FlixChatter Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

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I hadn’t heard much about this film until I saw the trailer a couple of months ago. Apparently it was based on a section at Disney theme parks, featuring attractions that depict views of the future. The movie opens in the mid 60s with a young boy Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) who made his way to a New York World Fair, feverishly excited to show off his flying jetpack invention that reminds me of something out of Disney’s The Rocketeer. It’s not working properly yet and so a renowned inventor David Nix (Hugh Laurie) rejected it.

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Despite his failure, Frank’s enthusiasm caught the attention of a mysterious young girl named Athena, and that’s how he ended up in this amazing futuristic city that seem to exist in a parallel dimension. I was caught up in that sense of wonder as the buildup promises something that would totally blow me away. The movie seems to have a lot going for it – an intriguing sci-fi mystery concept, a talented director and big name star. It also boasts some spectacular and imaginative visuals, which is to be expected from a budget of nearly $200 mil. Alas, I kept waiting to be completely in awe of the movie right up until the end, but that moment never came.

The only times where the movie REALLY tickle my curiosity is in that first 10 minutes with the young Frank when he first saw the futuristic city. There’s also the first few minutes after a young teen named Casey (Britt Robertson) found the mystifying pin that upon touching it transports her into the spectacular universe filled with futuristic skyscrapers, connected by a sleek-looking monorail. According to this article, ILM spent 2.5 years to produce over a thousand effects shots, employing 200 employees to create that futuristic world. Was the result something that would knock your socks off? Visually, yes. But if only Disney would invest in a script that is equally awe-inspiring.

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Even though the movie has a lot to say about invention and creativity, the script from Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird is largely uninspiring. It’s really a huge letdown as the build-up was so promising and I was really hoping to be wowed by it all. The uneven tone throughout the movie proved to be rather distracting and the movie never quite find its footing. Midway through the movie, when Casey entered an antique shop looking for answers about the pin, the film descend into a slapstick farce. The casting of comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn just seem out of place here, but then so is country artist Tim McGraw. By that point though, I was still keen on figuring out just what the heck is going on, and so I went along for the ride.

But the more the plot is unraveled, the more underwhelming the movie becomes. The finale is formulaic, even borderline absurd, and worst of all, preachy. I appreciate the message of optimism and the attempt to inspire youth’s imagination, but I really could do without the preachy-ness of taking better care of our world, etc. Suddenly I was given an environmental lecture from a rather lame villain who barely has any character development in the movie. I really don’t know what to make of Laurie‘s character but one thing for sure, the talented actor was wasted in this role.

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George Clooney adds star power in the role of the older Frank, though he spends most of the movie being curmudgeon rather than his charming self. I was more impressed by the young actors, especially Robertson who infused the role with her buoyancy and genuine optimism. English actress Raffey Cassidy is absolutely adorable as Athena who’s perhaps the heart of the movie. Together with Robertson, the two young actresses also provide some unexpected comic relief. There are fun moments scattered throughout, like the scene involving the Eiffel Tower, but overall the movie just feels haphazard and irritatingly heavy-handed. It’s disappointing given the talents involved, especially Brad Bird who’s a creative visionary behind The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. I suppose I should’ve been worried when I saw Lindelof’s name attached to the script, given what he did with Prometheus, among other things.

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Similar to another big-budget sci-fi Elysium, this movie feels like a poorly-executed ambitious concept. I wouldn’t say Tomorrowland is a terrible film or that it’s completely without merit. I think kids might still enjoy it and there are plenty of cool, shiny things to wow them. But for me, all the visual gadgetry and bombastic action involving giant robots and weird cyborgs ring hollow. At 130 minutes, there are numerous fillers that feel pointless by the end of it. It’s like an exhilarating ride that was fun for a while, then runs out juice halfway through but yet kept going on for far too long.

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Have you seen Tomorrowland? Well what do YOU think?

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50 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

    1. Hi Cindy! Well have you seen Mad Max: Fury Road? I don’t know if you’re into that, I’m gonna see it this afternoon, gotta be eons better than this one.

  1. Glad I didn’t rush myself watching this when I got the chance. Ouch, 2,5 stars! I am kind of tired with all gorgeous big-budgeted 3d visual and high futuristic concept.

    1. I actually think I’m a bit more generous in giving it 2.5 stars! Yeah, I think the smaller budget sci-fi films have resonated w/ me more lately.

      1. Check out ‘Time Lapse’ Ruth! Great sci-fi on a low budget 🙂 Or try an even better low budget sci-fi movie, ‘Infini’, which is Australian 😀 Both of them add something fresh to the genre, highly recommended! 🙂

        1. Hey Jordan, guess what I’m just about to review today! I actually saw Time Lapse at a local film fest last year & got to chat w/ the director & actor George Finn. I’ll send you the link to the interview but yeah it’s a good low-budget scifi!

