Tomorrowland (2015) Movie Review: An Ambitious, Thoughtful Family Flick

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each mind-blowing visual.

Take a Drink: during each out of the box moment.

Do a Shot: for each one-liner Frank has.

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Always a prankster…

Take a Drink: during each surprisingly heart-warming moment.

Do a Shot: each time Hugh Laurie looks pissed.

Which is all the time...
Which is all the time…

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) – 

As far as their live-action films go, Disney has not always had the best success. Sure, they do now own both Marvel and Star Wars, but the projects they have produced themselves have been very hit or miss. Ever since the smash success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney has been trying desperately to recreate that film’s balance of action and humor. However, these attempts have been mostly unsuccessful.

Attempts at starting new franchises with The Lone Ranger, John Carter, and Prince of Persia all fell incredibly flat, with the trio ranging from formulaic to just plain odd. Even an attempt at bringing black a classic franchise with Tron: Legacy was mostly a mixed bag, with the technical accomplishments masking a lackluster story and weak characters. With the formula not working, it seems like Disney is trying to go more out of the box with their latest, Tomorrowland, which  for the most part is quite successful.

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Two and a half hours of my life I can’t get back…

Tomorrowland follows Casey, a teenage girl seeking answers once she receives a mysterious pin. Turns out, the pin is a way to get to Tomorrowland, a place where the world’s greatest thinkers and creators work without dealing with issues. With the help of Frank, a former member of this fantastic place, the two travel to get to Tomorrowland to save the world.

A Toast 

As to be expected with a big production, Tomorrowland is a great-looking film. Much of the film’s massive 190-million-dollar budget is spent building up the great landscape of Tomorrowland, which is honestly money well spent. Tomorrowland’s look is completely unique, while encompassing that dream vision of what our perfect future would look like.

Behind the camera is director Brad Bird, who quietly has one of the best resumes of a director working today. Bird is obviously talented in the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also has a great understanding of tone. In a world where most blockbusters are dark and gloomy, Tomorrowland is surprisingly optimistic, shown through its light-hearted warmth.  Thankfully, Bird is able to keep that consistent throughout the film, even when the conflict heats up.

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Dark and gloomy isn’t always a bad thing though.

Bird also stages action setpieces better than most, which comes into play here. Every moment of action in this film has a good mixture between spectacle and fun, with each moment having a real zippy nature. Bird’s camerawork is impeccable, with his steady hand perfectly capturing chaotic moments of action. There is a real Saturday morning matinee feel to each action scene, which is driven home even more by Michael Giacchino’s catchy score.

How can this not pump someone up?

Unlike most  of Disney’s recent blockblusters, the cast here is quite good. Britt Robertson is one of this year’s many rising stars, and is able to succeed in the tall task of being the film’s protagonist. As Casey, Robertson brings loads of personality to the character, adding to her character’s chipper nature. Starring alongside her is George Clooney, who, as usual, is incredibly likable and charming. As the cynical Frank, he and Robertson have some great banter and develop good chemistry together.

The surprise in the cast is young Raffey Cassidy, who does impressive work as the android Athena. Despite her young age, she is very convincing in her role, getting across her character’s thoughts and feelings through her robotic tendencies. Pierce Gagnon, Kathyrn Hahn, and Keegan-Michael Key also do solid work in their respective supporting roles.

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A Peele cameo would have been welcomed as well.

Where critics and audiences alike are divided about Tomorrowland is its script, which is written by Brad and the infamous Damon Lindelof. Lindelof at this point has made a reputation for showing big ideas but failing to fall through with them. For the most part, though, the duo are able to succeed here.

Tomorrowland tackles the pessimistic nature of our society today and the importance of continually improving our society, ideas that are very timely and surprising to see in a family film. Brad Bird turned down directing Star Wars: The Force Awakens to finish the film, and while that may surprise some, it will become apparent why when you see the film. Bird very much put his creative heart and soul into Tomorrowland, and that shines through in every aspect.

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Let’s just have him make every movie!

Beer Two

While the script is successful in its attempts at displaying larger ideals, the story for the most part is less than successful. Some of the aspects about the narrative feel under-cooked or unnecessary to what the film is trying achieve. It’s apparent to me that Tomorrowland is trying to be more about concept rather than story, but there should at least be a general understanding of what is going on throughout.

Many have come out saying that the film drops the ball when it comes to the third act, and while I don’t completely agree with that sentiment, there are some areas where the film falters. The pacing of the final third felt much quicker than the rest of the film, which not only was jarring but left a lot of aspects feeling rushed. Tomorrowland‘s finale also gets a bit too preachy at points, with several grand speeches coming off as inauthentic and corny.

As far as minor issues go, Tomorrowland is a bit overlong. Though clocking in at 130 minutes, the film never reaches the tedious nature of some of Disney’s past live-action films, but it still seems like some of that could have been trimmed down. This is especially the case with the opening third which spends maybe a bit too much time on setting up exposition.

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Why was this film three hours long?!

Verdict

Critics and audiences alike are surely going to be split on it, but Tomorrowland for the most part worked for me. It has a nice balance of Saturday morning matinee fun while also tackling some deeper themes. It may bite off more than it can chew at points, but it’s nice to see a film that just goes for it in story and theme.

About Matt Conway

I love movies and sports and run on sentences. You can find me at a basketball court, the local theater, or napping on a couch somewhere.

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