Search for a place in time and space

Tomorrowland thinks it's clever, says reviewer KIM FRANCIS-TAYLOR, but it's convoluted and gimmicky

Kim Taylor-Francis


Kim Taylor-Francis

Search for a place in time and space

GEORGE Clooney’s made some good films in his career. An appealing screen persona,
likeability, intelligence, humour and earnestness make up the careful balance of ingredients in the movie star cocktail that defines his success.

You can bank on Clooney to make movies that are, at best, outstanding examples in a genre or significant
in some way; at worst, ‘merely’ entertaining. And that’s why
Tomorrowland is a surprise. Wanting to fit into the ‘worthy’ mould and the ‘entertaining’ pot at the same time, it manages to squeeze into neither very easily.

The plot at first centres on an older gent (Clooney) telling the story of
his younger self, a boy genius who’s recruited into a futuristic world where people whizz around with jetpacs, glass structures defy the laws of engineering and giant droids fix mechanical faults. The focus then shifts to a woman around the age of 20 (Britt Robertson) telling the story of her (slightly) younger self.

The film is unnecessarily convoluted and gimmicky. It thinks it’s clever, and the self-aggrandising tone will get your hackles up, particularly when you discover it’s concealing a paper-thin plot. Very little happens between this bit and the film’s climax, save a bit of action.
Ultimately, the film makes a decision to focus on the less interesting
character of Casey Newton
(Robertson) whose task is to reveal the secrets of this mysterious place at the same time as saving the world as she knows it.

The film tries to recapture the feel
of an 80s adventure, of the type that 30-somethings remember fondly from their childhoods – The Goonies, Explorers, Flight of the Navigator and so on.

JJ Abrams proved it with Super 8 and Tomorrowland proves it again – it’s almost impossible to recreate the 80s throwback feel and have it make the same impact. Those who hold The Goonies close to their hearts do so because of all the memories that go alongside it, set amid a specific period of time. Nostalgia is what keeps those classic kids’ flicks
alive, and it can’t be reproduced: tomorrow’s 30-somethings will be remembering and re-living the likes of Harry Potter, Spy Kids and High School Movie.

Like Clooney, director Brad Bird
has been involved with some great films but what he’s made in
is a long and boring off-balance non-event. There was so much potential to immerse the
audience in an amazing, visually stunning fantasy world, but instead, he chooses to turn our attention to a drawn-out chase in the ‘real world’ that is largely uninteresting and features – for large portions of the film – a girl (Raffey Cassidy) who struggles with the concept of acting.

Relegated to a typical-for-a-Brit villain role, Hugh Laurie, absent
for the majority of the film, fails
to inject any fun, while an overly-serious cautionary message
warning us against the dangers of apathy drains further jollity from what should be a Disneyland ride of a film.

Don’t let Terminator and Men in Black elements draw you in –
Tomorrowland should be confined to the annals of yesterday and never see the light again.

Tomorrowland (12a)
Running time 2hr 10mins
Rating: **

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