Since The Iron Giant, Brad Bird has been a fan favorite director, and since The Incredibles, folks have been wanting to see him take on a fanatical live action movie. His last live-action movie, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the best of the franchise, injection heart and spectacle into a fantastic action movie. So when Disney announced that he’d be teaming with noted film writer Damon Lindelof, I was cautiously optimistic. I’m not the biggest Lindelof fan, and I’m certainly not a fan of the “mystery box” marketing that comes with many of his films and, which, unfortunately, TOMORROWLAND adopted.
One of our long standing gags on Funnybooks is that Disney doesn’t seem to have much success with their homegrown live-action franchises. Though recent films Iike Maleficent and Cinderella have certainly done well, the more “boy-centric” franchises have received lukewarm reception – John Carter and Tron being prime examples. So I find it both odd and frustrating that Disney kept so much about TOMORROWLAND secret. Frankly, I didn’t know what the heck the film was about until I saw an extended preview at Epcot in Orlando recently. The marketing campaign didn’t want to spoil a lot of the film and, unfortunately, as a result, I wasn’t terribly excited about seeing it, nor does it seem were a lot of people.
Outside of the marketing campaign though, how is TOMORROWLAND, and what’s it about? Well, without going too spoiler heavy, (but certainly more than the trailers), TOMORROWLAND is the story of a young girl who gets recruited on a mission to save both our world and the alternate dimension of TOMORROWLAND. To do so, she has to team up with a cranky older guy (George Clooney) and a resident of the other dimension, and avoid soldiers who are trying to prevent them from doing it.
If it sounds a bit generic, it’s because the concept, taken by itself, really isn’t anything new. But TOMORROWLAND is actually quite an enjoyable film. Does it deserve to be a runaway hit? Sadly, no. There are quite a few flaws in the film that will hold it back (besides the aforementioned marketing). Chiefly, the film’s pacing errs on the side of a storytelling structure that I grew up with in the 80’s. Which is to say…it’s not the fastest paced movie and at times downright slow. While that works for me, a lot of today’s audiences need a bit of a quicker pace, and in all honesty, a little trim could have helped with that. Also, the villain of the piece takes a bit too long to introduce, as does actually getting to the title’s location.
What worked about TOMORROWLAND? The acting is uniformly great all around, especially the two main actresses. The special effects are fantastic, which is welcome in times where special effects in summer blockbusters all too often feel rushed. The story is fun, and the all-ages adventure should appeal to everyone in the family. While the villain of the film is dispatched in a way that was surprisingly harsh, TOMORROWLAND really feels like a film where the villain will see the error of his ways and become a good guy (spoiler: that doesn’t happen, but it should have). It’s got good action, and a feel that’s all-too-Disney, for better or worse. The film does get a little preachy (and unfortunately, self-fulfilling) when it says that people enjoye apocalyptic entertainment more than something that’ll make them feel good. And maybe that’s the best review I can give TOMORROWLAND – it’s not a product of our current times and interests and isn’t that what escapist entertainment is about? I do recommend seeing it in IMAX for some breathtaking visuals.
Overall – a fun, family adventure that may hold your interest more than your kid’s
Score – 3/5 (successful, but certainly not exceptional)