Brad Bird. Just the name should send feelings of childlike wonder through the body of any film fan. From The Iron Giant, to The Incredibles, even to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird has proved he is one of the most talented directors working in Hollywood today. He has the uncanny ability to make any sequence instantly awe-inspiring, whether it’s the final scene of The Iron Giant or the spectacular abseiling sequence from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Now Mr. Bird has teamed up with Lost and Prometheus (grr¦) writer Damon Lindelof to make Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney.
After being arrested for vandalising the cranes that are going to demolish the NASA site her father works at, Casey (Britt Robertson) finds a mysterious pin in her possession, which seems to transport her to an awe-inspiring new world called Tomorrowland. After the pin appears to run out of power, she is found by a little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and finds herself embroiled in a vast conspiracy that eventually leads her to jaded inventor Frank (George Clooney), who joins her to discover the secret about the fate of Tomorrowland¦and the world.
Normally in reviews I like to just talk about the film itself in a vacuum, not about its effect. But here, I feel I need to address that at time of writing Tomorrowland currently holds a 54% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not yet in 2015 have a felt an example of a film that I need to defend more than this one. Tomorrowland is wonderful. It really is, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
The opening scene of Tomorrowland could genuinely be a short film on its own, it’s so good. It’s just George Clooney and Britt Robertson bickering back and forth for five minutes, but the writing is so pitch perfect that it introduces their characters and sets the tone better than any opening of any film this year. It cements Clooney as the most charming man in the world and Robertson as his comic foil that’s actually funny. Many writers seem to forget for someone to be a comic foil their chemistry needs to be funny.
The plot unravels at a fairly moderate pace, and this is perfect for it. This isn’t an action film, this is an adventure flick at its most base level. An influence that is extremely obvious is the films of Joe Dante, especially Explorers and Inner Space, and this is by no means a bad thing. It’s a film about technology, but not about how terrifying and awful it is, but how amazing and wonderful it is, how much new technology should give us hope and make the future look bright. Tomorrowland achieves that feeling of awe that is sorely missing from Hollywood productions in recent years, and all of the hyper-sexualised, over-long, explosion-filled Michael Bay films in the world could never match the wonder of the spectacular one-take in the middle of Tomorrowland, taking us through the titular place and really showing off the visuals and design, not to mention Michael Giacchino’s lovely score.
Perhaps most surprisingly is the level of satire in Tomorrowland. Bird and Lindelof clearly have big, big issues with the way films are made today. The apocalypse imagery, plus the apathetic effect it’s had on everyone from teachers to scientists, is mercilessly skewered. In fact, the film’s villain, Nix (Hugh Laurie), is probably one of the best villains in recent memory in Hollywood, because he actually talks sense. After his monologue at the end (which isn’t as clichÃ©d as it sounds), you really think and actually start to agree with his points. He has reasons that he backs up with evidence. Not to mention, this line:
You know why people like the apocalypse so much? Because it doesn’t require anything of them right now.
¦is a serious gut-punch and is how you really hold a mirror up to an audience. Take notes, Unfriended.