Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor 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.”
This is the desciption of the new movie TOMORROWLAND as written by Walt Disney Pictures for IMDB. As you can tell, the premise (and plot that follows) is not easy to boil down simply. But hey, what do you expect when you step into the melding of two highly imaginative minds the likes of Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof.
I’m not going to disect the movie bit by bit, but if you haven’t seen it there are spoiler alerts ahead. What I am going to look at is where the plot structure veers off course, which happens to be within the first ten pages.
The film opens on George Clooney’s character of an older Frank Walker. It intercuts with a wall of monitors displaying various chaos and mass destruction around the world and in front is a countdown mechanism that looks like it’s made out of old radio tubes. George is explaining to us the audience that the end is near, but he keeps getting interrupted by a girl who we will eventually come to know as Casey Newton (played by Britt Robertson).
Even before the story gets underway all I could think of was that the bickering between these two is not cutting it. Ostensibly, it is a devise to set up the two characters’ opposing themes of positivity and negativity as well as the all important ticking-clock device. Once we get past their bickering and into the set up of each of their characters and how they came to meet – we are hooked by Brad Bird’s clear sense of character. But we still don’t know what the ticking clock is or what their journey together means.
We learn that George was at the 1964 world’s fair (the very one where Walt Disney himself introduced the idea of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) and now we’re swept up in the nostalgia and spotting the plants of Disney throughout the fair. George’s mantra back then was never give up – but somewhere along the way, he clearly did. Casey on the other hand wants to stop NASA from dismantling their space shuttle operation because it would mean that her dad is out of a job. At this point, I really thought the movie was going to be tied to NASA (it’s not – at all).
By now, our first 10 pages and beyond are up and we don’t really know what it all means, to an extent that’s okay, but as the movie progresses we don’t even know what it all means at the end of act one or the midpoint for that matter. We are taken on an E-ticket rollercoaster where every theme from; don’t give up, to reach for the stars, to would you want to know when you’re going to die, to being duped by a commercial, is tossed about. Probably 2/3rds of the way through my son asked me ‘who is the bad guy in this?’
Finally in the end we get the bookmark of when we opened and we realize, in a very Disney way, that the artists and scientists need to be allowed to work together to save the world – in other words, the dreamers are the doers. The continuity freak in me was not happy that the countdown clock and monitors were destroyed in act one when George’s house self-destructed, but I doubt it bothered many others.
All in all, the movie will win the weekend and will no doubt make enough of money beyond – and there’s nothing wrong with that – because it does mean well. But it could be so much more, if a cleaner structure of plot was focused on as much as the bevy of Disney themes. It is a clear example that sometimes 2 wildly imaginative minds need someone to rein them in and keep them focused.
Here’s a snippet of where not doing that got them.