Monday, June 08, 2015

TOMORROWLAND: My review

Let me start with THE CAINE MUTINY. You’ll see why in a minute. I was maybe six. For some reason I found myself in a movie theater where THE CAINE MUTINY was playing. Maybe I thought the Three Stooges were in it, I dunno. Anyway, I watched it. It was my first military courtroom drama. I was completely lost. I didn’t even know the meaning of the word mutiny. By the time they got to the trial and Humphrey Bogart was on the stand I was going out of my mind.

I thought back to that recently when I attended a DGA screening of TOMORROWLAND. It was a matinee and there had to be at least twenty kids in the audience. As the movie rumbled on adding one jumbled story turn after another I reached a point where I thought, if I’m baffled, what are these kids thinking? Sure enough, the towheads in my row had the most adorable “What the fuck is happening here?” expressions on their angelic faces.

That’s a real problem for a family-friendly movie.

It's like an exciting disjointed trailer. You don’t know what’s going on but the images are eye popping. Now imagine that for two hours.

TOMORROWLAND is unfortunately, a mess. I say unfortunately because its goals are lofty, its message of hope is admirable, and its filmmakers are among the best and most imaginative in the business. Writer/director Brad Bird will always be in my Hall of Fame for THE INCREDIBLES alone. And co-writer Damon Lindelof was a showrunner on LOST (wonderful storytelling until the finale). If anyone can generate interesting original ideas it’s these guys. But it’s like they took every interesting original idea they’ve ever had since the second grade and thrown them all into this hodge-podge of a movie. It tries to be Spielberg, it tries to be sci-fi with action-adventure and sermonizing. You have time travel, portals, MEN IN BLACK chase scenes, awe and wonder, mystery, THE JETSONS, Jules Verne, the Apocalypse (it can’t be a summer movie without one), cyborgs, riddles, ticking clocks, villains, and a plug for Disney rides. But it all adds up to an ending so convoluted that Einstein would be saying, “Let’s see if we can sneak into theater 12 and catch the last half hour of MAD MAX.”

George Clooney stars. But he’s hardly even in the movie for the first hour. And when we do eventually get to him he plays is this world-weary sad sack who has lost all hope. What an electrifying hero! You get the feeling he still feels guilty for once playing Batman. His co-star is perky teenager Brittany Robertson, who seems beamed aboard from the Disney Channel. Thank God they didn’t introduce a love story between them. (I’m sure if Woody Allen had directed it there would have been.)
The best thing in the movie was Hugh Laurie.  Of course, he's usually the best thing in anything he's in, whatever his accent.  

The sad lesson here is you can hedge your bets with A-list directors, writers, and stars. You can create spectacular worlds, dazzling visuals, and feel-good messages. You can support it with the best marketing department in Hollywood. And there’s still no guarantee you will have a successful movie.

At least when I saw THE CAINE MUTINY as an adult I got it.  When the kids who saw TOMORROWLAND grow up, I hope they'll just watch BACK TO THE FUTURE instead.  

I got the sense that the ending was setting up possible sequels. If they really think that, the next one should be called FANTASYLAND.

29 comments:

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Saw it on Friday with the kids and your end tagline says it all.
It was so confusing that they couldn't even figure out what question to ask... "Wh,wh,when he...um...where was...huh?"

H Johnson said...

I agree with you on each point. I wanted it to be good. I kept waiting for the 'aha' moment. It's been a few days, I'm still waiting.

I love how you throw Back To The Future in there just to cause trouble in the comment section. Well done.

Aloha

MikeK.Pa. said...

Michael Caine, born Maurice Micklewhite, chose his stage last name from a phone booth, while on the phone with his agent, looking at a movie marquee. Later he joked that had a tree branch blocked his view, he might have had the stage name Michael Mutiny.

I was tempted to see TOMORROWLAND because of Clooney, but after reading the reviews (before yours) decided to beg off. Hoping to see LOVE and MERCY this weekend.

Hamid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Glenn E said...

Yes, I hope LOVE AND MERCY is the next film review posted here - would like to hear Ken’s thoughts on this one. The scene when Neil Young gets kicked out of Wallichs Music City for smoking is a hoot.

Hamid said...

I'm not sure if I should be flattered that I have an insane stalker here but thank you to Ken for deleting his ramblings.

I've yet to see Tomorrowland but I'm glad to hear that Hugh Laurie is great in it. He's one of my all time favourites and even got his autograph when I was 11 years old and he was incredibly friendly.

On Back to the Future, well, I've said it before but it bears repeating. It would have a tough time appealing to kids now. They'd be perplexed at the lack of a rap song on the soundtrack and the fact that Marty doesn't go around saying "Yo Doc, peep dis shit".

rahul rattan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Curt Alliaume said...

Good points. I brought my then-eight-year-old son to see Hugo when it came out - I loved it, and he hated it. (It might have helped if I'd spent the extra couple of bucks for the 3-D version, but I doubt it.)

So I'll know not to take him to this (he's now nearly 12), and we'll watch Back to the Future on Blu Ray instead.

Carol said...

