Despite the hold Disney has upon the world, that doesn’t mean the Movie Giant is infallible. The much-anticipated Mars Needs Moms tanked at the box office, and audiences were left unnerved by the hyper-realistic animation. John Carter bombed spectacularly as well. And although we are all waiting withbaited breath for Guillermo del Toro’s Haunted Mansion, we must not forget the version with the one and only Eddie Murphy…
But Disney has not become top dog for no reason, and for every Planes, there is a Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The question is when is it a good idea, and when is it a blatant attempt at a cash cow? (i.e.Home On The Range. Pun intended.)
Such was my trepidation with Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird and starring George Clooney hitting theaters May 22. As good as the trailer looks, we all know that kind of thing doesn’t necessarily mean a good final product. Imagine my relief when Tomorrowland not only succeeded at being entertainment, but exceeded expectation. Living on this jaded and angry planet, this world needs more things that are amazing and inspiring. What better way of blending fantasy with reality and existing science with imagination? Isn’t that the root of invention, after all?
Let me be real with you all for a moment: I kept getting caught up in the movie, which isn’t something that happens to me often with movies I’m focused on reviewing. The breathtaking landscape that was this movie, along with its strong spine built from that recognizable Disney optimism, brings to life a classic dream of Walt’s that a whole new generation can discover.
Tomorrowland does an exemplary job of blending both time periods and genre. The “Big, Bright, Beautiful Tomorrow” of the future Walt Disney envisioned in the 60’s merges seamlessly with its updated imagery for the movie. As for the visuals and tone, it is a perfect melting pot of retro, modern, dystopian and futuristic elements forming into a dazzling and fresh presentation. The use of light and color palettes is smart and engaging. As the future is near blinding with its hopeful aura, most of the modern world is shadowed and oppressive. Most of the shots were filmed at night, or in near claustrophobic conditions. When we meet our protagonist, Casey, embroiled in her “Rock Star Guerrilla Science” as I have named it, you meet her in the dead of night. Yet we finally are introduced to Clooney’s character Frank, we are nearly blinded with light helping him from behind, a beacon of coming hope despite Frank’s defeated attitude. As a positive outlook begins in the present, the light of day creeps into things as the future seems to diminish, becoming dulled and desolate.
The great thing about this film is as grand as things are in terms of scale with this movie, director Bird insists upon focusing on the humanity of the story. In what could have been an epic battle scene, filled with robots and explosions around every corner, it becomes a heated battle where one man is pitted against one man. On a personal FGN “Girl Power” note, this movie excels in terms of the Bechtel test, being that main protagonist is a strong and independent young woman, and the movie has no small amount of small ladies whipping all kinds of male, adult ass.
My only complaint is the ham-handed branding techniques that have become second nature with the Disney Company. The use of the Tomorrowland pins aside, you can tell Disney took no small amount of pleasure in throwing its shiny new Star Wars weight around. Han Solo and R2-D2 make appearances in quite an aggressive manner. And given Disney’s habit of beating a dead horse, will we have another Pirates of the Caribbean franchise on our hands, slowly descending from sparkling promise to blunt clichés?
But as the movie says, “Protecting yourself from the Future is no Life.” And Disney, you did it right.