When the young Frank Walker arrives at the 1964 World’s Fair, the Sherman brothers’ “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” plays. That song and that image of a little boy with a jetpack and a dream defines the idealism that Walt Disney had for the future.
Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” is the future according to Walt Disney. It’s not set in a dystopia that the modern world has accepted as the generic conception of the future. Instead it is set in contemporary times which, according to the movie, is only a few days away from total annihilation. The Tomorrowland of the title is set in another dimension that exists alongside the present. It’s a beautifully crafted city with white skyscrapers in the style of Santiago Calatrava and public transportation that can only be dreamed.
The film is about a girl named Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) the daughter of a NASA engineer who is about to lose his job due to budget cuts. At night she sneaks onto base to decalibrate the cranes that are used to take down the launch center. This catches the attention of an android from Tomorrowland named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) is tasked with finding new recruits for Tomorrowland. After that, the plot escapes me. Something to do with a giant monitor that can travel through time using tychonic particles and how it needs to be destroyed in order to stop the apocalypse because somehow the very existence of this machine is what’s causing it. Also, Casey has a NASA hat that she loves… until she doesn’t.
But the stunning visuals of Tomorrowland are what attracted me. One of the most spectacular sequences takes place in Paris when our heroine along with Athena and an older Frank Walker (now played by George Clooney) use a steampunk rocket hidden in the Eiffel Tower to travel to Tomorrowland. Seeing the figures of Jules Verne, Thomas Eddison and Nicola Tesla in the room where they find the rocket shows the people that “Tomorrowland” considers the best and the brightest.
What I find troubling about “Tomorrowland” is how low stakes the entire idea of it is. If the machine has been destroyed in order to stop the apocalypse, why even continue trying to better Tomorrowland? Why not show the entire world the utopia so that they can turn the actual world into it? Why should only the smartest of us be the ones that have the luxury of living there? The movie answers this by saying that politics hold back innovation but I find that to just be a weak-ass explanation. With that in consideration, the only people who would feel at home in “Tomorrowland” would be the people that worship Ayn Rand. But I digress.
“Tomorrowland” achieves inspiring some sort of awe in its audience, but it lacks a clear vision of what it is supposed to be. But for at least for just a moment, I was able to look at my grandparents’ view of the future and I liked it.