Brad Bird has no doubt grown into a force in today’s Hollywood industry. Through classic animation like “The Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille” and his action extravaganza, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” , Bird has established his talent and his ways of success. All those films are not just good, they are great ( On A Side Note-Warner Bros. please release “Iron Giant” onto Blu-Ray already!!!). “Tomorrowland” looked to be the next step for Bird, a giant Sci-Fi original looking adventure. The trailers were intriguing and didn’t reveal a whole lot of the plot and even writer Damon Lindelof was teaming up with Bird; this had all the right ingredients for success.
Yet for everything that this film gets right in its buildup and setup, it also gets wrong in the final act. “Tomorrowland” although had a great premise, well written characters and intrigue, the movie falls to shambles when it attempts to pay off everything it had been leading up too. The movie as a whole is a solid Sci-Fi story with a lot of big ideas and imagination. But, where the movie wants us to believe that it’s willing to take risks when in reality doesn’t when it plays everything really safe in the final act. A decent, and solid flick just not something up to Brad Bird’s other caliber of films.
For a movie called “Tomorrowland”, very little of it actually takes place in that world. A young teenager named Casey Newton has been given a pin that transport her to the world of “Tomorrowland”; a place that the greatest thinkers of all time have created outside of our own dimension to create without any politics getting in the way and their imaginations being limited. However, Casey soon finds out that the pin won’t work forever, and needs to find a way into Tomorrowland with the help of cranky old inventor who may have lost his way.
The majority of this movie is journey to get to Tomorrowland. In the great tradition of Spielberg films like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or even older Disney adventure films like “Escape to Witch Mountain” , the journey is the most important part of the film and not the destination. Towards the beginning you can feel PIxar’s fingerprints all over this film. Brad Bird of course being very enriched by the Pixar culture whist making “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” there brings that same sense of joy, fun, adventure, and light heartedness over to “Tomorrowland”. In some ways I almost wanted to see what this movie would have looked like in an animation format.
The movie does a brilliant job of building up its plot. Keeping just enough intrigue and mystery to have the viewers interested and anticipating what’s coming next. The characters are well defined, developed and acted from our main leads, George Clooney and Britt Roberson (and if this movie has any indication of something, Britt Roberson will make a name for herself). Meanwhile the young Raffey Cassidy almost steals the show at Athena; a child actor with acting chops beyond her years.
Bird excels at creating these wondrous eye popping visuals that seduces the eye with a sense of magic and awe. It’s hard nowadays to create that wow factor. We (as the audience) have seen just about every single special effect in the book capable of wowing us. Still Bird finds ways of making us all feel like little kids as the city of Tomorrowland is filled to the brim full of amazing ideas and creativity. In that sense this movie is worth seeing on the big screen for that alone. Everything looks will look it’s best on the biggest screen you can possibly see it on.
Now imagine if “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” didn’t have the amazing and memorable ending that it does, wouldn’t the film lose a lot of its potency and grace? A better example is actually comparing it to the Chevy Chase comedy “Vacation” (another sort of journey film). The entire movie we are on this journey across the United States to get to the Wally World amusement park. The family endures so many misfortunes and high jinks but imagine (spoilers if you haven’t seen that film) if in the final act when the Griswolds get to Wally World and they realize their fate that the amusement park is closed, Clark has a long rant and they just head home. Sort of a lackluster ending and payoff to their journey isn’t it? Yet it’s smart enough to give this whole set piece where Clark buys a (fake) gun and forces the security guard to take them on the rides, a SWAT team is called in and the movie ends on a hilarious last big event. A great ending.
Yet “Tomorrowland”, makes the mistake of not delivering a proper payoff and gives us the easy way out. The third act gets very preachy, still leaves many questions hanging and dispels into generic Sci-Fi let’s stop the bad guy action. Albeit the action sequences are well shot and choreograph but I wasn’t really invested by what was happening on screen. I was more interested in the questions and story elements the movie posed then the laser battles (which does have its place). This movie doesn’t go the extra mile and gets lazy instead.
It’s not the worst ending in the world (the recent zombie flick “Maggie” had a far worse ending) but instead of getting this film to go out on a high note and possibly evening cementing this as a future classic it turns into just a solid movie. I’m harping on this so much because the movie is really good up until the third act. I was loving almost every second of it, then it sort of crumbles in on itself. A decent movie but not the great one this could have been.