Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond

If, like me some people, you are thirty-ten years old and a victim of the cruel twist of nature that is male pattern baldness, and you carry upon your shoulders the weight of cynicism that forces you to sneer at pretty much everything, and you feel like the best life has to offer has been and gone, and you have more or less abandoned all hope for a bright future, then good news! The excessively-titled Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is here to rekindle those feelings of youth, innocence and hope you thought were lost forever. Don't worry though: those feelings won't last long, destined as they are to be almost entirely negated by something we may be tempted to refer to as The Lindelof Effect.
Quite the track record, Linders!
(Actually I quite like Star Trek Into Darkness but don't tell anyone)

But more on that later. For now, imagine a film in which George Clooney hops about between this world and another which resembles a mad episode of Futurama, accompanied by two young girls, one of whom is an idealistic, principled teenager and the other a creepy eleven-year-old with remarkable ass-kicking skillz. Now stop imagining it, because that film exists! Well done you, it's as if you willed it into being with only your puny human mind! It's that kind of inventiveness that Tomorrowland celebrates in spades: it's a shrine to the infinite possibilities of ideas and imagination, and has both coming out of its ears for its ridiculously enjoyable middle hour.

But more on that later. Lurching back to the first act, director Brad Bird and his co-writer Damon Lindelof build a teasing mystery out of Clooney's character as a young whippersnapper who invents the jetpack in 1964, his connection with Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a faintly appalling brat who magically transports him to a parallel dimension where his resourceful nature can be nurtured, and Casey (Britt Robertson, a kind of Diet Jennifer Lawrence), a present-day late teen intent on fixing the world's plethora of ills. Few clues are divulged in these early stages as to what's really going on, but Bird and Lindelof keep you entertained enough not to worry about it, because surely everything will become clear soon, right?

But more on that later. That mid-section, let's not dick about, is an absolute firework display of crazy-brilliant fantastickery. From the moment Casey visits a geek emporium (suspiciously well-stocked with Iron Giant and Incredibles memorabilia), Tomorrowland blasts off for Planet Joy and orbits it for a solid hour, fuelled by some of the wackiest shit seen on screens this year. Not least among the air-punchingly fun incidents are a game of cat-and-mouse inside Clooney's Wallace And Gromit-style house, and an episode involving the Eiffel Tower which gave me a smile so massive that the rest of my face was sucked into it like a black hole of glee. Furthermore, watching Clooney, Robertson and Cassidy bicker their way through the film like a dysfunctional family where the youngest child is the most senior (it's complicated) is a rare treat, and to see two young women play as important a role in a megabucks studio tentpole flick as an older man is immensely satisfying. Between this and Mad Max: Fury Road, those men's rights activists really are going to have their suspiciously sticky hands full.
Come the final act, though, when the realisation dawns that although we've just been on the equivalent of every ride in the park we still don't really know what the point is, The Lindelof Effect kicks in. Tomorrowland starts to feel like it's been barrelling towards a climax it hasn't quite worked out yet, like some kind of popular, enigmatic TV series that had loads of great ideas but a disappointing, half-arsed finale. Possibly it was set on an island or something. Characters' motivations become fuzzy, unwelcome clich├ęs and clumsy plot devices turn up and the conclusion is confusing at best and worrying at worst. It's easy to point the movie blogger's finger at Lindelof given his past crimes, but Brad Bird needn't think he's getting away scott-free; I demand a marked improvement in storytelling by the time The Incredibles 2 rolls out.

It's a real pity, because the ride was so much fun: a deliberate and faithful translation of a shit-hot theme park attraction where the corkscrews and sheer drops sadly give way to a long, straight length of track at the end. Tomorrowland's messages are admirable - that creativity, whether successful or not, inspires others to create, and that you should never forget the wonder of simple things like gazing at a clear night sky with a wide-eyed innocence. It's an Amblinesque counterpart to JJ Abrams' Super 8 (another film that failed to fulfil its promise) and, like that film, will probably appeal enormously to kids capable of just enjoying what's going on in front of them without worrying about what it all means or whether it makes sense like some boring fucking grown-up. For the rest of us those cynical, middle-aged slapheads, Tomorrowland remains a mostly thrilling but ultimately frustrating experience.


  1. Good review. It needed to be 30 minutes shorter though.

  2. Reminded me more of the Jetsons than Futurama!