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All Aboard for Tomorrowland

All Aboard for Tomorrowland

Brad Bird has given us the coolest movie of the year—if you
share his youthful belief that the future was always supposed to be cool. That’s what I was taught to believe by such
visionaries as Walt Disney, whose optimistic outlook is keenly felt in Tomorrowland. To be clear, director Bird
and his co-writers, Jeff Jensen and Damon Lindelof, aren’t blind to the
realities of modern life. They introduce cynicism and realism into their
narrative in a way that Disney might have dodged. But ultimately they convey a
message of hope that’s rare in contemporary cinema, where dystopian visions
prevail. I think Walt would have approved of Bird’s alternate view. And I
suspect he would have enjoyed the thrill-ride aspect of Tomorrowland.

The filmmakers have gone to great lengths to keep the details
of their story under wraps, and I won’t be the one to upset that apple cart. I will
reveal this much: the very likable Britt Robertson plays a feisty, fearless teenage
science nerd. Her curiosity and determination lead her to a mysterious man
(George Clooney) who’s living a hermit-like existence, having had his own
boyhood ambitions thwarted. They wind up joining forces against an unnamed
enemy, and beyond that I’ll protect the spoilers.

Tomorrowland deals
with childhood dreams gone astray, a hidden (or is it forbidden?) world of the
future, and the belief that humans of all ages and stripes can still make a
difference. But being the canny filmmaker he is, Bird has wrapped all of this
in a high-energy package filled with action, suspense, and often-thrilling
special effects. Michael Giacchino’s full-bodied score supports every facet of
the story.  

George Clooney is ideally cast as the onetime believer who
has been drained of hope—and regains a spark of his boyhood earnestness after spending
time with Robertson, who hasn’t given up on a world of possibilities. Clooney
seems genuinely invested in this role and he’s a pleasure to watch. Hugh
Laurie, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Tim McGraw, and Raffey Cassidy make
smaller but significant contributions along the way. (If you’re a baby boomer,
pay attention during Hahn and Key’s scene and you’ll see some welcome, familiar
figures.)

My only complaint about Tomorrowland
is one I have about almost all of Bird’s movies: it goes on too long. The
clutter of the second act bogs down the film and delays it from reaching its
rousing (and surprising) conclusion. But because I love the idea behind this
film, and enjoy the first and third acts so much, I’m reluctant to dwell on the
negative. This is a movie about positivity and that’s how I’d like to position
my review.

And despite its flaws, Tomorrowland
is really cool to watch. I hope young people take away the message it
imparts: we could use more dreamers and “do-ers” and fewer cynics on this
planet.

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