A surefire way to tell if a movie is any good is by keeping track of the physical reactions it triggers. The conclusion of Tomorrowland had me desperately trying to control my sobbing as I was surrounded by critics (they are judgy people, it’s in the job description).
Next to those dystopian scenarios that are all the rage today (Mad Max: Fury Road, young-adult franchises using teens as canon fodder), Tomorrowland is an anomaly. Here is a movie that stands for science and optimism. It doesn’t even question matters like evolution, social inequality or climate change (they’re a given). It targets those who know about mankind’s most pressing problems and don’t do anything about it.
It also works just fine as a sci-fi adventure for kids, in case you’re wondering.
Tomorrowland refers to a place in a parallel universe in which science and technology unfold free of political and economic constrains, with the betterment of mankind as only goal (it’s a liberal nirvana.) Unfortunately, most of humanity is stuck in this ailing world, including Casey (Britt Robertson), the film’s lead.
The willful teenage daughter of a NASA engineer, Casey is an optimist at heart. She believes science has the capacity to right all the wrongs in the planet, but lacks the agency to turn things around. Her “can do” attitude gets Casey in trouble with the law, but also in touch with a portal to Tomorrowland. Increasingly outlandish escapades ensue.
You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned the putative star of the movie, George Clooney, yet. It’s really Britt Robertson’s film and she carries with ease. In fact, Tomorrowland skews heavily towards younger audiences, while remaining interesting for adults most of the time. Clooney has the crabby mentor role and it suits him. He can go from cruel to warm in record time. That said, the true scene-stealer is pint-size 12 year-old Raffey Cassidy, who plays Tomorrowland’s equivalent of Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit.
Tomorrowland has a weakness: As action escalates, the film becomes increasingly (and unnecessarily) complicated. Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus), while a superb character builder, tends to paint himself into corners. Thankfully, director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, the fourth Mission: Impossible) unique visual sense keeps the audience invested even when the plot deadens.
There is something to be said about a movie that openly criticizes funding cuts for NASA. Tomorrowland is not shy about taking sides and deserves credit for that. Four starry-eyed prairie dogs.
Tomorrowland is now playing at Cineplex Southland Mall and Galaxy Cinemas.