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This is a movie that was enveloped in a lot of secrecy when it was first announced. We had no idea what it would be about! When we heard the title, Tomorrowland, for the first time, we assumed it had something to do with the section in the Disney theme parks of the same name. The only thing we really knew and were pinning our hopes on was that the director was going to be Brad Bird of Pixar fame.
Unfortunately, when the film was released, it got mixed reviews and didn’t do all that well in the box office. Yet, there were still some Disney fans who said that this film was actually a treasure that audiences just didn’t appreciate. So, what do I think about the film? Do I agree with the overall critics and think the film is a mixed bag? Or do I agree with the others who say that this film is actually quite underrated? Let’s find out! Let’s take a look at Tomorrowland!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the movie begins, we see the Disney logo sporting a very futuristic-looking version of the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
We then cut to an older, grizzled man and a teenage girl, Frank Walker and Casey Newton, played respectively by George Clooney and Britt Robertson, talking into a camera. Frank speaks first and mentions how bad the world is getting what with wars, famine, global warming, etc. We even see a countdown ticking in the background hinting at something catastrophic. Frank assures us though that things weren’t always like this and he flashbacks to when he was a kid at the 1964 World’s Fair. Forgive me as I cry like a fanboy from hearing the There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow song playing in the background!
Young Frank is at the World’s Fair to enter an invention into a competition there. He has invented a jetpack that would allow its user to soar into the sky and fly over the people beneath him. The problem though is that it doesn’t particularly work. Not surprisingly, one of the heads of the competition, a David Nix, played by Hugh Laurie, turns Frank away.
A young girl (presumably Nix’s daughter), however , notices something in Frank and is convinced that Frank isn’t a complete failure. The girl, Athena, played by Raffey Cassidy, goes up to Frank later on and slips him a Tomorrowland pin. She tells him to take it and follow her and Mr. Nix into the It’s a Small World ride (an exhibit at the Fair) without letting Mr. Nix see him. Frank, curious as he is, accepts this and sneaks aboard the ride. Hold on as I cry like a fanboy from hearing the It’s a Small World song!
Further into the ride, Frank comes across a scanner that scans his Tomorrowland pin which results in a secret passageway in the ride to be opened. Frank’s boat then follows this passageway until he comes upon a sort of transport device. It’s like an elevator, but after Frank tests it out, he realizes that it’s a teleportation device. Frank has just traveled not to another place, but to another dimension! And in this dimension is a futuristic-looking city with scientific marvels and brilliant inventions. This place is called Tomorrowland.
Frank also sees Athena there with Mr. Nix. Athena’s glad to see Frank and after seeing that Frank has made it here, Mr. Nix allows Frank to stay. Apparently, Mr. Nix is one of the big heads in charge of Tomorrowland.
This is where the flashback ends with Frank saying how everything went wrong later on. It’s now Casey’s turn to tell her story. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s been interested in science and learned a lot from her father, who works for NASA.
A few days previous to this exposition, Casey was arrested after being found tampering with government property. (Her father was going to be out of a job soon, so she figured if she tampered with the property at his workplace, he’d still have a job.) Fortunately, her father bailed her out, but Casey noticed something strange. When she went to retrieve her belongings, she saw among them a strange pin. It’s a Tomorrowland pin, just like the one we saw in Frank’s flashback.
However, when Casey touches the pin, the world around her changes. All she sees is a futuristic place that she has never seen before! And to top things off, only she can see it when she touches the pin; if anyone else touches the pin, nothing happens!
Intrigued by this, she continues to touch the pin throughout the day as it shows her more of this fascinating place. Sadly enough though, the pin shortly runs out of “power” and no longer allows her to see these visions! So, she heads online to find more pins like these. She discovers that a novelty store in Texas has some and she goes there to obtain them without her father knowing.
When she arrives at the store, she meets the owners of the establishment, the Gernsbacks, played by Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn. They’re very interested to know that Casey had one of these pins. They explain to Casey what it is that she saw. They explain to her that she saw Tomorrowland, a city in another dimension, built and run by all the geniuses of the world. They then want to know where Casey got the pin from. When she replies that she honestly doesn’t know, they don’t accept that answer. They reveal themselves to be androids (well, audio-animatronics, technically) and start shooting at the poor girl!
Casey tries to escape from them when all of a sudden, Athena arrives on the spot. She saves Casey before causing the novelty store to blow up thereby destroying the Gernsbacks androids.
