by | May 29, 2015 | 0 comments

An Ambitious Film That Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

I have to give them an A for their effort; it’s very hard to be ambitious in Hollywood, especially with an unknown film. Tomorrowland was a very interesting prospect, it was a completely original film coming from a studio known for being a franchise behemoth: Disney. Of course Disney rambled up together a great crew for the film getting Brad Bird to direct (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant), Damon Lindelof among the writers (Lost), and George Clooney as star power in order to make a commercial film. Similar to the premise of Tomorrowland, Disney brought together some of the greatest minds of Hollywood to save us from the decaying originality in today’s films. However the film bites off more than it can chew which causes it to stumble and lose itself along the way.

Tomorrowland is inspired by the idea that Walt Disney had in the 1964 World Fair; he planned to create a utopian city where all the greatest minds, of artists and inventors, would work together to make the future and the world a better place. Walt Disney started the project by creating EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), but it ended up dissipating and EPCOT was simply added to the Disney World amusement parks branch. Disney’s idea had been a magnificent one, and thankfully imagination was applied to and in a way his dream came true (you have to admit that was a perfect pun). In the actual film we follow the story of Casey Newton (a surprisingly charismatic Britt Robertson) an optimistic teenager who is recruited by a mysterious little girl called Athena (the young but fearless Raffey Cassidy) through a T shaped pin. Casey Newton is the last “recruit” and she is the only one who can save a dying Tomorrowland (Disney’s utopian city) and save the earth’s future from the threats of climate change, terrorism, overpopulation, etc. Along the way Athena and Cassidy (which if you read her name backwards it sounds like “Isaac”… Isaac Newton… get it!) meet Frank Walker (George Clooney) who is a deported citizen of Tomorrowland due to a dangerous invention he created. Frank, however, is the only one that can get Athena and Casey back to Tomorrowland in order to save the world.

The plot by itself seems pretty ambitious, but I didn’t mention that the film also tries to inject multiple philosophical and scientific theories into the mix, the likes of which include inter-dimension travel, time travel, optimism vs. pessimism arguments, conspiracy theories, extraterrestrial life, AI, etc. There was simply too much the film wanted to do and tell us and it was crushed by the burdens that it took upon itself.

Brad Bird is an extremely accomplished director. He particularly triumphed in animation, and some might say that the jump to a live action film might be the reason he felt so alienated, but I don’t think a mind like his struggles to differentiate drawings from humans. I think the problem was that Bird was used to simpler stories. The Iron Giant was an alien robot that befriends a kid, The Incredibles is a family of superheroes, Ratatouille is about a rat that likes to cook. Tomorrowland’s premise can’t be narrowed down to a sentence like that. The actual mesh of the complex mind of writer Damon Lindelof, who wowed us all with Lost, and the simple mind (this isn’t meant as an insult at all) of Bird might be what caused all this chaos.

The film isn’t led by the story, rather by the messages it wants to convey; so every scene orbits around a central theme that the creators want the audience to take away, and unfortunately this causes the story to seem rushed and it loses its credibility. Also, I have to confess there a little too much exposition; the film seems to be in the “beginning” for more than an hour. There was so much story and complexity that the creators were forced to labor away for an hour, explaining everything in order to keep the audience up to speed. And even so I doubt only the sharpest of viewers will be able to actually comprehend what goes on.

In the end the performances are what really save the day, both George Clooney and Britt Robertson are amazing. Clooney is clearly having so much fun and doesn’t struggle at all with some “cheesy Disney scenes” with which other actors might have had a hard time keeping a straight face. He really gives Frank’s pessimism a credible reasoning, which saves us from having a character that could have seemed annoyingly stubborn. Robertson is a relative newcomer to the film world, she has been in minimal roles before, but her big break here shows that she is more than capable of being a lead actress. Her incredible charisma and enthusiasm maintain the film’s energy aloft and make her character the extremely likeable and genuine heroine that writer’s meant her to be.

Technically the film is brilliant, the CGI scenes once again make us question what isn’t possible in the film world, and it makes us admire the ability to pour out one’s imagination into a computer. The cinematography and even the music by Michael Giacchino are solid and notable as well.

In the end the film ends up disappointing us a bit, one expects so much more from the people who made the film. The film serves as a lesson for all artists: to know when to hold back. But the great performances and CGI sequences, added to the incredible hard work and ambition put into this film, make this a worthy effort. 







Visual Effects

What ambitious film flopped its final product? Let me know in the comments section.

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