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Imagine a place where the world’s most intelligent and highly creative minds came together to do what they do best, create and inspire. What would that place look like? What would it mean for us and how could it change our world? Disney’s Tomorrowland addresses the pros and cons of such questions and does so fully embracing its whimsical nature without going to too dark a place. This is a Walt Disney Studios production after all.
Anyone whose ever been to Tomorrowland at a Disney theme park will tell you that this film is heavily influenced by Walt Disney’s own fascination with the future of technology. He was always thinking ahead, expanding, pushing the envelope with new ideas, wondering what new devices he could experiment with in order to tell exciting and imaginative stories or create immersive and thrilling experiences at his parks.
Tomorrowland very much embodies Disney’s technological interests as well as the spirit of optimism, but more importantly, it’s about optimism in the face of cynicism, a dynamic which is itself played out between Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). The unlikely pair meet after Casey discovers a pin that when touched, gives her a glimpse of a world where quite literally, anything is possible. Fully functional jet-packs, hovering transportation systems, you name it, you just might be able to come across it there.
Getting to Frank though, is not an easy task for Casey as she searches for answers about the pin. Fortunately for her, she has help in the form of the mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy), whose involvement in the proceedings is much more than meets the eye. Together, the trio embark on an adventure that promises to alter the course of the future in the hopes of a better tomorrow.
George Clooney is our resident cynic in the former boy genius/inventor, Frank Walker. On the surface, casting the classically handsome Clooney (even in a grizzled state) in a picture like this might not make much sense in the same way that casting Dwayne Johnson seemingly made no sense for Race to Witch Mountain, another Disney live-action flick. However, like Witch Mountain, after you have seen the film the casting works well enough. Clooney is expectedly solid, managing to bring weight and even some humor, effectively managing to anchor this film. Some understatement would have been nice, but this is a movie aimed at families with kids and so, broad strokes is the name of the game.
Clooney’s co-star Britt Robertson turns in a fantastically grounded performance, through whose eyes we experience all the wonder of Tomorrowland, which is important for a film with boundless ideas. She brings a zest to the role of Casey, who represents the hopeful idealism Frank used to have as a boy. Robertson is the very heart of this picture and the movie is stronger for her presence.
The real standout here though, is the young and very talented Raffey Cassidy. She’s playing a role that is easily 20 or 30 years beyond her in Athena, yet at 13 years old she comes to the table with the skill to go toe to toe in a staring match with an Academy Award winner and not blink. While watching Cassidy and the maturity and depth she displays, one might be reminded of any one of the trio of Harry Potter actors, particularly Emma Watson. Like Ms. Watson, Ms. Cassidy certainly has a very promising career ahead of her. She just kicks butt both literally and figuratively however, to say any more would ruin the fun.
Tomorrowland is a film with spectacular visuals, fresh ideas and a huge heart. It is not Brad Bird’s best, but it is every bit as fun as anything else he has directed with a little something to think about thrown in. It comes packaged with a pointed message about optimism and hope, which at times may seem a bit heavy-handed, but maybe it needs to be that way in order to counteract the heavy cloud of cynicism looming over the world today.