‘Tomorrowland’ is a terrific kids’ story filled with adventure and morality
PHOTO BY WALT DISNEY PICTURES
Where is it playing?: Downtown Centre Cinemas, Park Cinemas Sunset Drive-In, Fair Oaks Theater, Stadium 10
What's it rated?: PG
What's it worth?: $8.00
What's it worth?: $9.00
Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as Tomorrowland. Directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol), the film also stars Hugh Laurie.
Glen: This would have been my favorite movie when I was 10. It’s filled with the sort of wondrous anything-is-possible story that kids love. Like a lot of great yarns, this one starts with a framing device. We meet Frank as an adult, and he begins to tell a story of his boyhood. He’s 10-years-old, and he’s traveled to the World’s Fair to enter his jetpack into an inventor’s competition. Little does he know the competition is really just way to find the best and brightest on Earth and take them to a place where their ideas can create utopia. Of course, like any plan that aims for perfection, things go off the rail. Enter Casey, a young woman as filled with promise and hope as Frank was as a boy. She tracks Frank down, and after trying to get rid of her, they eventually team up and set out to save our world, which we learn has 59 days left before it’s destroyed by our own behavior. If you think it sounds like it’s got an obvious environmental message, you’re right. It’s pretty heavy handed and didactic, but then again, its target audience is children. On a side note, it’s worth mentioning that it earns every bit of its PG rating, and some violent scenes may scar kids under 9 or so. Likewise, some teens may already be too cynical to slip into the wide-eyed wonder of the film. Me? I loved every minute of it, even though it may be a tad too long to keep kids’ attention.
Anna: I was worried that this movie would be dripping with sentimental sap but was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t, even though it has many very typically Disney moments. I really enjoyed Britt Robertson as Casey—a young, strong-willed, smart teenager with a love of space, adventure, and knowledge. She admires her NASA engineer dad (country singer Tim McGraw) and is a sweet and caring older sister to Nate (Pierce Gagnon). Overall, she is just a really likeable girl and a great female character for young girls in the audience to look up to. Raffey Cassidy plays a smart and spunky Athena, who we also see in flashback scenes of Frank’s childhood. The fact that Athena looks like the same 8-year-old past and present gives us a clue that she is something other than human, and we soon learn she is a machine whose purpose is to recruit the best and brightest to Tomorrowland. She gives her last pin, which acts somewhat like a portal, to Casey. And so the adventure begins as Casey tries to track down the story behind this mysterious pin.
Glen: I, too, really liked Athena. She sees something in the young Frank (Thomas Robinson) that Tomorrowland’s leader Nix (Hugh Laurie) doesn’t see. Sure, his jetpack doesn’t quite work, but young Frank’s dreams are inspirational. Unlike Casey’s encouraging dad, Frank’s dad (Chris Bauer) doesn’t believe in or inspire his son, which is another strong theme in the film: Parents should instill in their children that anything is possible if they try and don’t give up. Along the way, Casey runs into trouble, not just from grown-up Frank’s resistance but also from a team of black-suited robots bent on thwarting her efforts to save the world. It seems as if Nix wants to see the world burn. How can one young woman fix it all? At its heart, the film is about hope. Frank has lost his hope but Casey hasn’t lost hers, and that little shred of hope is sometimes all you have to hang on to. The film makes the point that it’s easy to give up, to look at the enormous problems before us and feel impotent. How can we stop climate change? How can we stop war and violence? How can we stop avarice? The answer is you take the first step, you don’t give up hope, and collectively, all those individual steps add up to change. Bring your 10-year-old (or your inner 10-year-old) to the theater and enjoy the ride. This has one of the most memorable opening sequences I’ve seen in some time, and the whole film? It’s quite a ride.
Anna: This is also a very cool movie visually, with plenty of action and adventure along the way. Tomorrowland is sleek and futuristic, and seems to brim with hopefulness and innovation. That is, at least, the Tomorrowland we see when Frank is a child and when Casey gets transported via her pin. When they finally get there in present day, the scene is bleak, desolate, and sad. The people bustling about, zipping around with jet packs, and riding on rocket ships are gone. But even in this seemingly hopeless situation with a villain hell bent on destroying Earth, Casey’s drive to change the situation wins out. This is a great movie for kids, assuming they’re old enough to handle seeing a human-like robot’s head smashed in. What I love about this film and films like it is that adults get to enjoy it, too. It doesn’t pander to children or tiptoe around difficult subjects like global warming, but is totally enjoyable and appropriate for the whole family to watch. In the end, we get to see Tomorrowland brought back to the busy, beautiful place it once was, and that message of continued hope lasts right up to the very last second.
Split Screen is written by New Times Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.