Off topic, but I was wondering if you saw this Buzzfeed article asking writers what their favorite scene that the wrote was: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jarettwieselman/the-write-stuff#.hu1xgWmZZr

It's nice to see writers being acknowledged, I thought.

Do you have an all-time favorite scene out of everything you ever wrote?

Dan Sachs said...

Just to add a dissenting voice here, as an adult without any kids in tow I thought it was a great movie; the perfect antidote to the wave of dystopian movies that seem to be in vogue these days. I agree it's not a kid's movie but as a grown-up I enjoyed it immensely and I would recommend it to anyone old enough to vote!

emily said...

In addition to the "Please prove you're not a robot," button, perhaps Ken should create a "Please prove you're not cuckoo, a stalker, or otherwise deranged" button.

'Not sure I could get in then, but it couldn't hurt.

Johnny Walker said...

THE INCREDIBLES was fantastic, but THE IRON GIANT was magnificent. That, and LOST (including the finale), make me want to watch this. They're two very smart, intelligent, talented guys... I still want to see it, but how did they end up with a film that so many are saying is a turkey. *sob*

Hamid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Todd Everett said...

Friday question:

What does one have to do to earn a "story by" credit? Would "Lucy and Ethel work at a candy factory"* be sufficient, or how detailed does it have to be? And how is pay figured for that?



* I know; it's been done. So how about "Laverne and Shirley work at a candy factory"?

John said...

I will always love Hugh Laurie for his years on Black Adder and with Stephen Fry, but his recent stint on Veep has reminded me how thouroughly overcooked is "American" accent is. Does it really bother no one else but me?

cadavra said...

Just for the record, Robertson is playing a teenager; she was in fact 24 when the film was shot (born in 1990).

MikeN said...

Lately George Clooney's idea of making a movie is to take a regular movie and slow it down by half. And people keep nominating him for awards for making such boredom.

John said...

Hey, Columbia Pictures made "The Caine Mutiny". They could of put the Stooges in it. Or at least they could have done a short to go with the feature, where Shemp and Larry steal Moe's strawberries.

Anthony said...

I missed your Tony review this year...I am one of the 6 who loved those.

Mike Doran said...

John (and Ken, too):

Next time you see The Caine Mutiny, take a close look at the court martial panel.
One of the officers is Kenneth MacDonald, who was taking time off from his usual Columbia duties, shuttling between the Stooges and the Durango Kid.
Following his Naval stint, MacDonald joined the civilian judiciary, presiding over more than sixty trials on Perry Mason.
Experience counts.

A. L. Crivaro said...

Shit... I was looking forward to this.

CamrioKid said...

If you're a Hugh Laurie fan, Ken, make sure to catch his multi-episode appearance on VEEP this season. He's SO good in this role.

Josh said...

Usually agree with your takes, but I thought Tomorrowland was well-done. Sure there were a lot of refrigerator questions, but I cared about the characters, loved the world, and teared up along the way.

D. McEwan said...

"MikeN said...
Lately George Clooney's idea of making a movie is to take a regular movie and slow it down by half. And people keep nominating him for awards for making such boredom."


This criticism would have some slight validity if it were aimed at movies directed by George Clooney. However, George Clooney did not direct Tomorrowland; Brad Bird did, so any issues you may have with the pacing of this movie should be directed at Brad Bird. This holds true for all movies Clooney appears in but did not direct.

And frankly, given the frenetic pace of most movies today, made in absolute abject TERROR that some individual in an audience somewhere might be mildly bored for ten seconds if the color, movement and loud noises slow down for even a millisecond, some more-leisurely-paced movies would be welcome. Hitchcock kept audiences in delicious suspense and fascinated throughout all 135 minutes of North By Northwest with only one car chase, no fist fights, and a number of scenes in which people spoke to each other in an intelligent and even witty manner. When did every movie feel it had to be the climax of an Indiana Jones movie for its entire length?

cadavra said...

Saw it today, and sorry, Ken, but I had absolutely no problem following it--indeed, it's thrilling to see a movie where one doesn't know what's going to happen next--and the end actually brought a tear to my eye. (Plus the little English girl is a real find.) I think it's the best movie of the year so far, and I'm genuinely saddened that it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. IMHO, of course.

Samuel said...

I for one definitely want to see it now, always did for the cool "TomorrowLand" eye candy; even if only a bit more than there is on the trailer. After a review like that it's almost as fun taking along a mental bingo card and counting all the issues. I guess an enthralling plot with tightly integrated character development the moves the story along would be better but there's lot's of ways to watch a movie.

(and personally prefer grouchy-cloony over suave-cloony, just hate having to repress that wanna-punch-him-in-the-nose feeling)

Diane D. said...

I agree totally with D. McEwan. How wonderful it would be to see movies where "people spoke to each other in an intelligent and witty manner." Remember "My Dinner With Andre" which was just two people sitting at a table and talking, and every minute of it was charming and interesting.

D. McEwan said...

Well, My Dinner With Andre took it too far the other direction. Thrice I've attempted to sit through it, and I've fallen fast asleep each time. I can not make it past 15 minutes in while remaining conscious.

Diane D. said...

Like I said, every minute was charming and interesting---for many people.