Tomorrowland: "This Ride Is Broken, Sorry".
Brad Bird swings for the fences every time, and connects every time... until now. I am going to blame Lindelof on the script, because the thing LOOKS gorgeous, the Actors are all good actors, but their dialogue is weak and the plot is as wobbly as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I always leave a Brad Bird movie bouncing with joy and excitement; this time, it was.... missing something. Or had something tumorous grafted onto it.
There's a meme going around that this movie is at the core all Randian archetypes, objectivist twaddle. I frankly don't think so. I think it's simpler;
Lindelof is a hack.
Spoilers ahead, if you care.
So a cabal of the greatest early scientists and artists/writers discover/invent/it's not clear/ a secret, parallel dimension or timeline where dreamers and inventors could be nurtured and supported in their quest to invent and achieve, without any government interference or bureaucracy, apparently, (this is apparently the source of the Randian hypothesis, though it seems more like a Libertarian utopian Burning Man sort of ideal, and nobody explains how any of it is funded or organized or administrated). The secret entrance/portal to Tomorrowland is hidden inside the "It's A Small World" ride at the New York World's Fair, and a mysterious little girl secretly evaluates and recruits would-be Tomorrowland citizens of every race to join and live there to build "The Future" - the version that was illustrated most by Bob McCall and Syd Mead.The one with the jet packs and flying cars and deep space exploration, etc.
Once Tomorrowland is "complete", it's supposed to be revealed to the world for all to share and enjoy and incorporate into life on Earth. Somehow. It's not clear if it comes down to Earth and lands in Orlando, or if it just becomes another vacation destination itself... But one of the free-thinker's invention/experiments turns out to have a dark side. Clooney's character invents a machine that can Monitor time, both forwards and backwards, and the forwards part shows only dystopia and anarchy and chaos. Doom. The "governor" of Tomorrowland, Governor "Nix", seals off Tomorrowland from Earth, expels Clooney, and the little girl, who turns out to be an A.I. Robot, and Tomorrowland sinks into a grey stagnation of a totalitarian state with a Bunker mentality.
Our entry into the story is via a teenage girl, the daughter of an unemployed NASA engineer played (for no reason) by Tim McGraw the Country singer. In the growing Earth dystopia, a general malaise and lack of drive or vision has as one symptom the cancellation of NASA programs and dismantlement of all the launch pads. The daughter is a techno-terrorist who is monkey-wrenching the launch site demolition efforts, and that's how she gets the attention of the little robot girl recruiter, who is looking for one Pollyan.... one person who truly Believes We can Fix anything or achieve anything we put our minds to.
They use a secret back door into Tomorrowland, where upon showing up, the heroine is just supposed to suddenly have a flash of insight or something, that no one else can see, as to how to fix the onrushing doom hour. Nix won't even consider any attempts to fix the future, apparently feeling it could only make things worse. (See, that's Lindelof's version of clever, that he negates everything, so we call him "nix"??? See????) So Nix attempts to banish the entire party to an island in another timeline/parallel world/it isn't clear, where it will be nice. Which raises the question, well, why can't they send *everybody* to THERE and away from doom?
Turns out, everything was Nix's fault in the first place, because he was deliberately sending dystopian bad vibes and negative thoughts into the device and thus projecting that gloom into the collective Gestalt of all humans on Earth, making them actively pursue dystopia rather than try to avoid it. So, if we send nice, positive thoughts out, that old "reverse the polarity" trope (thanks, Damon!), it will fix the future path of Earth development and set things right again?
Lindelof is not good with time travel paradoxes. The first thing we see when the machine looks forward into the future is doom already, because people are too wasteful and selfish and lazy and scared and violent. So, Nix Sends pictures of the coming horror into the minds of Earth to scare them straight. But it doesn't seem to work; instead it accelerates the anti-progress. But if the Savior Teen is part of this timeline and her destiny is that she solves it, that dystopia never happens, so there is no dystopia to see in the machine when they turn it on in the first place, and no reason for the story or the girl...
