A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tomorrowland (Brad Bird, 2015)

A critical and commercial flop, Tomorrowland is a little too much a film for kids to satisfy sci-fi geeks, and a little too heavy on the sci-fi to hold the attention of kids. It has a few good things going for it: the presence of George Clooney and Hugh Laurie in its cast, and nice performances from two young actors, Britt Robertson as Casey and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. (It's particularly good to see a sci-fi movie for kids with girls as the protagonists.) Unfortunately, the screenplay by director Bird and Damon Lindelof, with contributions to the story from Jeff Jensen, is dauntingly overcomplicated and more than a little preachy. The premise is that somewhere after the 1964 New York World's Fair, with its glittering images of the future, our culture took a turn toward pessimism. We no longer believe that we can progress toward a more equitable society or that we can solve environmental problems with collective application of science and technology, and this pessimism creates a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Those of us who were old enough in 1964, after the Kennedy assassination and at the beginning of the Vietnam War, may remember the mood a little more darkly than the film posits. But even granted the premise, it seems unlikely that our contemporary malaise is going to be lightened by launching a cyberpunk spaceship designed by Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison into another dimension. Keegan-Michael Key has an amusing bit as the proprietor of a sci-fi memorabilia shop who says his name is Hugo Gernsback, an in-joke for science fiction fans. (His partner, played by Kathryn Hahn, is named Ursula. As in Le Guin, perhaps?)  The special effects are elaborately routine CGI stuff.