Tomorrowland is a sorely underrated and great movie; a pure delight, that bucks the trend of the 21st-century mantra of being grim, gritty, and grounded.
Tomorrowland (subtitled A World Beyond in some regions) is a 2015 American science-fiction mystery adventure film, directed and co-written by Brad Bird. Bird co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Damon Lindelof, from an original story treatment by Bird, Lindelof and Jeff Jensen.
The film stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key. In the movie’s narrative, a disillusioned genius inventor and a teenage science enthusiast, embark to an ambiguous alternate and future dimension known as “Tomorrowland,” where their actions directly affect the world and themselves.
Revisiting this film the other night, reminded me how much I love it and what a pure delight it is. Tomorrowland’s retro styling reminds us this is a science fiction fantasy the way it was meant to be, conveying the wonder, and delightful events of a story reminiscent of a Jules Verne adventure.
Tomorrowland is a visually beautiful, and impressive film, with a positive message about fixing a future that has distanced itself from the past, and assumed a pessimistic attitude about the inevitability of the fate of the world, much like the reality we live in today.
The film’s message is meant to remind us that all it takes to build a better future is for each of us to care enough to try and make it one. Never letting the constant barrage of doom and gloom in the media make us forget about all the wonder and beauty there is in the world, and that infinite possibilities abound.
It’s a reminder to take action now. A good, noble, and ambitious agenda for a genre film, but one well worth undertaking, and one that it tackles well. All too often science fiction shirks its higher calling of being socially relevant, aspiring only to be entertaining.
Unlike the grim, gritty, and grounded approach to science fiction that has become the mantra of 21st-century sci-fi films, this one is upbeat, optimistic, and very amusing in its scope.
Tomorrowland depicts its eponymous location as a visually retro-styled futuristic city similar to a vision of the future from the way it would look in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or even the 60’s decades of the last century. The movie depicts the future we all dreamt about as kids, and it bears strong similarities to the jetpacks, robots and flying cars filled vision of the future inhabited by the Jetsons (1962-1963) TV show, which also had a retro styling.
It starts with Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a brilliant, and curious girl with a knack for engineering who discovers a pin that transports her to the titular place that becomes her obsession. It’s not just a pin; it’s an invitation. Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a girl robot, is behind this and giving Casey the pin sets her ingenious plan in motion. Athena is on a mission, and it’s one she never let’s go, until the end.
Athena is not your usual science fiction robot; she’s a reminder that robots, and the technology they represent, can result in more than killing machines that serve as the instruments of our doom. They can also be the instruments of our salvation. Companions, and guides that have the potential to be an important part of our achieving a better world.
The story the film tells is an excellent, memorable, and delightful blend of action, adventure, and discovery that also manages to squeeze in a tender story about young love, and misunderstandings that result in making a person into an older more bitter version of what they once were.
That’s what happens to Frank Walker (George Clooney) after his experiences in Tomorrowland as a young boy. Frank had his first encounter with falling in love when he met Athena, who he didn’t realize was a robot until he had fallen for her. I don’t blame him; I fell in love with Athena in this movie too.
Athena is the hero of this film, smart and pragmatic, she brings Frank and Casey together, which acts as a catalyst to bring about the events that end up saving the world from the power-mad manipulations of Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie), the story’s villain.
Frank and Casey are heroes in this story too, and the rapport they establish supplies the film with some of its most endearing qualities, as they bicker back and forth through almost the entire thing. Without them, it wouldn’t, and couldn’t, have the happy ending the story eventually achieves, but it’s Athena that makes the ultimate sacrifice. Athena is more than the sum of her parts, and she’s got more heart than most of her human counterparts.
Speaking of robots, this movie’s got a lot of them in all shapes and sizes. From the killer robots, Casey encounters in the comic book store, to the government agent versions that show up at Frank’s, and try to kill them. These events lead to the adventurous and perilous journey that results in Frank and Casey experiencing a series of circumstances that includes a ride in a bathtub and eventually leads to an exciting trip on a beautifully styled retro rocket ship fired out of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a voyage that allows them to cross dimensions and travel back to the future that Tomorrowland is.
Tomorrowland is a movie with a lot of heart, some highly amusing moments, and a charm all its own. The entertaining and adventurous narrative has a message of hope and optimism about the dubious future we all face. A message well worth revisiting again and again that to never forget all the wonder there is all around us, and that to see the world with fresh eyes, not clouded by pessimism, daily, could be the most important thing we can do.