The movie begins in the recent past and the distant future. Precious child inventor Frank (played as a child by Thomas Robinson, Clooney as an adult) has made his way to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, jet pack in hand. There he meets Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a young girl who slips him a mysterious pin that allows him access to Tomorrowland, a future world where all the modern problems have been eradicated.
Years later a similar pin lands in the hands of Casey (Britt Robertson) the daughter of a NASA engineer and all round smarty-pants. Tracing the origin of the pin leads her to Athena, Frank and a mysterious world that has changed somewhat from Frank’s youth. “When I was a kid,” says Frank, “the future was different.”
Director Brad Bird has made a big, handsome movie, ripe with imagination and eye-popping images that attempts to create the same kind of nostalgic awe as vintage Spielberg. He comes close but misses by a hair. Instead he draws out the story for two-hours-and-ten-minutes, taking too long to get to the fairly meagre why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along-and-save-the-world premise. The pacing feels like it is from another era when audiences were more content to sit back and drink in the atmosphere.
The realization of the future world is impressive. From the interconnected swimming pool pods to the special effects—You will believe George Clooney can fly!—to the Jetson’s style architecture it’s an eyeful. “Will you stop being amazed!” Frank says with exasperation, and no, we may not as long as Bird is entertaining the eye. It’s only when he tries to engage the intellect that the movie falters.
Classic sci fiction has never shied away from Saving the Earth and “Tomorrowland” should be congratulated for it’s world-is-going-to-heck point of view, but (MILD SPOILER ALERT) its preachy ‘The world could get better but no one is willing to put in the effort,” stance and ‘The future belongs to the dreamers” attitude it is naive.
“Tomorrowland” is the rare kind of summer movie, one that values its originality and ideas. Too bad it isn’t as forward thinking as the name would suggest.