Film review: TOMORROWLAND, from ‘Built For Speed’

Tomorrowland, which stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Hugh Laurie is based on the Disneyland exhibit of the same name.  Adapting an amusement park concept to the big screen generally produces diabolical results; Pirates if the Caribbean anyone?  Tomorrowland is even more confused and convoluted than anything in the Pirates franchise but it is occasionally a visually spectacular sci-fi adventure.

In a plot that includes time and interdimensional travel and human/ robot romance, feisty, rebellious yet scientifically-minded teen Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) finds herself caught up in a conspiracy involving potential world destruction.  After being released from the local lock-up one night she finds amongst her belongings a mysterious 1960’s pop art-style pin daubed with letter T.  Touching the pin transports her to the astonishing futuristic world of Tomorrowland which surprisingly enough, looks like a technology-themed amusement park. While investigating the pin’s origins she’s pursued by murderous cyborgs but also encounters a surprisingly resourceful and skilled little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who claims to have come from another world to guide Casey on an important quest.  Casey is almost as confused as we are by the time she meets grumpy high-tech survivalist Frank Walker (George Clooney) who has a link to this futuristic world and the mysterious little girl.  There are more confusing tangents in this film including flashbacks to Frank as a youngster at the 1964 world’s fair and an evil Tomorrowland despot (Hugh Laurie) trying to manipulate humanity for nefarious purposes.  It doesn’t make much sense and the film soon devolves into a succession of surprisingly violent but generally well-staged special effects action sequences.

Director/ writer/ producer Brad Bird has a strong reputation with animated adventures such as The Iron Giant and The Incredibles and he also helmed possibly the best instalment in the  Mission Impossible franchise, Ghost Protocol.  Here he has collaborated on the script with Damon Lindelof and considering how infuriatingly convoluted Lindelof’s famous TV show Lost was it’s not surprising Tomorrowland makes no sense.

The plot is a mess but the film is often visually stunning.  With its spiralling architecture, bullet trains and people flying around on jetpacks, the depiction of the shiny high-tech Tomorrowland itself is reasonably impressive.   The film also inventively depicts the weird gadgets that the brilliant but paranoid Frank has devised to protect him from the evil robots. 

The film also contains an honourable but awkward and heavy-handed message about the need to embrace technology for the betterment of mankind and planet Earth.

Britt Robertson does the Jennifer Lawrence tough, smart teen girl routine with vigour and a modicum of charisma while Clooney brings his usual gravitas to the role of Frank. Any performance though was inevitably going to be overshadowed by the layers of cgi effects in this film. 

Lurching about in all directions the film has little dramatic momentum but Bird throws enough high-tech eye candy at the screen to just about distract us from the brain-boggling script.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Sci-fi/ Adventure.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Brad Bird.

Release date: 28th May 2015.

Running time: 130 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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