If you’re looking for feel-good entertainment, you can’t usually go wrong with Disney. The latest Disney film to hit the big screen, Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird, is no exception. In this off-the-wall fantasy, children, as well as adults, are encouraged to never let go of their hopes and dreams (yes, I’m aware of the stench of that cheesiness). Tomorrowland appeals to all ages and despite being jam-packed with action and themes of disaster and hopelessness, it never gets too complicated or inappropriately violent; even kids can keep pace without stumbling over the intense plot.
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is a young, intelligent dreamer obsessed with Space. Her single-handed attempts to prevent the demolition of a shuttle launch pad results in her arrest. On release, she discovers a mysterious badge in her belongings that, when touched, pulls her into an alternate reality. She immediately seems well suited in this utopian world as her optimism and curiousity are evident from the start. Bird’s idyllic world is every child’s fantasy; jet packs and hover crafts are the norm in this grinning society where adventure seems to be within anyone’s grasp and the entire place seems like one long rollercoaster ride. When the badge runs out of time, Casey is transported back to her mundane world again but sets about discovering why she was chosen and how to get back.
The film has a jarred structure, flashing to and from the past, present and future, yet it somehow manages to keep the viewer on track. The start of the film goes back in time to when the adventure began in 1964 while introducing Frank Walker’s (George Clooney) story. After becoming acquainted with young Frank, Casey and older Frank, it becomes clear to the viewer that Casey has a very important part to play in helping the very cynical modern-day Frank save Tomorrowland and ultimately the future. With the help of the ageless, robot girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Frank and Casey flee Matrix-like agents to try and get back to Tomorrowland while an ominous clock countdowns to an unknown end.
Despite Clooney’s credentials, he steps back and let’s the two young actors shine, and rightly so as it is the girls’ admirable optimism and hope that ensures the viewer is invested in their success. Robertson’s acting comes across as a little juvenile at times but she is definitely one to watch.
Bird, however unintentional, enters the moral debate concerning humans and robots with his creation of Athena and her human-like qualities. Do robots have a consciousness and is the acceptance of them dangerous to the human condition? I’ll leave this question to be answered elsewhere. Either way, Frank and Athena definitely have an uncomfortable relationship; at times I felt a little awkward as old Frank’s gaze lingers a little too long on the evidently young Athena. He is visibly still upset by Athena’s rejection when he was younger. Their relationship is made even more relevant when Athena pours out her true thoughts about him before she shuts down.
Hugh Laurie’s character, David, breaks the most important rule of ‘show, don’t tell’ (consequently insulting the viewer – well, it insulted me at least) with his post-apocalyptic revelation, destroying hope of a better future. Despite the popular post-apocalyptic trend at present, this film offers a different outlook and allows viewers to seek a future that is desirable and exciting rather than bleak and inevitably catastrophic.
Tomorrowland is full of entertainment with its violent action (but the violence is carried out on robots so that’s okay, right?) and futuristic world but it also contains a very important message: the future is only available if people believe in it and are prepared to make it happen. At the start of the film, Casey says to her younger brother, ‘it’s hard to have ideas and it’s easy to give up’. This sums up that with hope and aspiration, the children of today can make a change and strive for something better.