So, ignore that, stipulate we can fix the future and get it back on track if we believe in it and send out happy thoughts.. Only Nix won't allow the attempt because.... well, there IS no because, he just decided.... not to? Because he's, what.... evil? Afraid? Lazy, Has oppositional disorder? This guy sent killbots dressed like stereotypical Mormon missionaries in Tom Cruise "Risky Business" sport coats to Earth for years to hunt down and assassinate any Tomorrowland recruits the little Girl robot could find, and to kill the girl robot too. He's trying to save Earth by scaring it with the horror of oncoming oblivion, but it seems to have the opposite effect and so instead of trying something else since it was his secret and nobody would have known to blame him, of COURSE, he will instead double-down on the Evil, to make things... good? Who put this guy in charge, what do they have to say, and where are all the citizens in Tomorrowland? Did they all get sent to islands elsewhere, or did they go to EPCOT? Tomorrowland looks all closed down and empty when the heroes arrive. Where'd everybody go, and why?
Let's go back a minute, to the concept that every citizen of Tomorrowland was a hope-filled, dedicated, driven dreamer/inventor/artist/ exceptional person that had been specifically recruited and brought there. How then would any of them become so evil in the first place? Is this a "townie"? A guy that was born and raised in Tomorrowland, not back "home" on Earth? Is that why he's not quite right? Because he has no talent and no ability to Dream the Big Dreams like everyone else around him? Is he talented at administration or organization and "H.R.", which creatives all normally abhor and leave to someone else, and that's how he comes to be "Governor"? Why does a community of exceptionals NEED a Governor or any leader? Don't they run by consensus, or is it anarchic-syndiclalism? If Nix is a Native Tomorrowlander, is that lack of connection to Earth the seed of a desire to keep Tomorrowland for the People of Tomorrow and not the wretched rabble? Like "nativist Americans" who are the children of immigrants but now oppose any new immigration? The Future for FUTURIANS!
Now, THAT is a villain I could understand for a movie like this. I want ten percent of what they paid Damon to write, for "fixing" this movie. Because it NEEDS fixing. I can't understand how Brad Bird let this happen unless he was too busy dreaming and let some Suit be in charge of... wait... I'm getting an idea.....
See...If you can't get the Villain right, you don't have a decent movie. You have to have a clear motivation, he or she can be a good person or one who thinks what they do serves a Greater Good... Or they can be good but trapped by a mistake they once made and have magnified by trying to cover it up, and they've lost the courage to come out of the dark and confess.... Or they can be cowardly and afraid to risk, paralyzed by indecision and a sense of obligation...
...Or you can do what Lindelof did and throw all that in a blender set to "frappe" and call it "character motivation".
The more time that passes after viewing the movie, the more dissatisfied I feel with what should have been another great hit like the Iron Giant or The Incredibles, which also had themes about exceptionalism versus conformity. You have a little girl (or so you're supposed to think) being hit violently by a truck for no other reason than to show she is a robot and not a girl. You have a Tomorrowland that builds adult sized killbots. Or, I suppose you can retcon it to say Nix converts ordinary audio-animatronic helper robots INTO killbots.. again, though, in a shiny positive place like Tomorrowland, who comes up with KILLBOTS and why are they allowed to? Because, unfettered capitalist libertarians? They had all the parts here to build something wonderful. And they used a defective core component at the center.
This ride is broken. Sorry.
At first while I was reading your plot summary of the movie, I was like this:
Then a little bit into it I was more like this:
Then as the plot thickened, it turned into this:
And near the end I was like:
That's nothing against your write up, Mark. In fact it was so well written that I can now assure myself that I will never actively seek out this movie. I mean, I avoided it so far because I didn't understand what the hell it was (is it based on a Disney theme park ride, or is it going to be a Disney theme park ride?). But it always amazes me when people try and make children's films with plots this complicated.
Lion King -> Kid's dad dies, the uncle takes over, the kid is exiled, he comes back years later and reclaims throne from uncle. That's something a child can figure out. I don't know what the hell this was.
So, based on the Mark Suszko review of Tomorrowland, I give this movie a final reaction of:
Note that you can now embed animated gifs inside the COW. This was not always the case of course, but as a reminder to alla y'all: bring 'em on!