Athena and Casey escape in a truck (with Athena driving) and as you can imagine, Casey has a whole bunch of questions that she wants answered! She, of course, is cautious of Athena, but tries her best to get information from her. Athena reveals that she is also an android (which is why she’s the same “age” now as she was in 1964), but a good one. She’s from Tomorrowland and her job was to give out the Tomorrowland pins to people she deemed worthy. What Casey saw was actually a commercial for Tomorrowland that was never broadcast because something was built in Tomorrowland that shouldn’t have been built. And Athena thought that Casey had a certain special quality to save Tomorrowland which is why she slipped the pin into her belongings earlier on.
Athena then explains to Casey that they need to drive to New York to find the one person there who can get them to Tomorrowland. That person turns out to be Frank (the George Clooney version, not the kid version). When they reach Frank’s house, Athena literally just dumps Casey at the entrance and drives off!
Upset and confused, Casey decides to meet this Frank and finds that his house is equipped with multiple satellites and weird gizmos and gadgets. When Frank sees Casey, he doesn’t want anything to do with her or Tomorrowland. But, he changes his tune when he finds out that Casey has been followed to the house by more evil androids. Frank and Casey fight off some of the androids with the help of Frank’s booby-trapped house, and they manage to escape.
When they escape, they come across Athena again who’s waiting to pick them up which makes one wonder why she just dropped Casey there to begin with and not go in herself? Well, it seems that Frank isn’t particularly fond of Athena. Remember when Frank was a kid? He and Athena got on pretty well and he started to fall in love with her. But, his heart was crushed when he realized that she was an android. This, along with Mr. Nix later banishing Frank from Tomorrowland, caused great resentment in his heart towards Athena and anything to do with Tomorrowland.
Nevertheless, Athena convinces Frank to help them get back to Tomorrowland. After some enjoyable bickering between Athena and Frank, the trio soon arrive at a sort of satellite storage place where Frank has a teleportation device set up. Don’t ask!
He then realizes that Athena has been banished from Tomorrowland too and his resentment towards her subsides a bit. They all get in the teleportation device and arrive in…the Eiffel Tower!
It’s there that Frank explains that the Eiffel Tower was built by Eiffel, Verne, Tesla, and Edison. Why? Well, it was meant to be a sort of antenna/teleportation device, of course! Yep, the Eiffel Tower transports to Tomorrowland! So, Frank’s teleportation device was actually a teleportation device to ANOTHER teleportation device! The mind boggles!
Anyway, the trio quickly get the device working when they see more evil androids on their tail. The device brings forth a rocket into which the trio enters. The rocket then launches into outer space providing a visual spectacle for Parisians nearby!
The rocket heads into space and then back to Earth traveling trans-dimensionally. Soon enough, the trio reaches Tomorrowland which brings out multiple emotions from them ranging from excitement to sad nostalgia. It’s not long before the trio are approached by Mr. Nix, who’s now Governor Nix. He is surprised to see Frank and Athena back after being banished. Frank explains to Governor Nix that Casey might be the one who can fix things.
So, what exactly is wrong? Well, it seems that years ago, Frank had developed a device that could look backwards in time at any place on Earth as well as forwards. In essence, it was like a crystal ball that could predict the future. Sadly enough, the ball predicted the destruction of Earth set for 50+ days from now. This caused Frank to lose hope in mankind which resulted in his banishment. Governor Nix also didn’t want the Earth’s citizens to come to Tomorrowland as refugees either because he felt they would have brought destruction to Tomorrowland as well. This resulted in Athena being banished as well as her mission of finding people to give pins to ended.
But, as we know, Athena continued to look for people to give the pins to and came across Casey. So what does Casey have that can save mankind? Hope! She has hope! All the time she was in school and heard her teachers saying how bad the world was getting, her response was what were they going to do to change it! It was this principle of not accepting the widely accepted truth of the “fate of the world” that made her special. And her presence is definitely seen to affect the crystal ball machine in a positive way.
She later realizes that the machine worked like an antenna sending out this principle of the world coming to an end to all the people on Earth. As a result, they’ve started believing it blindly. The way to save humanity is to shut off the machine so that people can see the reality of the situation and fix it without being brainwashed by the idea of the world ending.
It’s here that Governor Nix reveals himself to be the “villain”. You see, he was the one who made this machine give out signals to the people on Earth about their impending doom. He thought it would make people wake up and save the world. But when he saw that the people just accepted this fate, he gave up on them which is why he wanted them to die so that the people in Tomorrowland, himself mainly, to live!
A climactic battle scene then ensues resulting in the deaths of Governor Nix as well as Athena. Before Athena dies, Frank realizes that she did love him, at least, as much as an android could.
