Science can’t save you now
What’s that? There’s a sci-fi plot that needs convoluting? It’s Damon Lindelof to the rescue, writes Tara Brady
TOMORROWLAND Directed by Brad Bird. Starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key. Cert 12A, gen release, 130 mins
Hollywood’s “biggest summer ever” always seemed destined to yield up a casualty or two. And so we say hello to Tomorrowland, a project that might as well make gobbling sounds from behind its snood.
We say Tomorrowland. Except that the film being released as Tomorrowland in the US has been cumbersomely rebranded for the UK and Ireland as Disney Tomorrowland: A World Beyond.
For what earthly purpose? Must it comply with some new TMI trading standards? Are the producers hoping to lose record amounts of money in this territory?
It’s a minor quibble but it is emblematic of an entire constellation of minor quibbles to come. A feature-length commercial for a Disney theme-park ride – hey, it worked for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequence – Tomorrowland bears bruises and scars indicative of groupthink. There are hurried edits and joins. There are strange outbreaks of post-production dialogue. There are two protagonists. There is an entirely unnecessary prologue. There is a whole lot of product placement. There was even chatter about putting Nick Fury in the post-credits, an aborted in-joke that reeks of desperation.
To be fair, the groupthink approach does produce the odd positive. The heroine, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), is a science-obsessed teen who is not above breaking and entering when Nasa cutbacks threaten a local launching site. Before you can say “Harry Potter” or possibly “Ayn Rand”, Casey stumbles upon an
alternative dimension ruled by super-smart people like Hugh Laurie. On the advice of a robot protector (Raffey Cassidy, excellent) – picture Arnie in Terminator 2 except played by a little English girl – Casey teams up with a reclusive scientist – think Doc in Back to the Future but played by George Clooney.
And that’s all fine. Who wouldn’t want to see a swashbuckling heroine? Who wouldn’t want to see killer robots and chases? Who wouldn’t want to see a kid that makes Kick-Ass’s Hit Girl look like a Barbie-owning wuss? Who wouldn’t want to see Clooney save the day?
The trouble with Tomorrowland – despite its alt-universe geniocracy – is that it doesn’t really know (or care) anything about sciencing at all. We’re introduced to a class of ticking doomsday doohickey which cannot be stopped by things like “science” or “intellect”. Instead we’re told the Earth can be saved by positive thinking. Yay! Polar ice caps melting? Send a cheerleader! Natural disaster? Try some woolly thinking!
Is this a spoiler? Maybe. To be honest, after 130 minutes this viewer still wasn’t sure how the scary, ill-defined contraption worked or what it was supposed to do. Nor were the rules governing the super-city of the title clear: it’s a commercial and a parallel dimension?
Unhappily, it doesn’t have to make sense because the screenplay is co-written by Damon Lindelof. In common with much of the Lindelof oeuvre – think Cowboys and Aliens, Prometheus, almost all of Lost – Tomorrowland starts strong, soon gets itself in a muddle and keeps on trucking regardless.
Does the silly suffix attached for this territory denote an expected sequel? Now that really is positive thinking. Tomorrow does not belong to Tomorrowland.
George Clooney and Pierce Gagnon in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland