Brad Bird is a brilliant and playful director, whether he’s telling the anti-militarist tale of a boy and his huge alien robot (Iron Giant) or confecting a delicious whimsy about a rat with dreams of being a chef (Ratatouille). The double Oscar winner blasts off into imaginative and visually extravagant sci-fi realms in Tomorrowland, where strange memories of a futuristic alternate Earth are the key to our planet’s survival.
Britt Robertson stars as Casey Newton, the rebellious teenage daughter of a NASA engineer whose mix of scientific curiosity and endless optimism have brought her to the attention of a mysterious girl named Athena, who slips her an old badge from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Whenever Casey touches the badge she briefly gets transported to a fantastical world of flying cars and space-age buildings. But the magical visions soon fade, and Casey finds herself on the run from smiley-faced humanoid robots that want to kill her.
Eventually paired up with an embittered and reclusive inventor (George Clooney) who knows a lot more than he is willing to admit to, the mismatched pair undertakes a spectacular journey through a mysterious portal that exists outside the usual constructs of time and space. Suddenly catapulted into a very real Tomorrowland, they must come to grips with past events in order to survive their deadly confrontation with the suave but despotic ruler (Hugh Laurie) of this exotic realm.
Visually inspired by the various futuristic Disneyland park rides of the same name, glossy Tomorrowland is decidedly Spielbergian in its candy-coloured sheen, wholesomeness, and sentimentality. The storyline is clever and well paced, while strong performances give an affecting emotional realism to many scenes. But above all, this is a movie with a message.
Through Casey’s eyes we see a planet under assault from extreme weather events, political chaos, and other grave threats. And like Casey, we are meant to be inspired to rise to these challenges with fearless hearts. To call this naive is an understatement, even though the movie itself impresses on many levels. But in a multiplex throbbing with the amped-up distractions of The Avengers and Mad Max, Tomorrowland is a blockbuster with no obvious target audience. It is well made and deserves to be seen. But how many people will queue up to take this spectacular ride?
Stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
Directed by Brad Bird