If you enjoy that feeling of relaxing on your sofa on a Sunday afternoon, switching on the telly for a second-tier, 1980’s kid’s action adventure sci-fi movie you remember fondly from your own childhood, only to discover that, contrary to your memories, it’s embarrassingly bad then Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is the movie for you.
Irritating, frustrating, structurally a mess, Tomorrowland (I’m dropping the “World Beyond” coda from this point as it’s just a piece of annoyingly pointless affectation) is not without its good moments but, overall, it is a film you can live without. It’s a kind of Channel 5 Sunday afternoon movie thirty years too early.
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is hopeful, an optimist, a dreamer. She’s sabotaging the dismantling of the launch platform at Cape Canaveral and this brings her to the attention of a mysterious younger girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Pre-teen Athena is from Tomorrowland, an alternate dimension full of the sort of stuff that people in the 1950’s thought people in the 21st century would be wearing, using and living in, you know: jet packs, flying cars, litter free cities and everybody is Aryan thin, that kind of thing. Athena slips Casey a badge that allows her to glimpse the tomorrow of Tomorrowland and the two set off to find the only person who can get them there, Frank Walker (George Clooney), the only man ever to be thrown out of Paradise. Frank was a child prodigy who made it into Tomorrowland because he too was a dreamer, he invented a jet pack that doesn’t quite work but his “Anything’s possible” philosophy allowed him a sneaky, back door “in”. Then there’s a lot of running, a lot of chasing, a lot of blowing stuff up but, unfortunately, there’s very little in the way of plot.
The problem is that all this stuff happens before the film even begins to tell a story, there are no recognisable stakes until about three-quarters of the way in, and when they are explained they’re all a bit vague. The film keeps telling us the future is running out but doesn’t define what this actually means, I’m guessing end of the world, Apocalypse, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Who cares?
Clooney seems miscast. Frank is a cranky, bitter old man who lives alone in his booby-trapped farmhouse full of future tech inventions he refuses to share with the outside world. Basically, Frank is the anti-Clooney. Robbed of his charisma and smile, Clooney struggles and Frank becomes irritating (not to mention the fact that he’s still obsessed with the constantly pre-teen Athena). You know who would have been great as Frank? Who could have really sold this curmudgeon with his crumpled demeanour and burnt out boy genius? Hugh Laurie. Laurie, in fact, plays the charismatic Governor of Tomorrowland, whose only real villainy is to stand by while this dimension’s future runs out. George Clooney would’ve killed this role. Hmm.
Britt Robertson, on the other hand and despite looking about ten years too old for the character she’s playing, is very good and I wish she had a better movie to star in, she probably will and deserves to. The fact that Robertson is so good makes it particularly galling that the climax of Tomorrowland sucks so hard. Casey (whose super power is, I kid you not, the power of positive thinking) kind of gets side-lined in the finale; a finale that goes all anti-science and just falls into lazy, clichéd tropes; a finale that gives us one really creepy, uncomfortable moment where it looks like Clooney might actually kiss a nine year old.
There’s a great scene in a nostalgia shop that’s funny, inventive and fun which raises some interesting thematic ideas. But that’s about it, Tomorrowland is shaggy, often corny and mostly boring.
I don’t disagree with some of the things the film is trying to say: Yes, we could do with more optimism in the world; yes, we need to galvanise the young for the future and not make them fear it. But hanging these points in a movie that espouses a super-secret, technologically advanced world that hides its advances from plebeians like us, that only allows entry to the finest minds and thinnest bodies smacks of something unsavoury.
For show times and booking visit Odeon Colchester.