Saturday, 19 December 2015

Tomorrowland (2015)

Another movie based on a Disney theme park ride? blimey. Well its not actually a ride, let me clear this up. Tomorrowland is actually part of the Magic Kingdom Park, it makes up one of six themed lands within the Magic Kingdom, the others being Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Main Street USA. Each of these lands obviously feature rides, stalls, and places of interest based on the individual themes, hence Tomorrowland features famous rides like Space Mountain. The entire area has a 50's Jetsons type appearance to it which is used in this movie, although I don't think the movies plot is based on anything specific within Tomorrowland, I believe they have just used the name and theme park stylings for the basis of a sci-fi fantasy story (I think).

So, the plot, holy jukebox! its convoluted alright, I had no idea what to expect from this movie and I gotta be honest, for quite some time I was lost. Basically the story is a big flashback told by the two main characters, played by Clooney (Frank) and Britt Robertson (Casey). Its all about a secret organisation called Plus Ultra that dates back to the mid 1800's with key members such as Nikola Tesla, Edison and Jules Verne. A group that consisted of brilliant inventors that eventually discover a new dimension, and within that dimension they build Tomorrowland, a place for brilliant people basically, dreamers, artists, inventors, craftsmen etc...anyone with outstanding talents. The main crux of the tale is about robots from Tomorrowland that go out into our reality looking for new talented people to come and live within this perfect utopia of greatness. One such robot, Athena (in the guise of a small girl), finds Casey, a female teen, whom she decides is talented enough for Tomorrowland. Unfortunately the leader of Tomorrowland (Nix) doesn't want these robots recruiting new people for their world because he believes our reality to be basically flawed and bad (not far wrong), so he has other robots trying to track Athena down and stop/kill her. The other reason being, a pending disaster that will destroy mankind on Earth which Nix wants to allow and only Casey can apparently stop...for some reason. So Casey must find Frank, an ex-Tomorrowland inhabitant, to assist her in getting into Tomorrowland to stop this disaster. Got it? yes? no? tough.

Now even though this movie is called Tomorrowland and is supposedly about Tomorrowland, this fantasy world doesn't actually turn up in the ever! We see more of the land towards the finale and in one glimpse through Casey's holographic badge trip thingy, but other than that we never really spend any quality time there, bit misleading. Most of the runtime is spend here in our boring dimension with Casey getting to grips with her magical badge thingy, and trying to find out more about it. This in-turn leads her deeper down the rabbit hole, naturally, and things start to get more interesting, but in all honesty it takes time to get there and many might well get bored way before then. Up until that point the film is purely a character driven story focusing on the skills of the performers, there is little fanfare apart from the odd CGI landscape or effect.

Put simply Robertson must hold the entire film together for a long time, an actress who I've never heard of and I'm sure many haven't either. Bottom line, I was impressed, not only did she hold the film, she was also highly engaging, her performance and look kinda harked back to old 80's fantasy flicks in my opinion, I liked it. She never came across as a spoilt brat or egotistical, she was always very natural and very likeable (the opposite to Jennifer Lawrence), I felt happy to root for her. Helping her along was Athena the robot played by another unknown actress (to me), Raffey Cassidy.! what a performance! very sincere, genuine, emotionally sound, she actually came across as a realistic robot...and she's really young! Teamed up together these girls were an award winning double team I kid you not. Its only much later that Clooney pops up properly and despite my fears, he was also genuinely likeable with a solid performance. Sure he doesn't do anything particularly new or surprising, he merely plays George Clooney as usual, but it fits this film nicely.

The movie really starts to brighten up when Casey reaches Frank's lonesome house out in the sticks. For me this was one of the best sequences in the movie, at a first glimpse the house is a normal run down shack, a typical bachelor pad type scenario. But when the evil secret service robots turn up to try and capture Frank and Casey, its then we see what genius Frank has managed to construct within the house. Basically the house is one big booby trap for just such an occasion when evil robots might try and storm the premises. At every turn Frank has various defences that either fry, decapitate or shred the robots. The house is monitored top to toe with CCTV and has many other surprises such as secret passage ways, magnetised walls, reinforced steel shutters, traps doors and the bathtub is also a reinforced, steel plated, jet propelled escape pod. I really enjoyed this sequence and all the imaginative quirky traps throughout the house.

Another short sequence that tickled my artistic imagination was within the Eiffel Tower (at the top). Frank, Athena and Casey are on their way to Tomorrowland but the only way there is apparently using an ancient space rocket constructed and hidden beneath the Eiffel Tower. With this they will travel through the dimensions from space, completely stupid of course, I mean Frank knows about this which indicates he's possibly done it before or seen it happen before. In which case, has how this rocket never been discovered?? plus when it does take off how does it not kill a load of people and destroy the surrounding area?!! Anyway what I liked was the beautifully ornate period study housed at the top of the Tower, presumably dating back to the mid 1800's again. We only see this briefly but it just shows the excellent production design and attention to detail, its little things like this that really bring the fantasy element to life, such a departure from our reality.

In short the entire movie is like a mystery, a mystery that you the audience must unravel along with the main protagonists bit by bit. On one hand this is good because its original and engages your brain, on the other hand I freely admit I was struggling to decipher what the hell was happening for some time. I got the gist of it but I couldn't quite fit pieces together to form the whole picture, even now I'm still not entirely sure about some things. I'm not sure why Tomorrowland had fallen into decay when Frank and Casey returned, was this simply because its heyday had passed? or maybe because no new inventors were coming to live there from our dimension? Not too sure what causes the end of our world, we see its a nuclear war type scenario, but why? Frank got kicked out of Tomorrowland because he lost faith after finding out about the pending apocalypse? again, why? I'm still not really sure why Nix wanted to allow our dimension to get destroyed, surely that would have a negative affect on Tomorrowland with no more gifted people coming through. Yes many people in our dimension are bad but surely he could see not everyone would be like that and the gifted would always be found. Lastly I'm not really sure, or convinced, why and how Casey is the person needed to save Tomorrowland. She appears to be a kind of chosen one with a gift, but I didn't really see that gift or how she differed from anyone else really.

In the end I found myself slightly puzzled over small bits and pieces, which I'm not overly sure is either down to me missing some things, or the film just having plot holes. Despite that I actually found myself really enjoying the questions that it raised, why you ask? well because its a really inventive, original piece of film making. OK sure, there are elements in the film that we've all seen before, the finale isn't too original, it gets a bit preachy at the very end, and you can't avoid cliches here and there. Nevertheless, the CGI visuals are slick, awe-inspiring and genuinely fun to look at, there are nice levels of humour, the performances are enjoyable all round, scenes are constructed and pieced together well, and you really don't know what's coming next. More importantly, despite issues, the plot is noble, enchanting and very positive, this really felt like good old fashioned proper story telling.