What an idea. What a waste.
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson from The Longest Ride), a talented inventor and go-getter is selected to visit Tomorrowland, best described as a fantastical anarcho-capitalist autonomous collective free from the pesky restraints of what we today call regulation, bureaucracy and effective oversight. Literally light years away and ahead of its time, the most talented artists, craftsmen and engineers are plucked from our over-regulated planet to indulge in and create scientific fantasies beyond the scope of red tape-ridden earth.
Among the many fortunate souls is now outcast jet-pack entrepreneur Frank Walker (George Clooney) whom Casey encounters in her quest to return to the nethersphere, overseen by a man known simply as Nix (Hugh Laurie).
What a fantastic idea for a movie! Imagine it’s potential, imagine the implications of its failing. The idea in its purest form one of the clearest articulations of Plato’s ubiquitous Republic – the greatest and most indefectible minds of the day creating their own dream-world and high-functioning society, crawling out of the metaphorical cave of contemporary darkness toward a clearer light.
Fast-forward some hundreds of years and you have a fantasy version of Ayn Rand’s own dreaming, a Utopia of free-market liberalism where the best and the brightest survive and flourish, leaving the more common earthlings blissfully unaware of the pleasures of which their lesser brains are deprived.
If only Brad Bird had actually made a movie about that! Instead, we are treated to precious few glimpses of this world in motion (not for lack of potential or deployable CGI), spending all our time on comparatively boring earth, where a lot of other, less original films are also set. Only toward the end do we glimpse the potential for story-telling and creativity within this world – untapped ideas and technologies that a director like Bird has both the scope and wherewithal to explore.
Why didn’t they make that movie, why could such an idea only be explored at its most basic? It’s devastating that this year’s most original summer blockbuster (coming amongst a cavalcade of follow-ups) saved some of its most engaging and climactic moments for potential sequel fodder.
Tomorrowland, based on a Disneyland attraction and prominently featuring the already highly-saturated Disney theme-park ride “It’s a Small World After All” is determined to package and promote the idea of Disney itself, without delivering much of the actual invention and ingenuity that Disney is not only known for but often excels at without exception.
Worse still, George Clooney, a talented star and huge draw card is woefully miscast as the grumbling, bitter reject from fantasy land. Anyone older or surlier could have done wonders – Clooney does not belong here, his casting underpinning the flawed ethos of Tomorrowland and the film itself – get all the best people in the room, whether they work well together or belong at all, and surely it will be a success.
The May release has not done as well as expected and isn’t shaping up to be the summer blockbuster for which Disney had hoped. A lesson relevant to both the legacy of anarcho-capitalists and the potential disastrous legacy of Tomorrowland, as interesting an idea as it may be, however well you package or promote it, if it doesn’t deliver or just gets it plain wrong then nobody’s going to buy it.