We then cut back to the present-day which is set a year after the past events. Frank and Casey have since shut down the machine resulting in people on Earth changing their views on the world. Many people, including Casey’s family, have moved to Tomorrowland. New androids have been created to do Athena’s job of finding new people to introduce Tomorrowland to. (And that countdown we saw at the beginning of the movie is nowhere in sight making me wonder that it was incredibly misleading!)
And that was Tomorrowland and…well, I kinda agree with the critics on this one.
Let’s talk about the good stuff in the movie. The ideals/themes presented were definitely something rare to see. The battle of hope trumping over “statistical predictions” being applied to the present-day was definitely an interesting element. The visuals of Tomorrowland were amazingly well-done and believable too!
And Raffey Cassidy is an AMAZING actress! Her performance was definitely the best in the film and one that I thought deserved an Oscar nomination! To see someone as young as her portray this character so believably was just awe-inspiring! This is among the best performances in a live-action Disney film that I’ve ever seen!
Now, let’s talk about the bad things. As amazing as the ideals promoted in this film were, the plot does suffer. When you think about it, not much happens in the movie. Casey meets Athena. Casey meets Frank. They all go to Tomorrowland. A short battle happens. Everything ends happily.
Not to mention that sometimes the plot was incredibly hard to follow! I too haven’t fully understood everything about the crystal ball machine. So, Frank was banished for giving up? But, isn’t that what Governor Nix did too, so why did he banish him? Wouldn’t he have let him stay? Did Frank project the idea of the world ending into the minds of the people on Earth first? Or did Governor Nix do it first? Is Governor Nix particularly that “evil”? Or at least “evil” enough to die? Why exactly was Athena banished? Couldn’t she just have ended her mission and stayed in Tomorrowland? Were the evil androids after Athena since they seemed to predate Casey’s awareness of Tomorrowland? Would it have mattered if the androids didn’t find Athena? Why is Governor Nix the same age as Frank at the end of the movie? Yeah, there’s just a lot about this movie that I don’t fully grasp.
And besides Raffey Cassidy, everyone else’s acting isn’t all that great to praise. George Clooney gives us George Clooney. Hugh Laurie gives us Hugh Laurie. Tim McGraw gives us Tim McGraw. And although Britt Robertson’s performance was good, her character is supposed to be a teenager. And it’s very hard (at least for me) to believe that Casey was indeed a teenager!
Summing up, I do believe the film is a mixed bag. They have amazing ideals to promote, but the end product isn’t all that great. I feel that it’s a diamond in the rough. Deep down inside is an amazing film ready to come out, but it needs to go through one or two more polishings first!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 27/35 = 77.14% (C+) !
The next review will be posted on June 27th.
20 thoughts on “Tomorrowland (2015)”
Yeah, this movie is definitely a mixed bag. It reminded me of Meet The Robinsons, where it has a lot of good ideas, but they aren’t executed very well.
Also, I’m surprised you never talked about how preachy the message. Every review I’ve seen of this film mentions how preachy the message is.
I guess I personally didn’t feel the film’s message was that preachy. I felt they preached it just the right amount.
Now, Zootopia: THAT I felt was extremely preachy!
I thought Zootopia was great. I liked the society it created and the message that it had. To be honest, it made making a good movie seem so easy I wonder why Pixar has dropped the ball.
I should be putting up my review in the next few weeks or so of it.
Obviously I love the film more than you (and pretty much anyone). I definitely agree that Raffey Cassidy was great! Some of your list of questions at the end are easily answered, while others are kind of irrelevant, but I won’t go into that. If you were intrigued by the movie I definitely recommend reading “Before Tomorrowland” the prequel novel by the film’s writers. It answers some questions about how Tomorrowland came to be, what its intentions were, and how it was supposed to function.
I disagree, however, about the complaint that not a lot happened in the film. I mean, you might be right, but I don’t think a movie needs to have a certain number of events to be good. In some of the best movies of all time nothing happens at all. (Seriously, go watch My Dinner with Andre, which is just two guys having dinner and talking. It’s brilliant.) I think there’s a lot in Tomorrowland, particularly thematically and ideologically, which is more interesting to me than simply a lot happening on the screen.
As for me, it’s a movie that gets better, deeper, and more emotional each time I watch it. I’m not surprised that some people call it preachy, but I don’t find that to be an issue at all. Some people say any film with a message is preachy, because people don’t want movies to have a point of view that differs from their own. (I don’t think Zootopia is preachy either, though I guess we disagree on that.) Anyway, I don’t normally plug my blog on other people’s sites, but for you or anyone interested in a deeper dive I wrote a lot about it here: https://thelovepirate.net/2015/06/10/tomorrowland-analysis-theres-a-great-big-beautiful-tomorrow-just-a-dream-away/
But I always enjoy your reviews/recaps of movies, and especially your style and sense of humor. Keep up the good work, even when we don’t agree!
