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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

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.

What’s hap­pen­ing?

Ge­orge Clooney and Pierce Gagnon in Brad Bird’s To­mor­row­land

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