Tomorrowland review: A grumpy George Clooney is out to save the world

  • Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: May 23, 2015 11:22 IST


George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Brittany Robertson, Raffey Cassidy

Director: Brad Bird

Rating: 3/5

Anybody remember the heady '80s when science was going to take us places, solve all our problems and, after all that is done, give us all jetpacks?

For those who need more prodding: Remember Marty McFly, Doc Brown and their voyage Back to the Future? As a little kid watching the film, I just couldn't wait for that science-fuelled utopia to arrive. Especially getting aboard those jetpacks, hoverboards and flying cars.

Can optimism save the world? This film pins it all on hope.

Alas, it never did arrive. What we got instead was dystopia. At present, it is the only idea facing humanity - in literature, in films and in reality, thanks to scarce resources and global warming.

Tomorrowland is that place in another dimension where these two worlds clash and combine. But before we are faced with the end-of-the-world scenarios in this film, there is an unabashed visual spectacle of an opener. A setpiece so stunning that the director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) or Disney felt no need to make this film in 3D.

Pint-sized Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) visits the World Fair in '64 with his homemade jetpack which, err, technically cannot fly. The talented youngster is soon sent packing by the judge David Nix (Hugh Laurie), but a girl Athena (Raffery) sees his potential. She gives him a pin with 'T' on it and asks him to follow her.

Hugh Laurie plays David Nix, a visionary-turned villain.

That is his, and our, introduction to Tomorrowland - a nerd's paradise with gleaming skyscrapers, flying trains, swimming pools hovering midair, bots tinkering with machinery and roving gyroscopes. It looks like that childhood world come true with world-class CGI. Bird uses his animation expertise to make this world stark and vivid - shining blue skies, gleaming green of trees and that tech.

And then it is '60s no more. We are back 2014 where Casey Newton (Robertson), a scientist's daughter, when not subverting NASA's attempts to dismantle its Cape Canaveral base is asking what we are doing to save our planet. A rebel yet close to her family, she is tech-savvy and knows how to tinker with tech.

Enter Athena, yes the same girl who met Frank in '60s and who has not aged a day in the interval. She gives a pin to Casey as well and they along with an older Frank (George Clooney, crotchety and disillusioned now) set out to save the world.

With the narrative shifting between various dimensions and story shifting gears, the film suffers from uneven storytelling. There are dull periods in between where the action sags and your attention wanders. George Clooney, on whose name the film is being sold, doesn't really enter the action till very late.

A long-winded and rather preachy climax also tries your patience. After the director offers you words like tachyons, relativity and much-convoluted scientific logic based on shifting planes of space and time, you have to listen to lectures on why humanity despite knowing that annihilation is nigh refuses to do anything about it.

But, at the end of the day, it is a kid's film. Its inherent optimism, righteousness and all that emphasis on hope is justified by its target audience. Dreaming, according to adults, is enough to fight apocalypse as told in this film, but a child can always hope. Right?

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