TOMORROWLAND

PrintE-mail Written by Iain Robertson

Tomorrowland, for those not familiar with their theme parks, is an area found at various Disneylands around the world. An optimistic, hope-inspiring vision of the future, it’s not the most obvious inspiration for a blockbuster movie, even for a company that crafted a billion dollar franchise around its Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Director Brad Bird’s made it clear that he believes the movie is best approached with as little foreknowledge of the plot as possible. As we’re not going to disagree with the man who made The Incredibles, we’re more than happy to respect that and confine ourselves to the basics. Teenager Casey (a fantastic Britt Robinson) finds a pin which, when touched, gives her visions of a futuristic utopian city. Her ensuing journey brings her into contact with a young girl (Raffey Cassidy) and a reclusive inventor (George Clooney) who appears to know something about it. Cue killer robots, flying baths, and the fate of the world resting in the hands of the mismatched trio.

Tomorrowland deliberately harks back to the optimistic sci-fi that seems to have fallen out of favour of late. Jules Verne is a major influence here, along with Star Wars and dozens of its contemporaries. Keep an eye open for Casey’s trip to Blast From the Past – a shop stocked with merchandise from the film’s inspirations, as well as a few clever cameos from the director’s back catalogue.

And then there’s Tomorrowland itself. Like its Disneyland namesake, it’s a deliberately retro vision of the future (the more eagle-eyed may spot several of the park’s attractions thrown into the city’s design). It’s all jetpacks and futuristic monorails. It’s the same contemporary-yet-retro feel that worked so well for Bird in The Incredibles. In fact, Tomorrowland occasionally feels like a pastiche of Bird’s back catalogue. There’s the fun of his Pixar work (which also includes the brilliant Ratatouille), the action beats of Mission: Impossible, and a nice selection of robots (although none as loveable as The Iron Giant).

And yet, not everything quite gels. Whist the ambitious script may get a little muddled over all its big ideas (fast becoming a signature for Prometheus’ Damon Lindelof), you can only applaud it for trying. As the mystery unfolds, the intriguing set-up gradually begins to lose its sense of wonder. By the time we eventually reach Tomorrowland, it feels like an anti-climax. It’s impressive, but not as much fun as the journey which brought us here.

When Tomorrowland works – and it does often – it’s wonderful. When it allows itself to fall into convention, as in its finale, it begins to falter. But in a multiplex market crammed with sequels and remakes, we should applaud both its originality and its optimism.

Special Features: Featurettes / Pixar shot / Brad Bird’s production diaries

TOMORROWLAND: A WORLD BEYOND / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: BRAD BIRD / SCREENPLAY: DAMON LINDELOF, BRAD BIRD / STARRING: GEORGE CLOONEY, BRITT ROBINSON, HUGH LAURIE / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 5TH

 


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