*** (out of five)
Tomorrowland will be remembered as the film that launched Britt Robertson into movie stardom. As Casey Newton, the feisty, science-minded daughter of a NASA engineer, Robertson does everything she can to single-handedly power this awkward, confused, shambolic young adult fantasy along. She can do perky, she can toss a double-take, and her wide-eyed, eyebrows-up, mouth-agape look of surprise saves many a scene from total irrelevence.
It’s not that the movie is bad, per se, but it’s just so undisciplined. It feels like writers Brad Bird (who also directed) and Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) started with a blank page and an unlimited budget, wrote feverishly for forty-eight hours, and shot the result with no re-writing, re-structuring or even re-reading. It’s like a one hundred and ninety million dollar improvisation.
Casey is a teenage suburban terrorist (she continually sabotages a NASA structure that is zoned for demolition, in an ongoing attempt to stop it being demolished) who is chosen by a very perky little English girl, Athena (Raffy Cassidy) to help build a brighter future for planet Earth. Trouble is, as cranky old inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney, making bank) tells her, it’s too late. Essentially, there is no there there – the tomorrow of our dreams has been hijacked by a geezer named Nix (Hugh Laurie), and we’re to be left with the tomorrow of our nightmares, which, the movie and Nix state very emphatically, is the one we have actively chosen through our nihilistic and lazy pessimism.
Shifting tones wildly, incorporating some very dubious choices (I’m looking at you, head robot man) and featuring a relentless, mind-numbing score (Michael Giacchino) that cranks every scene up to a dramatic eleven, Tomorrowland knows what it wants to say, but says it way too often and often in gibberish. At the end of the day, its vision of Utopia is essentially a combo of Changi Airport and Walt Disney World. Guess which studio produced it?