Tomorrowland had all the ingredients for a good movie — nostalgia, timeliness, and guaranteed audiences.
Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland in Disneyland, and Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris have been around for years. The California original has been around since the days of Walt himself. So they’ve had, oh, sixty years to get this movie right.
The fact that the film is so carelessly thrown together is a little insulting because they knew we’d go see it regardless of the reviews. We’re Disney fans.
The film follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), an aspiring rule-breaker who gets recruited by a creepy British robot girl named Athena (not sure why the goddess of the hunt is being referenced here) to save the world.
From there, the film didn’t decide what it’s trying to do, and makes the mistake of trying to do too much. There are evil robots trying to stop Casey and her little robot friend from doing whatever — their mission is left unclear to us for so long that the plot falls apart.
Eventually we learn that “Tomorrowland,” despite its name, isn’t actually “the future” at all. Instead, it’s some other dimension entirely, a separate reality, completely unrelated to happenings on earth. So technically speaking, no one actually time-travels in this movie. They’re not hopping from the present to the future, but rather from one world to another. That threw me for a loop.
That fact obliterates all expectations we had about the movie and asks the question why this “other place” is called “Tomorrowland” at all. Again: It’s not the future of Earth.
Casey learns that her world (ours) faces imminent doom. The “end as we know it” will happen in less than two months and there’s nothing anyone can do about it — except, of course, maybe, her.
The end of the world is always so immediate in these kinds of movies. No one imagines us just petering out, a whimper rather than a bang, because that’s less exciting. Casey is obviously very upset by this information. Action ensues. Tomorrowland becomes another hackneyed movie where a teenage and her crew of new friends race against the clock to save the world.
Kids grew up in Tomorrowland, and many of us are familiar with its mid-century style and Jules Verne-influenced, retro-futurist aesthetic. It is an antiquated vision of the future formed before iPhones and Facebook. In that way, Tomorrowland — the “real” one, not this movie — is lovely and quaint. Walking through that section of park with your soda, you realize that this is what they thought it would look like. If they only knew.
As something of an affront to the park that inspired it, Tomorrowland feels kiddie and unoriginal in the worst way. A movie that promised to reinvigorate an aging section of park succeeded only at making it look dull.