Monday, June 08, 2015
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.
By Ken Levine at 8:00 AM