The UnPopular Opinion: Tomorrowland
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
This past summer movie season was full of surprises and disappointments. Some superhero movies thrilled while others underwhelmed. Sequels flopped and reboots soared. The biggest shock this season may have been just how well JURASSIC WORLD performed while lost in the shuffle was the best movie for all ages in what feels like decades. I am, of course, talking about Brad Bird's science fiction adventure TOMORROWLAND. With a concept kept mysterious in trailers for a year and spectacular special effects, TOMORROWLAND flopped when it didn't deserve to. In fact, TOMORROWLAND deserves a place in the pantheon of recent Disney films like JOHN CARTER and THE LONE RANGER.
TOMORROWLAND is what I would expect a live action Pixar film would look like. Reflecting on the animated works of Brad Bird, TOMORROWLAND shares a lot in common with THE IRON GIANT. Both films explore what the risks of technology could be while also showing that human emotion and perseverance can take the imagination anywhere. There was a high concept at the core of this film, one that shares a lot with the ABC series Lost, which TOMORROWLAND screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen knew all to well. But, where lost had years to explore and expound on it's massive concept and mythology, TOMORROWLAND had to condense into a two hour feature.
What likely kept audiences away was the lack of plot explanation or recognizable faces in the cast. Yes, George Clooney plays prominently in the story, but for a film aiming kids and teens, he isn't exactly going to draw audiences the way a young teen star would. Audiences today are much different than they were just twenty years ago when an original concept and an intriguing trailer was all you needed to get butts into seats. Now, you need a brand and a pre-existing fan base to take chances on a project. Still, TOMORROWLAND exists and deserves to kick off a franchise of it's own. That will likely never happen but we still have this great movie to look back on.
The imaginative teaser for TOMORROWLAND promised a world of wonder and mystery as well as a middle-aged man who could lead the teen star on the journey of a lifetime. While this is not exactly going to entice THE HUNGER GAMES or TWILIGHT crowds, it drew me in and my childlike sense of wonder. It feels like a divide has grown where seeing a family oriented film is considered "uncool" but those are the same folks missing out on some of the wonderful films from Pixar and Dreamworks. TOMORROWLAND should appeal to the same people who loved WALL-E or THE IRON GIANT. But, in our desensitized culture full of violent superheroes and catastrophic disaster epics, what room is there for a movie that is steeped in imagination and hope?
Because that is what TOMORROWLAND is: imagination and hope. Damon Lindelof developed the concept of the film from Walt Disney himself. Blending the mystery box concept popularized by J.J. Abrams, Lindelof created a world with an alternate dimension constructed like the namesake park at Disney World and Disneyland. Sure, that sounds a little hokey, but the blending of Disney's utopian concept with a rip-roaring global adventure is exactly the type of movie Disney himself would have loved had he been alive to see it. The critics praised the special effects and stunning visuals within TOMORROWLAND but came down hard on what they called an overly simplistic story and boring plot.
Plot twists and red herrings do not a great film make. Sure, TOMORROWLAND has a pretty high concept behind it, but the story comes down to the responsibility of humanity to keep our planet alive. Like WALL-E or even AVATAR, there are those who claim that movies should not be overtly preachy or have a message that is anything but subtle. Let's get something straight, though: TOMORROWLAND is not proclaiming that Repubicans, Democrats, ISIS, Muslims, Catholics, Gays, Lesbians, terrorists, or patriots are responsible for the environmental collapse of our world. It is all of our fault. But, it is also well within the reach of us to correct it. Leaving TOMORROWLAND, I didn't feel like I should go plant a tree or buy a Prius, but I felt inspired to be a pinprick on this massive spinning biosphere.
The Lindelof haters out there will compare TOMORROWLAND's failure to the shortcomings of the screenwriter's other works like PROMETHEUS and Lost. Many will point to this as the crack in Brad Bird's filmography after his massive success with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL. But, I see it in a different light. TOMORROWLAND may have bombed at the box office, but that will change over time. Like THE IRON GIANT, TOMORROWLAND will grow in popularity on Blu-ray. Years from now, people will look back at the movie as another great entry in Disney's long history of film experiments.
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