Too big to be beautiful
For Tomorrowland to work without a strong story, the visuals had to be incredible. We aren’t talking normal-incredible here, but Avatar -incredible. The parallels between both films are quite natural. After all, both the main characters in the film, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) get thrown accidentally into a utopian world called Tomorrowland, much like Jake Sully does in Avatar . And here, too, a world needs saving. The visuals, unfortunately, aren’t that great here; not great enough to ignore the weak storytelling at least.
The problem with Tomorrowland is you don’t really care for Tomorrowland. You’re constantly told that this is a land of geniuses and artists – ‘Plus Ultras’, as the film calls those people of earth who helped shape this super-modern world with skyscrapers, hover-rails and astronauts who casually tell their parents to relax because they’re only travelling “20 light years”. You take it all from a distance, not quite sure if it’ll be a great idea to live there. It’s alien, it’s unrelatable, and it would have been great if Tomorrowland had spent more time in familiarising the world to you.
Brad Bird, the director of successful films like Ratatouille and The Incredibles , reaffirms his credentials as a filmmaker with rose-tinted glasses as you’re told again and again — to the point of it seeming like propaganda — of the healing effects of optimism. So optimistic are the people in this story that when they see that there’s a minute possibility that the world may be saved, they jump onto it. I’d probably be dragging my feet along, considering that there’s more than a 99 per cent chance of the world ending. But that’s the point Bird is making. And if we are in any doubt, he removes it when he has David Nix (Hugh Laurie), the governor of Tomorrowland, telling us as much: that we’re so eager to give up that we don’t care about making the world a better place.
The ambition is there all right. It’s evident right at the beginning when Frank, a small boy then, almost manages to create a jet pack all by himself. When the adult Frank flies in a jet pack during a crucial scene, it’s impossible not to secretly cheer for him. But these moments are few and far between.
The whole saving-the-world idea is also a tad tiring. Can we have smaller problems please? The most moving moment for me came right at the end when Athena (the excellent Raffey Cassidy), the robot, talks about her companionship with Frank. It’s a little moment, but beautiful nevertheless. You want to make the world a better place? Let’s stop making as many films about individuals saving the world. How about we focus on the little moments instead?