Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Cinema: Tomorrowland

Ah Memorial Day, where we pay our respects to those who serve this great country and many of us get to kick back an extra day. It wasn't one for the cinema history books though as Disney's latest epic based on an attraction, Tomorrowland, opened with a 4-Day gross of just over $40 million. That puts it at # 22 on the all time list of Memorial Day openings. Reviews and word of mouth have been mixed so the less than stellar opening makes it perfect fodder for unnecessary and unreasonable negativity. I for one enjoyed the flick for the most part, it has some terrific ideas, solid production values and an excellent cast. The themes of hope, positive thinking and learning aren't exactly a bad thing either. It does drag in a few spots and reminded me of movies like The Rocketeer, The Terminator and Conspiracy Theory at parts. Brad Bird, director of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Rataouille and Mission: Impossible 4 helms a script by genre whipping boy Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus), Jeffrey Chernov and himself.

Tomorrowland is basically the story of smart and spunky Casey (Britt Robertson) as she's recruited by the wide eyed and robotic mini T-1000 Athena (Raffey Cassidy) to help save the world. Athena works out of Tomorrowland, an alternate dimension type place where the best and brightest work to change the world. Years ago, a young smart kid named Frank Walker discovered that the world was at risk and subsequently exiled. He grows up to be George Clooney, playing a grouch. Athena believes Casey can build upon Walker's theories and possibly save the planet. Tomorrowland ruler Nix (Hugh Laurie) doesn't really want to hear about it though as he's given up on humanity and is safe in his little bubble. Alternate worlds, new technology, smiling robots, vaporizing ray guns, gadgets, jet packs, Eiffel Tower, rocket ships, Star Wars and Iron Giant product placement ensues.

While I try not to listen or read into pre-release hype, the word on Tomorrowland wasn't good. But like the much maligned Prometheus before it, while watching it, I kept wondering when it was going to get bad. Overall I enjoyed the film, there's some nice philosophy and ideas of exploration and a positive theme. Kind of like a less technical, more fantastic Interstellar.  The humor works and there's a surprising amount of violence in the film with robots getting their heads ripped off, hit by trucks and whatnot. Humans get vaporized and there's a cartoony quality to all of the mayhem which seemed borderline inappropriate given it's PG rating. Performances were fine all around with Clooney's early scenes smacking of wise-ass Robert Downey, Jr. Some of the set pieces and imagery reminded me of other movies and a segment of Athena rescuing Casey is like a Kyle Reese/T-1000 from The Terminator update. I was surprised she didn't say, "Come with me if you want to live"! Plus that creepy kid from Looper (Pierce Gagon), Tim McGraw (I feel like he's getting roles Billy Bob Thorton should be) and Keegan-Michael Key (just saw him in Pitch Perfect 2, wonder if Peele is getting jelly) show up as well.

It does drag a bit and you wonder when Clooney is going to show up after the first act. But Bird is a an excellent director and stages action, drama, laughs and shocks with ease. There's some great dialog at the end with Nix discussing mankind being given all the facts that the world is dying but doing nothing to stop it and only being interested in money. There's also a hilarious question about how the world can be suffering from starvation and obesity epidemics at the same time. The world is strange, brah.

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