I don't mind the idea of stretching a non-existent idea into a full-length movie. I think most people here didn't mind The Lego Movie. I hated it, not because the idea was non-existent -- which it was -- but because it was loud and boring and didn't actually look or act like Legos. Not that I was looking for stop motion, but c'mon.
I am clearly in the minority on this. But the idea behind the movie was no more substantial than Tomorrowland.
On the other hand, the non-existent idea behind turning the board game Battleship into a movie -- I'm crazy about it. I buy on average less than 1 movie per year. Since the end of the LOTR trilogy, I don't even buy 1 disk every TWO years...and I bought Battleship. The 2-disk Blu-ray edition.
I am clearly in the minority on this too.
So I'm never going to kvetch about a movie built around no actual idea, based on something that it actually bears no connection to whatsoever. Too many movies do that to count. But they have to be GOOD. And they CAN be.
My allergy to Lindelof now requires an EpiPen that I carry with me at all times. Although hey, if the movie or TV series sounds good, I'll shoot up. I owe him that much for the first 4 seasons of Lost....but Mark's excellent review suggests that for now, EpiPen remains the better part of valor.
From what I've read out of press materials, The movie didn't start out as tied directly to Disney's "Tomorrowland", but was a more effusive tale until somebody down the line had the notion to tie it into the Disney park attraction area.
Which also says something about the movie.
Me at the start:
Me by the end of the movie:
Me at the theater, after:
Ha Ha, I love the images you guys are posting.
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I want to say one more thing about Tomorrowland, the attraction.
Walt had expectations that Tomorrowland would be a place in constant re-build and change, keeping up with the leading edge of technological advances. Of course, re-designing a major area of your park every ten years or so is expensive, when you can leave it static and just keep charging people to see the place slip backwards into nostalgia. Suits love to avoid costs and maximize existing assets.
When Eurodisney opened in France, they decided, for practical reasons, to style THEIR Tomorrowland to fit in with a Jules Verne /steampunk aesthetic, because it was culturally appropriate, and Europeans, unlike Americans, are neither afraid of, nor uninterested, in the past.
So seeing that it worked in Euro Diz, Bob Iger ordered the American Disneyland to remodel our Tomorrowland the same way. Saves costs too, since all the stuff is already prototyped for the Euro version, AND, you can just leave it like that every year and it doesn't seem to "age" as badly, because it's a "future" already set in the "past". Parts of that era of Tomorrowland are still visible, because their paint schemes were all brown and copper.
( Steampunks are goths who have discovered the color "brown" )
They took apart the giant saturn five ride with the rotating arms that would fly you around in circles high overhead... and turned it into a nondescript mobile sculpture. Talk about a dystopian move.
Now people my age, Brad Bird's age, feel a nostalgic longing for those more wonder-filled and optimistic times, and the aesthetic that accompanied them. I wouldn't mind some of the real Tomorrowland to have the retro aesthetic re-applied, but if they wanted to be at all true to the ideals Uncle Walt had, they'd make it more like an always-changing version of the Worlds Fair, where you really COULD see new prototypes of every kind of invention and try some of them out. Not just watch commercials and promos for existing products by "sponsors".
My favorite bits of Disney World are the remnants of the 1960's World's Fair - It's a Small World and Carousel of Progress. You walk into those attractions and it is like a time capsule. The rest of Tomorrowland is movie based - Lilo and Stitch, Monsters Inc, etc..
Although these have been updated slightly, they are still the nostalgia they were meant to be.
Pretty shallow of Disney to think that Tomorrowland would be popular because of the Magic Kingdom coincidental naming.
Coming soon, Adventureland - a place where rich people can pretend to be cowboys and interact with robots. Don't get excited Bog Iger, that was called Westworld.
Also in the works is The Jungle Cruise, in which a fake jungle boat ride goes malfunctions, off course down an actual river, and the boat operator needs to defend the guests against actual jungle animals. Chris Pratt - this one is calling your name.
At the end of "Tomorrowland", robot "kid" scouts are sent around the world to locate a new generation of Dreamers, and it is very obviously a callback to "it's a small world after all".
Jungle Cruise could be the sequel to Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder.:-)