Tomorrowland: An Underappreciated Disney Film

Casey (Britt Robertson) in Disney's TOMORROWLAND.

The futuristic Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson, is certainly an underappreciated Disney release.

Frank Walker (George Clooney) takes us back to his childhood during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.  Young Frank unsuccessful in selling his prototype jetpack to David Nix (Hugh Laurie).  Athena (Raffey Cassidy) hands Frank a Tomorrowland pin and gives him instructions to follow her to Walt Disney’s It’s A Small World attraction.  Next thing we know, he’s transported into a futuristic world.

Unlike Frank, Casey Newton’s (Britt Robertson) story starts differently.  We get a brief flashback to 2003 but her story really starts with sabatoging a planned NASA demolition.  Her father, Eddie (Tim McGraw), is a NASA engineer but will soon be out of a job.  While Casey gets arrested, she finds a mysterious pin in her belongings.  All it takes is one touch to transport her to this stunning world of the future.  While the world is certainly real, what she sees is an invitation to join.  Unfortunately, the battery runs out.

A quick search online points Casey in the direction to Blast from the Past in Houston.  The memorabilia store allows Disney to take advantage of synergy with so many Star Wars easter eggs.  But just as soon as Casey gets there, store owners Hugo (Keegan-Michael Key) and Ursula (Kathryn Hahn) want to know more.  It doesn’t end well for either of them once Athena comes back into the picture.

L to R: Frank (George Clooney) & Casey (Britt Robertson) in Disney's TOMORROWLAND.
L to R: Frank (George Clooney) & Casey (Britt Robertson) in Disney’s TOMORROWLAND. (Kimberley French/Disney)

Athena takes Casey to Frank’s house with a detour or two along the way.  Frank is reluctant and doesn’t let her in.  For one, Frank is currently banished.  Casey makes her disagreements known.  Once assassins visit the house, going to Tomorrowland is no longer a choice.  The trio soon teleport their way to the Eiffel Tower.  The reason for this location is that Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison were the co-founders of Plus Ultra.  This secret society created Tomorrowland within another dimension.

Upon arrival, they find the land of tomorrow in a really bad state.  We never really find out what happened to the place.  What we do know is that David Nix is now the governor.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to care that the world is going to end.  Nor does he wish to listen when Casey believes that there’s hope for another future.  Frank believes that Casey can fix the place.  Nix is seemingly only in it for himself.  Nix proves this by going into a heavy monologue about the pending apocalypse.

“In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it,” Nix says.  “And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.”

Cue the inevitable fight between good and evil.  While good ultimately wins out, it’s not without a major loss.  This brings us to where we are at the start of the film with the rebuilding of Tomorrowland.  The film leaves us with a hope for the future.

Most of the film doesn’t take place in the futuristic world but rather, on the road.  It’s a buddy adventure for the large bulk of the film.  All in all, the script is rather ambitious.  Yes, Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird may be asking a lot of us but I feel that Bird executes it well in his direction.  I’ve been thinking of rewatching this film for a few weeks now and I’m glad I did.  The visuals are just as stunning as I remember and it’s a really brisk pace.  Composer Michael Giacchino develops some spectacular music for the film.  The themes hold up quite well.

There’s an opportunity here to tie in the film with the futuristic theme park at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  It was likely for the best of the film that all references ended up getting cut.  In spite of the missed opportunity, this is very much a Disney film through and through.  Even though the story was penned by Lindelof, Bird, and Jeff Jensen, Walt Disney himself would be proud of the finished result.  Tomorrowland may not be the perfect movie but this is the type of ambitious Disney film that I miss the most.

DIRECTOR:  Brad Bird
SCREENWRITERS:  Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
CAST:  George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key

Walt Disney Pictures opened Tomorrowland in theaters on May 22, 2015. The film is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.  Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.