Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2015 by Angie Han
From the beginning, Tomorrowland has been shrouded in secrecy. But now Disney has finally opened up that mystery box for critics, and the reviews are starting to pour in.
Directed by Brad Bird from a script he wrote with Damon Lindelof, Tomorrowland centers on an idealistic teenager (Britt Robertson) and a former boy genius (George Clooney) who journey to a utopian place called Tomorrowland.
It’s a sci-fi film that calls for hope and optimism, standing in stark contrast to the dark dystopias the clog our multiplexes these days. But do good intentions make for a great movie in this case? Get the Tomorrowland early buzz after the jump.
Reviews so far for Tomorrowland are honestly all over the map. Critics generally agree that it’s an optimistic film with a strong positive message, but they disagree wildly on whether the execution works. Some think it’s a whole lot of hype for not much payoff; others think it’s an inspirational thrill ride. Here are the reviews, starting with the more negative ones and ending with the more positive ones.
The worst word I can use about “Tomorrowland” is “dull,” and that’s a word I never expected to use regarding anything that Brad Bird directed. […] When your entire film is a Mystery Box, then it would seem imperative to make sure there’s actually something in the box once it’s opened. This is not a “bad” movie, but considering the talent involved, it is safe to say that this was a fairly major disappointment.
In his Pixar triumphs “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille,” writer-director Brad Bird proved himself not just a wizardly storyteller but also an ardent champion of excellence — of intelligence, creativity and nonconformity — in every arena of human (and rodent) accomplishment. All the more disappointing, then, that the forces of mediocrity have largely prevailed over “Tomorrowland,” a kid-skewing adventure saga that, for all its initial narrative intrigue and visual splendor, winds up feeling like a hollow, hucksterish Trojan horse of a movie — the shiny product of some smiling yet sinister dimension where save-the-world impulses and Disney mass-branding strategies collide.
Regardless, the main issue with Tomorrowland isn’t its message, which is a noble one, but that message’s articulation, which is unexciting at best and ham-fisted at worst. Bird and company got so wrapped up in their ideas that they slighted their story, a connect-the-dots goose chase from Florida to Tomorrowland, and chose dialogue that is sometimes shockingly on-the-nose.
At the risk of lazy simplification, Tomorrowland feels like the six season run of Lost. As you recall, a bunch of worthwhile character work and intriguing mystery threads were set up in service of a final lap that discarded most of the mysteries and introduced a whole new and simplistic good-vs-evil threat right at the end of the race.
Despite a rather enjoyable first part and Bird’s undeniable visual talent, the film unfortunately sinks into over-cheesiness and sacrifices its ending for some damaging Disney propaganda, which is more reminiscent of what the company used to do in the past rather than of the better and riskier productions (John Carter, The Lone Ranger) that they’ve been doing recently.
It’s all goofy, exhilarating fun until the film is weighed down by its own delaying tactics: What is Tomorrowland, and why is it no longer thriving? Who created those robots, and why are they after Frank and Casey? Clooney supplies non-stop exposition throughout, and yet never enough by design, of course. For all of Tomorrowland’s infrastructural marvels – tiered swimming pools, astro-commutes, and beautiful tangles of airborne boulevards — the world-building is thin and unsatisfying.
Digital Spy (3/5):
Ultimately, this is a film of great individual moments that doesn’t quite add up to a winning whole. Lindelof seems plagued by Lost demons yet again, his script leaning heavily on mystery, slowly and frustratingly, drip-feeding answers before rushing to tie things up neatly in a finale that lacks a satisfying pay-off (and fails to deliver on the promise of evil Hugh Laurie). All that said there’s enough flair and invention on show to keep you entertained for the duration.
A movie about optimism and the power of dreamers, Tomorrowland soars with such giddy, genuine gee-whiz spirit that it almost feels rude to point out that, eventually, it resigns itself to being a competent action-adventure spectacle. […] Tomorrowland remains only a moderate success, its ingenuity, wit and enormous heart too often at odds with a ho-hum story and tentpole conventionality that the film tries so hard to transcend.
Coming Soon (7/10):
As fantastically inventive and clever Tomorrowland tends to be, it works more in its concept than it does in its execution, and it feels somewhat deceptive in the way it deliberately hides what it’s really about in order to maintain an unnecessary degree of secrecy. In other words, “Honest Trailers” is really going to have a field day with this one.
[A] sparkling work of speculative fiction (and wishful thinking) that could not be more “Disney” in the old-fashioned sense but is dominated by its philosophical thrust against social pessimism and disenchantment. Theoretically, the required ingredients for a big summer hit are mostly present and accounted for, but the considerable question remains as to whether the mass audience of the moment is ready to embrace an inventive but less overweeningly Marvelous adventure fantasy than is the current norm.
The Guardian (4/5):
But bolder still is Tomorrowland’s sincere attempt to jump-start humanity’s technological optimism, which it reckons stalled with the decline of the space race with potentially planet-threatening consequences. Whether or not that’s the answer to the planet’s current problems, director Brad Bird deserves praise for packing such big ideas into such an accessible, rip-roaring, retro-futurist adventure.
[…] Brad Bird’s stellar new spectacle, as literally bright as it is figuratively and far more forward-thinking than anything Disney’s done since “Wall-E,” has the bleeding heart and rapt gaze of an optimist trying to make the world a better place. That it also happens to be a $190 million blockbuster from the company that gave us the glittery claptrap of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise only makes the movie more wonderful.
In anyone else’s hands, the constant action would numb the senses. In Brad Bird’s – only his second live-action movie after Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – every jolt and twist in the tracks is experienced full force. The camera is dynamic (especially in the awe-inspiring, one-take Tomorrowland commercial), the score bold (Michael Giacchino has reunited The Incredibles’ brass section) and edited without an ounce of fat (take a bow, Walter Murch, one of cinema’s greatest editors). But, in truth, all that just makes for the ride’s vibrating seat, or the strobe lighting in the haunted fibreglass cavern. The real stomach lurches of joy come from the message at Tomorrowland’s narrative core.
Crave Online (9/10):
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Tomorrowland might seem like an advertisement for a Disney theme park, but it’s not: it’s an advertisement for an ideal. It’s a mission statement that the filmmakers are extending to the whole world: to dream, dream big, and dream optimistically. Because even the act of dreaming can be a whole lot of fun, and the process of making a dream come true is a worthy and exciting adventure in itself. Tomorrowland is fantastic entertainment with a purpose, both honorable and thrilling. Inspiration: achieved.