In the middle of a particularly rushed sequence of Tomorrowland, the new live-action Disney film by Brad Bird, George Clooney’s character asks “do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” A line like this undoubtedly hints at a self-awareness on the part of the screenwriters, as it accurately sums of the spirit of this movie’s pace and passion. Though it does have some jumbled storytelling and a stout run time, Tomorrowland overcomes its flaws with a sophisticated and original narrative backed with top-rate visuals and an infectious sense of imagination and wonder.
The movie follows peppy teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), the daughter of a NASA engineer who is arrested for disabling explosives at a shuttle demolition site. When she collects her personal items after being bailed out of jail, she finds a pin with a “T” insignia that transports her to a futuristic world upon contact. This leads her on an adventure to uncover the mystery of this new found universe with the help of inventor and previous resident of Tomorrowland Frank Walker (George Clooney), who is also looking for a way back to the high-tech, seemingly utopian city.
The first glimpses of the cutting edge metropolis that is Tomorrowland are the most rewarding, with a crisp retro-future style and a dazzling attention to detail. Jetpacks are a common point of reference for the effects sequences, which is a clever way of bringing together old ideas of what the future might look like with modern ideas of the practicality of such a device. But this movie also offers up its own fun concepts of possible future development, including a multi-level take on the current “infinity pool” and free floating automations that erect skyscapers in minutes.
These fresh ideas coincide with the central message of the film, which encourages the dreamers and thinkers of the world to shun the world’s pervading notions of pessimism and continue on the path of progress instead. Especially for a Disney film, this is a genuinely uplifting and surprisingly old-fashioned conceit that deserves praise for being about as wholesome as a summer blockbuster will allow for these days. Even though the movie’s points do get heavy-handed down the stretch, especially in a third act monologue by Hugh Laurie’s character, I appreciated the fact that it didn’t dumb down its content just to appeal to the typical “family adventure” crowd.
Even on a more surface level, there’s also plenty to enjoy beyond the story as well. Both Clooney and Robertson give heartfelt and inspired performances, while also showcasing a playful chemistry that thankfully steers clear of creepiness. Bird favorite Michael Giacchino conjures up another winning musical score that gives the jetpack flying scenes an extra zing. All within the package of a modern family entertainment, Tomorrowland takes the futuristic ideas of the past and the hopes for the future and puts them all on display with an original sense of reverence and wonder.