling the audience what’s going on rather than showing it.
The biggest problem I had with the story was that it seems to rely too heavily on a mystery that never had the emphasis it needed to capture the imagination. In most cases the mechanics of the story were only mysterious because characters were being purposely cryptic when talking to each other. Cinemasins will have a field day with this one as much of the dialogue hinges on using vague pronouns to prompt questions. There were lots of references to being able to fix “it” without explaining what “it” is until later in the story for example. Being deliberately vague like that only serves to slow the story down for no real purpose other than filling out the running time and giving characters excuses to go onto the next thing.
Another issue is that the film becomes a little too preachy towards the end. There’s a really obvious apparently Earth shattering environmental message that beats the audience over the head with the fact that our planet has significant man made problems. It has been told with greater sophistication elsewhere so this doesn’t win any prizes for promoting the idea of being environmentally conscious.
I found the film to be lacking in any sort of significant antagonist. It did feel like it was building to something like that at one point but never gets there in a way that feels in any way satisfying. In a lot of ways the narrative simply whimpers out at the end.
It would be easy to dismiss most of these criticisms as the film being for kids but beyond the visual spectacle I don’t see there being too much for kids to enjoy. It’s all so oddly paced that it tends to take a while for it to get to that so I could see children with short attention spans drifting out of it. I was on the verge of doing it a few times so I can only imagine what it would be like for a 12 year old.
One thing that the film doesn’t slouch on is the cast who all do a really good job. Britt Robertson’s Casey Newton is a good character and Robertson plays her really well. It would have been her easy to make her the annoying idealist but she never quite crosses that line despite being close to it a few times. She carries the story well and turns in a really solid performance throughout. Some of the dialogue she has is really hammy but she does the best she can.
George Clooney is always solid but his character wasn’t the best developed. He goes from being an eccentric cynic to a hero in no time flat. There was no real mid point where his character faces any kind of turning point that would have this reawakening make logical sense. Literally he’s one way in another scene and practically the opposite in the next. I found it really jarring but Clooney does a good job with what he’s got for the most part. He certainly handles the frequent info dumps well.
The best character for me was Raffey Cassidy’s Athena. She serves as the enabler for the plot but there’s a little more to her than meets the eye. Cassidy makes her confident yet vulnerable when she needs to be and it’s easy to believe that she doesn’t quite match how she looks physically. Her scenes with the other characters were always fun to watch.
It’s a shame that Hugh Laurie’s Nix was so wasted here. It looked like he was going to be a layered antagonist at one point but he didn’t have the opportunity to shine in the way that he should have. If more time had been spent building up the connection between Nix and Clooney’s Frank Walker this part of the film might have been a lot stronger. Instead Nix serves as another exposition platform which Laurie handles well enough but it doesn’t make the character any more interesting.
Brad Bird handles the action really capably. It’s been proven that he can do it in live action after Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and this film seems to show that it was no fluke. Everything is coherent and well shot with some tension thrown in now and again. It’s a shame that the stronger elements don’t do enough to offset the weaker ones.
A mediocre effort that is very difficult to recommend due to some really significant weaknesses bringing the whole experience down.
Visually the film looks great with some really striking visuals that manage to hang together really well. There are some dodgy effects but these are relatively few and far between.
The narrative is a bit of a mess with too much emphasis on a lazy mystery that wouldn’t exist if the characters simply talked properly. There are too many vague pronouns like “it” being thrown around without explaining what “it” is until much later. The film also attempts to preach about being environmentally conscious but it just comes across as heavy handed and really beats the audience over the head with the message rather than exploring it in any significant way.
I found the whole thing too poorly paced to be compelling. There were long stretches of tedium before getting to something vaguely interesting. The film also relies on effects driven exposition dumps in place of compelling storytelling. Too much of the film tells us what’s going on instead of showing us.
A lack of a significant antagonist lets things down majorly as well. It did feel as if it was heading that way but whimpers out towards the end. Arguably most of the criticisms could be countered by saying that the film is for kids and therefore shouldn’t be held to the same standard but I could really see kids zoning out at the long stretches of non events that plague the film throughout. I was on the verge so I can’t imagine how bored your average 12 year old would have been.
The cast all do a great job with what they’re given. Britt Robertson’s Casey Newton leads the film well and never crosses over into being too annoyingly idealistic while George Clooney’s Frank handles the exposition ably but suffers from too little character development. Raffey Cassidy’s Athena is the standout though as she is the most interesting character around.
Hugh Laurie’s Nix merely serves as another voice to provide information. It’s a shame as he seemed compelling to begin with but never quite gets there. It’s such a waste of a talented actor.
It’s a very flawed film that doesn’t really hold the interest for too long. Disney should be applauded for trying to make something that isn’t connected to anything else outside of a Disney theme park. In a slew of summer adaptations this does at least stand out but it’s a shame it didn’t come out any better than this.