DISNEY STRUCK gold in 2003 when it turned one of its theme park rides into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that went on to gross $3.7 billion. Since then it has been looking for a similar live action franchise and not had much luck.
Disney tried it in 2012 with John Carter and it was a huge disaster then again in 2013 with The Lone Ranger and again huge disaster - and this time a pretty racist one. However Disney is allright for cash at the minute so is back again and with director Brad Bird in tow. Bird has a knack for turning seemingly uninteresting projects into classics. Ratatouille and The Incredibles were massive successes for Disney - he also directed 1999’s under appreciated The Iron Giant - and Disney is hoping he will do something similar here.
The script for Tomorrowland is written by the much maligned Damon Lindoff. Lindoff, of Lost fame, has not had as much luck on the big screen as he had on the smaller one (if you didn’t see the series he adapted on Sky Atlantic, The Leftovers, last year check it out, an absolute masterpiece ). But maybe here with a more than competent director and a pretty great cast he will have some more success on the big screen.
Tomorrowland opens at the 1964 World's Fair. A young inventor named Frank Walker enters an invention contest and while he does not win he is rewarded with a T shaped pin by a slightly creepy young girl. He follows her to a funfair ride and from there they are transported to a future city that looks like a live action episode of The Jetsons. Then we cut to present day where we meet Casey. Casey is troubled by the doom and gloom being spelled out by her scientist father and her high school teachers. Global warming, recessions, and, the disappearance of bees signal the doom for humanity (and if not doom, a lack of delicious honey ) and when she quizzes them on what we can do about it, they stare back at her with vacant looks and no answers. She’s determined to take action herself. Soon enough she comes in possession of a T pin. Touching the pin she is transported to an alternate reality where the earth has been saved by the best and brightest. From there she meets the creepy young girl from earlier and is lead to a older Frank Walker played by George Clooney, where he reluctantly joins her on her quest to save the bees and the ice caps.
I’m honestly a little disappointed in this movie. It is a really unusually plotted movie, the first act seems to go on for three quarters of the film and it wraps up so fast you barely have time to register what the final solution is. The special effects are a little cheap looking (particularly an opening scene with a jetpack that looks like a Playstation 2 game ) and the future itself just looks like a knock off Apple store. There is a good message for kids here about not giving up on the planet and that apathy will lead us down a path we simply cannot go. However, even for a kids' movie it is a little heavy handed.
It is a very worthy message but the final act lacks the sense of fun or humour to be a truly great kids' movie. It really does not work as a film for adults to enjoy either, but maybe we put too much pressure on kids' movies to entertain adults as well as children these days. Not everything can be Toy Story or The Princess Bride. There is a market for live action adventure movies, like Jumanji or even the first Pirates movie but sadly Tomorrowland does not reach those standards.