          1. And I have no idea what you are about to review….. Felony? 😀

            btw I saw Tom Wilkinson in ‘Michael Clayton’ the other day. You seen that movie? I hadn’t seen much of Wilkinson before recently but you are right, goddamn he is such a good actor.

            1. Ha..ha.. not yet. I’m talking about Time Lapse 🙂 Oh yes I’ve seen Michael Clayton, Wilkinson is terrific in that too. I think Clooney’s good in it too, perhaps one of my fave roles of his.

  2. I pretty much in agreement with you here but I would put it on my list of worst of the year so far. Because of the hype and talents involved, this was a huge let down. I’m still angry at that ridiculous preachy speech by Hugh Laurie’s character towards the end. Also, what’s with that montage of multi ethnic people at the end there? Is as if the filmmakers realized they only have white characters in the movie but they have to involve other ethnic groups so they won’t be called racists, stupid stupid stupid! My pet peeves in movies is when filmmakers assume most of us are stupid and starts preaching.

    Okay rants over. In conclusion, I really hate this movie!

    1. OMG! I can’t believe I didn’t mention about that stupid ethnic people montage in my review! That’s EXACTLY what I said to Ivan as soon as we exited the theater. I think Disney just wanted to make sure they cover the *diversity* thing in the movie, whilst ALL of the main characters are all while. It’s preposterously stupid and so insulting. Yeah, just another reason this movie is a huge misfire!

      1. A couple more things I was annoyed with, where are those supposed smart people who created Tomorrowland? You’d think we get to meet them since they created that world. As if Bird and Lindelof forgot to build on their script’s premise and decided to go a totally different route. Then that “love” story between Frank and Athena, I totally understand what they wanted to show but seeing a man his his fifties have a feeling for a little girl really creeped me out. Especially the scene towards the end when she told him why she can’t fall in love with him, I’m sure pedophiles everywhere would love that scene but I was creeped out by it.

  3. Irene McKenna

    This doesn’t sound like epic cinema, but it looks like fodder for a fun family movie night. And I always enjoy George Clooney.

    1. Hi Irene! It should be fine as a family rental, just set your expectation low. Clooney is fun to watch though this is not exactly his shinning hour.

  4. Planning to see this one tomorrow….going in without expectations, so I probably won’t be disappointed…plus I’m one of the few people it seems who enjoyed Elysium

    1. Clooney wasn’t the draw for me to see this but yeah, he didn’t add much to the movie. Well to be fair, it’s not the cast’s fault, I blame the screenwriters!

  5. I’m still going to see this (out of obligation for Cinema Axis) as I was hoping it would be great though I kind of knew that one of the elements that would be troubling is Damon Lindelof who definitely is not a great name in the world of screenwriting.

  6. I could have written the exact same review. We saw the identical problems and the promise not fulfilled. My words were different but the conclusion is the same.

  7. Sorry you weren’t wowed by this one, Ruth. I actually loved it. (Review coming tomorrow.) Considering the trappings of the genre, I thought the script was very good, and the film never ceased to entertain me. It had the right amount of heart and wonder for me, but it seems like it’s a letdown for most.

    1. Hi Josh, I wish I could say I love it and the first 15 min or so was very promising. Alas some of the entertaining parts were bogged down by heavy-handed preachy-ness.

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  9. We have the SAME EXACT ISSUE…as the movie starts to explain itself, especially in the final chapter, it falls apart. So many great ideas with no real development. It comes off as underdeveloped and…kind of dumb.

    Other than that though, I kind of loved this. Tone wise and the way that the worlds were built…so awe inspiring. It was so nostalgic for me too, reminded me a lot of why I adore Disney so much. So much potential, and so many great moments just to be torn asunder with a really lackluster ending.

    Great review! I’ll let you know when mine is up. Hoping for early next week.

    1. Hello Drew! Yep, so many great ideas that somehow just didn’t pan out as well as it should have. There are some REALLY cool scenes, like the Eiffel tower one, but because the story was kind of week it ended up being forgettable. I LOVE Disney too, I mean I still get such a high every time I watch the animated Disney logo w/ Cinderella castle! That’s why it’s a bummer this was NOT a good movie.

  10. Every time I see the word ‘teen’ in a movie synopsis these days I immediately ignore it. I’m not even sure if that is the case with this movie but it sure smells like one of the countless awful YA novel adaptations that crowded the cinemas last year. I was half interested initially, but reading this kinda confirms what I thought this would be like when I first read about it. I doubt I’ll ever watch it, plus seeing Clooney phone it in really shits me!! The guy can act, but he rarely tries..

    Great write up 🙂

    1. Hi Jordan! Well to be fair, the story has potential to be good and supposedly it’s an original concept. It’s still more interesting than some YA adaptations and the young teens are actually quite good in this. But overall it’s just a huge ball of meh. I’ve never been a big Clooney fan and other than star power, he didn’t exactly bring much to this movie.

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