Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate, Young Adult
Main Performers: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie
Director: Brad Bird
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Run Time: 130 min
MPAA Rating: PG
Casey Newton is a brainy, idealistic teenager whose dad has to bail her out of jail after she gets arrested trying to sabotage the demolition of a NASA launchpad near her home. As her personal effects are returned to her at the police station, she comes into possession of a mysterious T-shaped lapel pin that, when touched, enables her to enter the world of Tomorrowland, an alternate dimension populated by a handpicked group of scientists, artists, and innovators who have been happily inventing and creating their dreams since the early 1900’s. Casey takes off on a journey to gain permanent access to this utopia, only to find that Tomorrowland is no longer what it once was due to an apocalyptic doomsday device invented by another young Tomorrowland recruit, Frank (played by George Clooney), now a disenchanted middle-aged exile. With the help of Athena, a robot-cyborg recruiter and guide who looks like a 12-year-old girl, Casey teams up with Frank to reach Tomorrowland and save the world from his device, racing against the countdown for the apocalypse and the army of evil robots sent to stop them. They eventually discover that the doomsday device is nothing more than a transceiver that broadcasts pessimistic brainwaves to people, making them believe that world destruction is an inevitability and therefore making it a certainty. Despite the opposition of Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie), the man behind Frank’s exile and the transceiver’s continued operation, Casey cooks up a plan to destroy the device and stop the self-fulfilling prophecy. At the end of the film Governor Nix perishes in his attempt on Frank’s life, Athena sacrifices herself to blow up the transceiver, and Frank and Casey go on to re-open Tomorrowland to public recruitment, sending a new generation of robot children out into the world to “find the dreamers.”
Tomorrowland is a fun, family friendly film that has some great imaginative scenes but nevertheless really struggles with the story. Watching Frank’s creatively booby-trapped house dispatch the squad of evil robots is very entertaining, as is the memorabilia shop where Casey initially encounters Athena and is attacked, and the moment the Eiffel Tower splits in half to launch an antique rocket ship. The sequence of Casey being initially introduced to Tomorrowland is particularly wonderful, with the futuristic monorail, floating swimming pools, and flying jetpacks. Unfortunately, we never see anything like that for the rest of the movie, not even when the group reaches Tomorrowland properly and Governor Nix is no longer a problem. All in all, the premise of the actual Tomorrowland is never fully explored. It’s like a hook that never delivers. Instead the story focuses on preaching the evils of pessimism and “doomsday thinking,” outright telling viewers not to dwell on negativity lest it become the only reality there is. Despite its flaws, however, the great visuals, strong acting, and creative premise make this a movie that children will undoubtedly enjoy.