Tomorrowland was created by Walt Disney as a section of Disneyland that opened in California in 1955. The theme park was also populated with Adventureland, Frontierland and Fantasyland. It was a time when Americans imagined an optimistic future. Over the years since though, the public’s view of what was to come grew darker. That shift in thinking intrigued co-writer and co-producer Damon Lindelof (writer and co-creator on the TV series Lost) and he looked at how the future could be presented in movie form.
The story of Tomorrowland started with a box labeled “1952,” supposedly discovered by accident in the Disney Studios’ archives. The mystery box contained all sorts of fascinating models and blueprints, photographs and letters related to the inception of Tomorrowland and the 1964 World’s Fair. Lindelof began to imagine that the contents of the box were a guide to a secret story that nobody knew. But if so, what would that story be? And the most obvious answer to him was that there really was a place called Tomorrowland, that was not a theme park but existed somewhere in the real world. Walt Disney himself was a futurist who believed that technology held the key to building a better world. He also believed in technology as a means of creating great entertainment. So technological achievement and endeavour are at the heart of the plot for Tomorrowland the movie.
Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (George Clooney), now jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, will cross paths. Both have unearthed a secret, enigmatic place that is Tomorrowland. It is out of most people’s reach, but filled with possibilities. As far as Frank is concerned those possibilities have dried up, but Casey couldn’t disagree more. They are brought together by a brilliant child (Raffey Cassidy) who is a robot possessing artificial intelligence, while a fly in the ointment is Hugh Laurie (Mr Pip and TV’s House).
While I thought the idea was sound, I wasn’t sold on its execution, unlike, for instance, the highly engaging Saving Mr Banks, aka the Mary Poppins story about PL Travers. I get the madcap adventures part of it, but thought it was interminably long and found myself distracted as a result.
Britt Robertson, who we saw recently in The Longest Ride, opposite Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott, is a 25-year-old meant to be playing a teenager and as cute and bubbly as she is, credibility was lacking. I also found something a little creepy about her association with a man more than three times her age, curmudgeon though he might be (and I am talking about Clooney’s character here). There was a decided lack of chemistry between the pair.
At a stretch there was a little bit of Back to the Future in there, along with the endless possibilities presented by Disneyland the TV show I watched during the ’60s. But while the effects were impressive, I thought director and co-writer Brad Bird gave us a mixed bag of tricks with a saccharine sweet ending.
Rated PG, Tomorrowland scores a 5½ to 6 out of 10.
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Hugh Laurie
Releasing in cinemas: 28 May 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television