Never even heard of the prequel novel before. I should check it out!
To elaborate more about not many things happening in a movie, I guess there’s two extremes. You have action movies that have so much happening in them like Transformers and then there are films that have only one thing happening like 12 Angry Men (just 12 guys in a room discussing someone’s guilty verdict). And I too agree that films with a basic plotline like 12 Angry Men can be made wonderfully. The problem that I have here is that I felt Tomorrowland was meant to be a movie in which much more happened than actually did happen, which is why I felt not much happened…if that makes sense. I don’t feel Tomorrowland was trying to do something like 12 Angry Men or something like Transformers, but it kinda got stuck somewhere in the middle where it still felt lacking. Like I said, I feel if this film had gone through 1 or 2 more revisions, it would have been simply amazing!
Oh, I didn’t think this film was preachy at all; I felt they preached just the right amount.
In the end, we may disagree, but I still don’t hate this film; a C+ is still an amicable grade, lol!
There’s a difference between pacing and scope. A movie can have a small world with small events (12 Angry Men and My Dinner with Andre are great examples), but it has to be well paced. Conflicts have to occur, no matter how small, that build tension in the story. In 12 Angry Men, those conflicts are about defining reasonable doubt and presenting a unanimous verdict; in My Dinner With Andre, they’re about repairing a friendship that’s been falling by the wayside. Things DO happen in both films, but they’re character-based, and often internal, events.
Tomorrowland has a massive scope (two parallel worlds facing destruction), a middling pace, and all of it’s character development is focused on Frank and Athena, which would ordinarily be fine, if the movie wasn’t supposed to be balanced between Frank and Casey. It’s lopsided, weirdly sluggish, and self-contradictory in places.
So, not enough events for the setting presented. Not enough shift changes, not enough small conflicts with stakes the audience cares about, not enough developments in the plots and characters to make the ending feel earned.
Are Tomorrowland’s themes important? Do we need more optimistic sci-fi in this crazy world of superhero punch-punch? Does that mean Tomorrowland gets a free pass on being a plot-hole ridden mess?
::shrugs:: different strokes for different folks. I obviously completely disagree, but we’re both entitled to our opinions. As for the themes, I would argue that they’re extremely important, and are about far more than optimism. I think there’s a big difference between Tomorrowland and superhero movies, and while I don’t think any movie should get a free pass I definitely don’t find it to be a plot-hole ridden mess. But to each his own.
Did you give Tomorrowland an A on your blog?
A+… If I could have given it a higher grade I would. It’s in my top 5 of all time.
Really interesting…did you fall in love with it after your first viewing?
I fell in love at the first unveiling of the movie, back when it was called “1952”. Or at least, when Frank finished his backstory and Casey told him, “I’m an optimist.”
Ah, thanks for putting my sentiments to words. The pacing is what I have issues with, not the scope. I just didn’t know how to describe it.
I think Tomorrowland’s themes are important as they are themes that I personally haven’t seen taught in this way before.
I had a hunch that maybe you’d agree with the critical consensus on Tomorrowland, but that is better still than finding out that you hated it.
I still stand by the majority of points that I raised in my initial review, but as time has worn on I find the negatives you highlighted to be more such as the unexplained plot points and the way it kind of comes apart in the climax, and the fact we don’t see much of Tomorrowland itself. I don’t think it deserved to bomb as hard as it did, and I hope Brad Bird can still go on to direct other live action films in the future, as well as animated films.
The fact that we didn’t see Tomorrowland much honestly was of no bother to me. But, I just didn’t like the unexplained plot points, anti-climactic ending, and overall pacing of the film.
Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t hate it too. I wish Brad Bird was still making his 1906 film based on the earthquake.
Maybe he’ll get the chance after he’s done with Incredibles 2.
He’s my No. 1 pick to direct a modern Superman film since The Iron Giant has all the makings of a great Superman story; a compassionate but indestructible alien who overcomes the fears of a paranoid world and becomes their saviour through compassion and sacrifice.
I’m with you, it was definitely a mixed bag for me too. I thought it started out really strongly, but then I didn’t love the middle/ending. It just didn’t do much for me personally.
Yeah, I guess it just isn’t my proverbial cup of tea.
It occurs to me that Kevin Lima had great success with ENCHANTED (and at least 102 DALMATIANS was a *commercial* success, if not critical), and Rob Minkoff’s STUART LITTLE fared well, too, while Brad Bird seems to have swung and missed with this one.
Well, I guess it just goes to prove that some film directors with a background in animation have better luck in live action than others…
Yeah, Brad Bird also did Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.