Mladen and Del review ‘Tomorrowland’

Image courtesy of Disney Studios.

“Tomorrowland” Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, and Hugh Laurie. Directed by Brad Bird. 130 minutes. Rated PG.

Mladen’s take

I disliked the film “Tomorrowland,” but it’s my fault. I’m a bigot. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to make me like people. Del’s influence, in that regard, by the way, only feeds my bigotry.

That’s the task the actors and actress in “Tomorrowland” were given. They had to convince me – for I am Audience – that humanity was worth saving, that a society can choose its destiny, that we can reverse climate change, end food deprivation, and stop fighting wars. It was something about deciding which “wolf to feed,” the one of darkness and despair or the one of light and hope, according to this Disney sci-fi adventure.

In the film, Frank (George Clooney) and Casey (Britt Robertson), both humans, and Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a robot, struggle against the governor of Tomorrowland and his tachyon-fired machine, which sees the future. According to the orb with blue streams of light that attach it, I assume, to spacetime, Mankind will expire in roughly 59 days.

My response to the countdown was, “Hallelujah, about goddamned time humanity took it full-fist on the chin.” It’s vital that we kill ourselves before infesting space with our spore. Let us end ourselves before we end everything else.

But, no.

Do-gooder Casey, a STEM whiz kid of the first order, ends up cajoled by automaton Athena into trying to reverse mankind’s headlong plunge into the abyss. Along the way, Casey meets Frank, who was once like her – an optimist and believer in the wonderfulness of technology, which could turn savages (us) into hearts of gold and empathy. Frank, like Casey, also used to never give up. The vibrant youngster and disillusioned old timer, protected by Athena, go on a spectacular adventure that includes an epic scene involving the Eiffel Tower and battles with cyborgs wielding sound-pulse handguns and beam rifles. I must confess I was amused by the terminator that smiled at all the wrong times.     

Does the trio save mankind? Eh, it doesn’t matter.

You should drop a dime to see “Tomorrowland” at the theater, not because the film is intelligible or uplifting or leaves you with a sense of wonder and hope. See the movie to support two fine young actresses – Robertson and Cassidy. There’s a risk that if the film bombs at the box office, it’ll slow their ascent in Hollywood. Moore and Bullock ain’t going to be around forever.

And, yes, Clooney does pull off something remarkable in the film. He’s his usual charming self even when playing the role of a curmudgeon exiled from a spit-and-polish utopia embedded somewhere out there in another dimension.

Del’s take

The world is going to hell in a handbasket – yes, we get that. But what are YOU doing to fix it?

That is the message, delivered with blunt force trauma, of “Tomorrowland.” The movie, a two-hour 12-step program for recovering Negative Nellies, correctly asks us to believe each and every one of us must take action to ensure a golden future. But the message is delivered with such clumsy ham-handedness I wonder if “Tomorrowland’s” target demographic isn’t that 12-year-old whose brain has been damaged by “Grand Theft Auto.”

In “Tomorrowland” a young woman (Britt Robertson’s Casey) who is trying to make the world a better place catches a glimpse of a bright and shiny future complete with jet packs, levitating trains, rockets to the stars and a multi-cultural, egalitarian society consisting of peace-loving PhDs who have figured out how mankind can live in harmony with nature. But the accidental snake in this garden of Eden (George Clooney’s Frank), conjures a machine that sees the past and the future. It’s vision of what follows becomes self-fulfilling, and the countdown to mankind’s extinction has begun.

The two young female actors deliver excellent performances, as does Hugh Laurie as Gov. Nix. George Clooney delivers George Clooney, and while that’s not objectionable it doesn’t do a lot to advance the storytelling planchette.

“Tomorrowland” is typical Disney fare – wholesome and uplifting. You’ll hear no cursing, and most of the violence is robot on robot. The only deviation from the Disney credo is our young heroine’s penchant for committing acts of vandalism, all in the name of good, of course.

“Tomorrowland’s” problems are its complexity, with stories within stories that must be worked out. At times it was hard to connect the dots and I simply went with what was on the screen, hoping realization would dawn.

The bigger problem was the movie’s lack of subtlety. At times the characters seemed to be saying, “This is what the movie is about.” All this was capped off by a Gov. Nix soliloquy toward the end where he does tell us what the movie’s about. That’s when I decided I was watching “Tomorrowland” the wrong way. As a children’s movie it works just fine.

My thinking is “Tomorrowland” may find a place in the digital libraries of illegally downloaded movies among the John Green crowd, but for adults it’s thin gruel.

I grade it a C+.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.