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TOMORROWLAND Where’s My Jetpack?

Tomorrowland

Directed by Brad Bird

Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie

 

Sometimes when a movie goes wrong, you can see how just a few subtle changes could have made the difference. At other times there is nothing that you can do but pop on your latex gloves and begin sifting through the smouldering wreckage to try and work out what happened. Welcome to the impact crater that is Tomorrowland.

After being arrested trying to halt the dismantling of the space shuttle launch site, scientific dreamer Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) discovers a curious badge in her possessions. Touching it gives her a strange vision of another world, where the future dreams of the Atomic Age have borne fruit. With the help of an oddly ageless girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy)  and a disillusioned former child genius, Frank Walker (George Clooney), she sets out to discover the utopia of Tomorrowland.

This is a movie that appears so full of promise, yet is strangely squandered. From the confused and stilted framing device, to the unearned pontifical ending, it is a failure of intention. This is a colossal pity, as there is huge potential here for a relaunch of utopian sci-fi based on a promise of a brighter future. Instead we get a poorly paced damp squib, overly reliant on a third act that could never deliver on expectations and fails utterly in any regard.

The fault for this lies predominantly in Damon Lindelof’s screenplay. Obviously the writer of Lost loves teasing with a good mystery, and does so again here. Lindelof keeps his cards so close to his chest that it utterly stifles any dramatic tension, instead forcing the film to play an extended game of “keep away” from the audience with almost any information about Tomorrowland. Consequently, although we are told the stakes are high, we only really see this towards the end of the film, instead being drip-fed cryptic prophecies of oncoming doom till the characters actually reach the titular land. To get there it takes almost 100 minutes of the 130 minute run time, and the pay-off for such patience is poor in the extreme. The last half an hour is a rush to the end, with little tension due to the rather passive nature of the antagonist.

This is a rare fail for the usually solid Brad Bird (The Incredibles). At the very least he manages to realise the vision of this retro future-that-never-was and bring its aesthetics to the screen in a visually stunning way. We even manage to get flashes of excitement in a number of the early set pieces (one battle in a comic book store gives a glimpse at how good this could have been). Yet the end result is so dramatically inert as to be an endurance rather than a joy.

As big a disappointment to sci-fi fans in 2015 as the lack of that hoverboard from Back To The Future 2.

 

DAVID O’CONNELL