Damon Lindelof (showrunner of Lost, screenwriter of Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness) is one of the most controversial screenwriters working today. He has some fans thanks to the ambitious nature of most of his scripts, but he has just as many detractors (if not more so) thanks to his ability to ask way more questions than he can answer. Even with the expert direction of Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Tomorrowland is not going to change anyone’s mind about Lindelof. It’s filled with amazing and exciting ideas that ultimately lead to a rushed conclusion. However, as a big fan of Lindelof, I couldn’t help but admire the ambition and optimism that is on full display. With some breathtaking scenery, this is a summer film that makes you think while also giving you imagery you haven’t seen before.
Tomorrowland follows Frank Walker (played by George Clooney in adult form and Thomas Robinson in child form), an inventor who has lost his fascination with the world after being told disturbing news about the fate of humanity, and Casey (Britt Robertson), an optimistic teenager that just wants to right the wrongs of the world, as they are brought together by Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a mysterious girl, in order to rediscover a futuristic city known as Tomorrowland.
The plot of Tomorrowland can certainly be called convoluted as so many ideas are being thrown around that we don’t really get any momentum into finding Tomorrowland until well into the second hour of the film. While this is certainly a problem, the interesting concepts that are spoken about and the visual imagery employed by Brad Bird do more than enough to mask the loads of exposition in the film. This is a film that can have an overlong argument between characters explain a major part of the plot followed by a stunning one-take sequence that is really just there as a visual rather than something necessary to the plot while still feeling better as a whole than its individual parts. Many will point to the tidy ending that comes about from nowhere in the last thirty minutes but it is hard not to love the mishmash of things that come before.
It also helps that the film does a great job of creating an interesting cast of characters. Frank Walker is a much more interesting character as a child (and fortunately there is a decent amount of screen time for the younger version of the character), but George Clooney brings enough gravitas to make the emotional arc of the character work. It’s really the women who make this film so interesting. Britt Robertson’s Casey makes for one of the more memorable heroines in recent years as her unabashed optimism is refreshing in the current age of antiheroes, and Raffey Cassidy’s Athena is just flat out one of the most memorable characters of the year.
With a film as optimistic and ambitious as Tomorrowland it is just too easy to ignore its many flaws.