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George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland’
George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland’

Film review: Tomorrowland

A futuristic Disney fantasy in a choppy and tiresome narrative

An optimist with a wild imagination and talent for invention, young Frank Walker’s (Thomas Robinson) life changes when he attends the 1964 New York World’s Fair for inventors. His jet pack may not have impressed the decision-maker, but it does impress the young and smart Athena (Raffey Cassidy). She hands Frank a magical pin which sets him off on a crazy ride that takes him into a wonderful new world, Tomorrowland.

This is a future with sleek skyscrapers, gravity-defying water bodies, aerial pathways and inhabitants who look like they have walked straight off the Tokyo catwalk. Frank is in awe and becomes a part of this world, until he falls out of favour with the high command headed by Nix (Hugh Laurie) and is banished from Tomorrowland.

We learn about his banishment only after we have endured the laborious backstory of Casey (Britt Robertson), involving her Nasa engineer father and kid brother and her obsession with science. A curious teenager, she is frustrated by the constant lessons about doomsday but the lack of solutions to prevent it.

Now a cynical and over-cautious man living in a self-styled fortress, Frank (George Clooney) finds an ally in Casey, also handpicked by Athena as a recipient of the mysterious pin. Together the trio sets off on an odyssey to return to Tomorrowland and save the planet.

The buzzwords in this futuristic Disney movie, helmed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), are “optimism", “wonder", “imagination" and “inspiration". There is also the obvious message of global warming and the need to protect the environment for the film’s impressionable audience.

It’s no coincidence that parts of the film are shot in Magic Kingdom, a theme park in the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, US, and that young Frank finds himself on the “It’s A Small World" ride. The image of a united world thriving on diversity is reinforced in the final frames, unsubtly double-underlining the idea that only children can set right the mistakes of generations past.

From the tiresome opening scene of a middle-aged man arguing with a teen about whose story will be more compelling, you realize there is no need to tighten your seatbelt, for this is not any kind of roller-coaster ride. The only real “wow" moment is when a modern “Wonder of the World" turns out to be a rocket launcher.

The visual achievements cannot compensate for the overwritten script packed with many ideas and a choppy narrative style. Thankfully, Clooney’s dependable performance complements Robertson’s commitment to her character.

Tomorrowland released in theatres on Friday.

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