We’re about to reach the tipping point of the summer and it’s not even the end of May. In a summer crowded with sequels like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Pitch Perfect 2, reboots like Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World, remakes like Poltergeist and Entourage, a TV show blown up for the big screen, along comes Tomorrowland, a big budget film based on an original idea.
Not every film this year is a sequel, prequel or the like, but Tomorrowland, with a budget topping out at $190 million, is the most expensive original film to come down the pike this year.
Borrowing its name from the futuristic themed land found at Disney theme parks, the movie stars George Clooney and Britt Robertson as a former boy genius and gifted teenager who, according to the press materials, “travel to a place somewhere in time and space only known as Tomorrowland where their actions directly affect the world and themselves.”
Disney is deliberately keeping plot details under wraps, hoping the allure of mysterious trailers will draw people in. It’s the opposite of the usual strategy of showcasing the film’s high lights in a two-minute promo.
I was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California—imagine the Disney version of Comic Con—in 2013 when Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof unveiled the name of the movie, but little else. In a splashy presentation they claimed a “dusty old box” labelled 1952 found in the Disney Imagineering archives had inspired the story. Containing a mysterious mishmash of items, including a 1928 copy of Amazing Stories magazine, a photograph of Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart allegedly taken after her disappearance, a short animated documentary and an unidentified metal object, they said the idea of the film is to ask “what if these mystery clues were real?”
Teasing the potential audience into buying tickets is an intriguing but risky idea. It’s a risk Bird was willing to take. He turned down the chance to direct Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens to make Tomorrowland, saying, “it’s rare to do a film of this size that’s original, so those opportunities can’t be missed either.”
But will it be an opportunity that moviegoers will embrace? Suggesting that Hollywood only feels comfortable with movies that are presold via brand recognition is an understatement. Whether it is a familiar title with a number added or any movie from the mighty Marvel stable, the big studios aren’t in the habit of taking chances and it’s not their fault. It’s ours.
One of the main complaints I hear from people is that there are no interesting movies in release and yet Furious 7 and Age of Ultron have grossed amounts equal to the GNP of some small nations. By supporting big budget “branded” movies we send the message that original stories don’t interest us, only ones that give us what we expect.
While we have the chance why not take a chance on a movie that takes a risk? That’s the tipping point. Check out Tomorrowland or Ex Machina. If sci fi isn’t your thing, how about Aloha or Inside Out? There is room for all kinds of movies but why not vote with your feet and let the studios know that their steady diet of sequels, prequels and reboots is quickly nearing its best by date.