With the release of Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2, 2015 seemed to be turning a corner cinematically. I’m happy when there’s one good movie released in a month, let alone two in one week. But of course, something was going to have to balance the karmic scales and so audiences now have the opportunity to watch the heavily teased, live-action Disney film starring George Clooney and directed by Brad Bird, Tomorrowland.
Let me be clear about the opportunity to watch the movie, however. DO NOT take it. In fact, you should not just walk, but literally RUN to almost any other movie playing in theaters right now (picking either of the other two aforementioned films is a huge step up.)
Actually, choosing Step Up would be a huge step up because Tomorrowland isn’t just bad. It’s an EPIC FAIL. Aside from the production design team and a few other technical departments which seem to know what the hell they’re doing, pretty much all the key players (cast, director, screenwriters) decided to combine forces to create one of the most boring and least engaging films I’ve seen in years.
Fair warning, starting with the next paragraph, there may be SPOILERS. You already know what I feel about the movie so you should have enough knowledge to avoid this movie like a mysterious puddle on a Greyhound bus. But if you’d like to experience more of my ranting, keep reading.
Now, I fully respect the talents of director Brad Bird but he gave up a Star Wars gig for this. STAR WARS (though somehow I won’t be surprised if he gets another shot). About the only thing done right that might have been his call here is utilizing a number of wide shots to show off the look of the futuristic city and the extremely brief time Clooney and the other two protagonists (Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy) spend in Paris.
Other than some of those images, what audiences will be treated to is a tepid, lumbering, snooze-fest that I wanted to walk out on in the first thirty minutes as it became painfully obvious that things were not going to get better.
Neither Clooney nor Robertson were going to provide any semblance of quality acting. Even Hugh Laurie, playing the film’s quasi-villain, is phoning it in so hard that they might as well have just cut in screen grabs from House. Here, let me put this into perspective. Raffey Cassidy plays a little girl who happens to be a robot (they call it something else and I don’t care). She gives a more emotive performance than anyone else in the film and she’s a friggin’ robot! Ugh.
Then there’s the “script”. Having seen that Damon Lindelof was co-writing this with Bird, I was already nervous. I know a lot of people seem to get excited when he’s involved and I’ve enjoyed some of his projects … but not because of the scripts. Lost. Prometheus. Star Trek into Darkness. And now Tomorrowland. That’s a large enough sample size for me to confidently provide a slogan for Mr. Lindelof: “Let me tease you with something interesting and fail to deliver an appropriate payoff”. Here again, we have a project whose marketing hype was partially based on this notion that there’s something so marvelous going on that you’ll be amazed when you see it happen. Well, that wasn’t the case with any of those previously mentioned properties and it’s certainly not the case here, with Tomorrowland stinking up the bed like an incontinent puppy who ate a huge plate of leftover asparagus.
I really have no idea how Bird and the team at Disney weren’t looking at the dailies as they went along and didn’t shut this down, or at least rework it entirely. It seems so obvious on seeing the final product that there’s simply no life in the movie. The acting is insipid and forgettable. The action is poorly done, lacking any real stylization and yet failing to take human fragility into account, and looks more like a cartoon than real life. And the story is such an overt and flatly delivered message about humanity needing to stop careening towards self-destruction that I’m surprised this wasn’t released on Earth Day.
I’m actually at a loss for just how bad this movie is. I went in with low expectations, just hoping there would be something to latch onto and make the 130-minute runtime worthwhile. But there’s nothing here. I don’t recommend you see this in theaters. I don’t recommend you see this at home. I don’t recommend you see this on a plane. I don’t recommend you see this in any format, at any price. The most pleasant thing I can say about the movie is that I’m happy I’ll never have to watch it again. When you have the talents of the people involved and spend a small fortune on effects and production, the end result shouldn’t be this bad.
In order to make Tomorrowland anywhere near interesting, Clooney would have had to care enough to show effort, Robertson’s role needed to go someone else as she’s less likable than the know-it-all girl from the original Jurassic Park, and the script needed to go through about 15 re-writes. And if this didn’t technically qualify as a complete film (beginning, middle, end), I’d give it an even lower grade. Clearly, you can tell I’m not a fan. Do yourself a favor and just take my word for it. You may disagree with me at times on other films but if you were ever going to just trust me … this is that time.
MPAA rating: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.
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