In a world full of spoilers and reviews, some movies tend to get a bad reputation before they are even available for public consumption. During the weeks leading up to Tomorrowland, many were criticizing its not-so-great ending and lackluster story, so I was unsure what to think about the film. Though the trailers feature an awe-inspiring place and some killer visual effects, I didn’t know if I wanted to pay money to see it. However, after watching this intense and preachy film, I’m glad that I did catch Tomorrowland on the big screen (in IMAX). It’s a magnificent combination of science fiction, utopian ideals, and the light-heartedness one would expect from a Disney film.
Readers, beware! Spoilers ahead..
Tomorrowland follows the journey of Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) and Frank Walker (George Clooney), two distinct individuals whose paths are intertwined by a young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). After Casey discovers a strange pin and sees a fantastical place, she is determined to return to that place and explore it further. With the help of Athena, an advanced AI and recruiter from Tomorrowland, she meets Frank and convinces him to return to the place he left long ago.
The film initially opens up with Frank and Casey bickering at one another, attempting to describe the state of humanity and the future. What the audience doesn’t realize, until the end of the film, is that their dialogue and the entire film is essentially a story for the new recruiters of Tomorrowland. I thought this framework for the film was executed well and provided an interesting way to see how Tomorrowland influenced both a young and old Frank, and Casey.
The influence of Tomorrowland on these different characters is somewhat different. Frank’s introduction to Tomorrowland is the audience’s first look at the utopia. As a kid, Frank is shocked and in awe of this new world, a world full of crazy innovation and an advanced society. Athena, the person who recruits Frank for his imagination, shows him around and supplements his creativity. This, however, is juxtaposed by the brooding, older version of Frank. Scarred by unrequited love, Frank is hurt both by Athena and the future she represents. After he is cast out from Tomorrowland, he becomes bitter about the fantastical place that he once fell in love with.
On the other hand, Casey’s experience and encounter with Tomorrowland is unaffected by a bitter departure. Just like kid Frank, Casey is enchanted and wooed by the “recorded” invitation from Tomorrowland but is unsure how to return. This leads to her discovery of Athena and, eventually, Frank Walker. As the film carries on, I think it is always interesting to see the juxtaposition between Frank’s bitterness and Casey’s wonder about Tomorrowland. It is interesting because it is always the kids (kid Frank, Casey) that are amazed by Tomorrowland, but the older Frank is bitter about its promises. This harkens back to the Romantic ideal that children possess an understanding that is unburdened by the restrictions placed on the mind as one becomes an adult. Their creativity and oneness with nature is untainted, and, therefore, Romantic idealists believed we should all strive to be more like children.
Children are the future in Tomorrowland.
The importance of children in this film are immediately impressed upon the audience in Athena and Frank’s first exchange. Puzzled, Frank asks, “Who are you?” To this, Athena responds, “I am the future.” The message is obvious: children are the future in this utopian vision. They possess an understanding that enable them to choose others that may be “dreamers”; and this is seen in the final scenes with the crowd of young kids (AIs) embarking on a quest to find these “dreamers.” Though many will find the message to be a bit heavy-handed, the result of this search is that “dreamers” can be found anywhere. By the last scene, Tomorrowland is filled with various people, including waitresses, street performers, engineers, artists, etc.
What is the heavy-handed message? Basically, if we don’t take care of the Earth, we’ll lose it. It’s a sobering one, though. Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie), arguably the most non-evil villain of the year, sums up everything wrong with society’s view of the end at the end of Tomorrowland. As Casey, Frank, and Athena discover his intentional plan to allow the world to end, Nix argues that it’s just a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Though mankind has seen what the apocalypse can look like, instead of learning from their mistakes they’ve “re-packaged” it and sold it to the masses. From zombies to natural disasters, society feeds off the inevitability of its demise and settles for it. Tomorrowland is very much a “call to arms” and reminder to look towards the future.
Tomorrowland is just as much about the end of times as it is about new beginnings. Though a bit heavy-handed in its message, Tomorrowland is a sobering perspective on current trends and beliefs. Like a utopian novel, this film examines where society can improve and where we are failing. Despite the doom and gloom, Tomorrowland is still full of humor and an optimistic ending that can awake the dreamer in all of us.
What did you think of Tomorrowland?