The Film (4/5)
As a boy Frank Walker attended the 1964 World's Fair in New York City with a jet pack of his own creation in tow. It is at the event he meets David Nix (Hugh Laurie), and a young girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Nix is not impressed by his invention, however, Athena is, and gives the boy a pin. Upon touching the pin inside the It’s A Small World Ride, the pin transports young Frank to the futuristic utopia of “Tomorrowland”.
Nearly 50 years later, we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), the daughter of a NASA employee named Eddie. As the film begins she is doing things to the launch equipment at NASA to make it necessary to keep her Father employed with the space service. She is, however, discovered, and arrested for sabotage. When she is taken into police custody among her belongings is a pin that when touched gives her visions of Tomorrowland. Upon release, she finds the now much older Frank Walker, and begins to work with the mysterious gentleman to unravel the secrets of the pin, and of Tomorrowland.
In 1982 director John Carpenter unleashed his sci-fi/horror masterpiece the Thing upon the world. It just so happened to be released in the same month as Steven Spielberg's family friendly sci-fi masterpiece E.T. The Thing, bombed in theaters, but of course grew in esteem over the decades as the masterpiece it is now known as. Now, the astute reader might wonder why I am bringing up E.T. and the Thing in a review of Tomorrowland, and the simple fact is that while Tomorrowland is no masterpiece, it is an excellent, optimistic piece of sci-fi cinema, and it so happened to be a box office bomb. It also happened to be the cultural reversal of what happened to The Thing in 1982.
Tomorrowland had misfortune to be released in the same month as George Miller's excellent Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller's Action/Sci-Fi film showed a bleak dystopian version of science fiction, rather than the optimistic one in Tomorrowland, and succeeded. I am not making a 100% judgement here, but it seems in a culture where education has become devalued to the point where students and their parents will avoid factual material because it offends their sensibilities the future outlined in Mad Max is more favorable to a movie going public than the one in Tomorrowland, where the future can be saved with optimism, and belief in the power of dreams (and science).
The film stylistic blends a mid-20th Century design aesthetic that would not be out of place in Walt Disney's original Tomorrowland with some Steampunk design choices to create something that is visually stunning to look at. Brad Bird's direction creates something that is action packed and flows nicely from one scene to the next. The overall look of the film feels like a slightly out of time dreamscape, but caught with modern technology. The performances from Clooney, Robertson, and Cassisy are quite good for what they are, and they have an outstanding chemistry together. Hugh Laurie makes for a fun, and very watchable villain.
The film does suffer a little narrative wise in the third act, and the mystery built up in the first 2/3’s doesn’t amount to as much as what was let on. However, the performances and visuals do slightly help overcome the narrative shortcomings of the film. Overall, Tomorrowland is a fun and enjoyable sci-fi experience, and those who go in with proper expectations should come out of the experience entertained.
The 2:20:1 Blu-ray transfer from Disney is predictably flawless with detail all around being excellent, colors popping all around from the green of the grass, to the blue skies, to the darker warmer tones of the Eiffel Tower interiors. Blacks levels are deep, skin tones are accurate, and I can honestly cast no complaints against the transfer.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that really showcases the full range of the films soundtrack with the score, dialogue, and effects coming through clearly and from all directions.
The Blu-ray comes with a series of featurettes including a look back on the film with Brad Bird, an animated short called the Origin of Plus Ultra, and Deleted Scenes.
Tomorrowland has a sense of optimism running through it that should be contagious. This is a film that I hope kids watch and get inspired. It is also a really fun sci-fi adventure at it's core. The Blu-ray look and sound impeccable, and the extras though limited offer a nice look behind the scenes. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.