A Glimpse into the Future.
Would you step into the future, even if it meant knowing you can’t change the outcome?
Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof team up to give us glimpse into the world of tomorrow. The result is a pensive and inspirational film that tries to give us hope, but can’t quite figure itself out at the same time. Bird and Lindelof provide us with a wondrous look at the future; dazzling technology, amazing effects, and an overwhelming sense of positive change. Unfortunately, getting there just takes too long.
This comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with Lindelof’s scriptwriting. Lost, Cowboys & Aliens, and Prometheus all serve as examples of Lindelof’s unbalanced writing, and Tomorrowland can be added to the list as well. The primary problem with the script is that its heavy-hearted moral comes far too late in the game. What should be the central conflict introduced in the first act of the film, is instead relegated to the final twenty minutes. It’s not surprising enough to be a plot twist, but not unimportant enough to be left until the end. Shrewd viewers could probably figure out what’s coming well in advance, but the first portion of the film chooses, instead, to focus on the protagonist’s attempts to understand what Tomorrowland is and how to get there.
The futuristic realm, however, is brought to life in excellent fashion. The special effects are fantastic enough to sell the world, and the technologies are imaginative enough to capture the wonder and excitement of the audience and not let go. Whether its futuristic transportation or mystical methods of entertainment, the sequences in the ultra-modern city are the film’s best.
The cast, likewise, is also top-notch. George Clooney is excellently cast in the role and delivers a convincing performance as a dreamer who has lost hope. Hugh Laurie is also stellar in a similar, yet more antagonistic, role. The child actors, usual the weak links of the cast, hold their own quite well. Robertson and Cassidy are the two main actresses, and both sell their roles considerably, with Cassidy delivering an especially delightful performance as an artificial intelligence. Perhaps the most visually impressive casting decision, however, was given by Thomas Robinson, who played a young version of Clooney’s character Walker. While his role in the film was brief, it was astounding just how much he looked like George Clooney and replicated his mannerisms.
All in all, seeing the film was a positive experience. There were enough imaginative elements throughout to deliver an engaging story, and the strong cast and special effects really sold me on the world, even if the story was unbalanced.
To go back to the ending of the film, there are a lot of important notions here to discuss. The primary idea of the film, of course, is that the people of Tomorrowland sent signals of humanity’s impending doom to the people of Earth. The signals were visions of the future, essentially saying “if you don’t change things, here is how your world will end up.” Rather than heeding these warnings, however, we took these messages and subconsciously incorporated them into our daily lives, working towards the very thing we were supposed to be avoiding. This is an incredibly fascinating notion. So fascinating, in fact, that it should have been the whole movie. Unfortunately, we don’t get this until there are about twenty minutes left in the story. We wasted so much time attempting to uncover the origins of the pin, tracking down Walker, running from mysterious androids, and watching Key (of Key and Peele) fight a little robot girl, that the most compelling message is crammed into the final sequence of the movie. Because the message is strong, it deserved to be explored, but instead we get an on-the-run story that doesn’t really need to exist. The final discourse between Walker and Nix was so engaging that I was sad when it was over so quickly…I was still hungry for more.
The climax of the film was also a unique moment that I simultaneously liked and disliked. Athena, as her body begins to shut down after saving Walker’s life, reminds the two that her body will self-destruct upon shutting down. She suggests that her body be used to destroy the transmitter, as the bomb was wasted during the final fight. The two comply, and her body successfully destroys the transmitter, suggesting that the course of humanity is now altered. What pleased me about this ending is that Lindelof and Bird saw this sacrifice through. In Pixar’s Wall-E, when a similar sacrifice is made, the titular character is brought back to life by replacing his hard drive, which, for those who know how computers work, would not retain any memories or emotions. Tomorrowland, however, stands by Athena’s sacrifice. There are no recoveries, no cloud backups, no duplicate machines. Athena’s gone. Sacrifice made. Don’t let her loss be in vein. It’s refreshing to see a movie, especially one aimed at children, take topics like this seriously and trust the audience enough to stand by an emotional final moment like this.
What frustrated me about the ending was how the focus shifted from Newton to Walker. Throughout the film, Newton is the character who is the idealist and the dreamer who can save the world. She is shown to to be the important person who is ultimately to credit for altering the course of humanity. But she doesn’t really…do anything. She gets brought to Tomorrowland only to have the world saved by Walker and Athena. It’s Athena who sacrifices herself and it’s Walker who delivers the final blows to both Nix and the transmitter. Newton is, more or less, along for the ride. At the end of the day, she really just provided worlds of encouragement and existed as the token optimist. She was representative of hope, but it was everyone else who actual took the necessary actions.
As I said before, it all came down to balance. Lindelof tends to sew together an intriguing story without addressing all the threads that are left hanging. This film is no exception. While the second half ultimately played better than the first, you simply cannot ignore the loose threads left hanging and all the avenues left unexplored. The film did make it across the finish line, which is more than I can say for many films, but it really staggered to cross that line nonetheless.