by Matt Lynch Current Film

Tomorrowland | Brad Bird

May 21, 2015
Tomorrowland (2015)

At one point in Tomorrowland, an exasperated George Clooney complains to a young woman (Britt Robertson) who keeps asking him to explain all the awesome future tech he’s showing her, “Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” Then, barely a scene later, he snaps, “Stop being so amazed.” It’s symptomatic of the push-pull between the film’s plea for the return of wide-eyed wonder and aw-shucks optimism and director Brad Bird’s curiously reactionary condemnation of anyone who can’t blindly accept what he sees as the intrinsic greatness of “dreamers.” Ostensibly (and indeed admirably) a story about how cynicism and despair have taken over as the primary motivators in our culture, Tomorrowland also unfortunately presents itself as a piece of Disney corporate branding that suggests that skepticism of big ideas and innovation is tantamount to abandonment of hope and of the future itself, sending us on a one-way trip to destruction. Tomorrowland the actual place, here an interdimensional city made up of the best and brightest dreamers the world has to offer, is a quasi-Randian utopia where those same innovators have sequestered themselves, Atlas Shrugged-style, while the rest of us ingrates burn. Why these masters of imagination decided to give up on everyone who doesn’t subscribe to their obvious awesomeness instead of using their gifts to save the world speaks to Bird’s general dismissal of anyone not deemed “special” (see also the misguided egalitarianism of Syndrome, his villain in The Incredibles). Still, Tomorrowland remains packed with gorgeously production-designed retro-futurism and Bird’s classically invisible set-piece construction. It’s basically one gee-whiz chase scene after another, constantly tantalizing us with nifty tech; its unostentatiously clean shots and elegant editing rhythms speak to Bird’s tremendous (and admittedly self-evident) skills, honed over years of meticulous animation. And yet, this is still ultimately a story about how hope is delivered unto humanity by an army of machine-tooled robot drones meant to look like human children. Somehow all that wonder seems strangely insidious.

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