Disney's new expensive venture Tomorrowland, which is based on their very own theme park attraction, was all set to become a brand new Pirates Of The Caribbean money machine with early word-of-mouth being positive and released stills looking pretty good.
Sadly, the film flopped and that even ended up costing us Tron 3.
Add to that critics not exactly raving about it after the film's international release and you've got yourself another big disappointment for the Mouse House. You'd think that spending $200M on the likes of The Lone Ranger and John Carter would have taught the company some restraint but no. Once again, here we have a relatively enjoyable kids' movie with fab visuals but not much else. The idea of a parallel dimension with some perfect futuristic utopia that may not be all that perfect after all was a good one and the ambition director Brad Bird brings to the table is commendable. You can tell there was a genuine attempt here to take the far-fetched genius of Jules Verne's stories, add some Spielbergian flair and create a very big adventure kids would go nuts for.
You've got robots in there, time travel (sort of), rockets, jet-packs, Star Wars references, shameless Coca-Cola product placement, severed heads, the lot. So where did it all go wrong?
Well, for one thing, it's about as convoluted as they could have possibly made it. The villain's motivations don't really feel well thought out, neither does his evil plan and neither does George Clooney's ageing inventor. The adventure is keen to take us cool places by introducing space travel, the end of the world, slicing the Eiffel Tower in half, among other things, yet none of it seems to make much sense as the film focuses on delivering pleasing visuals without having much script to back any of its wild ideas up. The beauty of Jules Verne's novels were their simplicity: sure they were also pretty out there but you bought it instantly thanks to brilliant characterisation and expert storytelling. Tomorrowland throws a lot of stuff at us and only a couple of things stick. Clooney's intricate inventions make for one genuinely exciting sequence when he and Britt Robertson's character try to run away from smiley dark suit-wearing robots but there's not nearly enough of that in the film. Most of the time, you're sitting through backstories, exposition and a frankly bizarre kid robot/old man romance.
As well as throwing nutty visuals and random plot points our way for no reason, Tomorrowland also aims to have a moral but, unlike most fables, it doesn't just have a moral, it has several over-simplified morals. The film wants to be a celebration of dreamers, of those who want to create because they believe that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. But the creation of an exclusive place like Tomorrowland feels so elitist and unbalanced (just because someone's a genius or a "dreamer" doesn't mean they're a good person), you wonder what the point of it actually is. If, like Minority Report, the film wanted to show that a perfect system like this couldn't work because humans are just too flawed for such a utopia then that would have actually made sense. For a while, that feels like the main message but, by the end, the film goes back on its own ideas and the last 5 minutes are preachy cheese the likes of which Disney hasn't tried flogging us in a while.
I guess an ode to optimism was always going to enchant and infuriate.
All in all, while I admire the ambition, the creativity, the originality and the visuals the film put in motion and on screen, it was still much too flawed to truly work and, sadly, this is one surprisingly forgettable movie that could have easily been much, much more. It is entertaining and young teens should have fun with it, just don't expect older viewers to fall for it or younger viewers to not have nightmares after that robot kid gets run over by a car then proceeds to run at full speed after the lead protagonist like the T1000 from Terminator 2.
A very pretty, well-meaning missed opportunity.