MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Brad Bird. Starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie.
Back in 1955 when Walt Disney created Disneyland he had the vision to develop different themes within the theme park; along with Frontierland, Adventureland, and Fantasyland, he included an optimistic world of science and exploration that he called Tomorrowland, with a giant rocketship as its iconic symbol. Later, in 1982, after Disney World saw the light of day, the Magic Kingdom was accompanied by EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
Tomorrowland is a fantasy film that attempts to carry forth Uncle Walt’s hopeful attitude into the 21st century. While there are dozens of contemporary movies that depict a future dystopia filled with war, blight, ecological turmoil and (dare I say it?) zombies, this movie attempts to set up a scenario for a better world to come.
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is a teenage girl who considers the abandonment of the NASA space exploration program to be one of life’s great tragedies and is arrested trying to subvert the dismantling of a launch site near her home. Since she has done no real damage (and her father is a former engineer with NASA), she is quickly released from jail but stumbles upon a special coin that transports her to another dimension where she meets an elite group of persons who also have hope for a better world to come: Frank Walker (Clooney), an inventor; Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a mysterious girl that Frank has known since his boyhood; and David Nix (Laurie), Athena’s guardian.
There are flashbacks, flash-forwards, and all kinds of flashy special effects, along with a plot that is plodding (the movie is 130 minutes) but not without moments of real inspiration and occasional fun. I won’t give much of the plot away, but I will say that Tomorrowland is a bizarro version of the summer blockbuster, where no towns are destroyed, no people die, and the revealed mysteries lead to potentially hopeful outcomes.
The first hour is the best part, but it’s not long before the film starts rambling. Rather than focusing on the confusion on screen, I caught myself thinking about shopping lists and what I had to do tomorrow. So that’s why it’s called Tomorrowland!
There is a good moral lesson in this movie. Don’t worry that you’ll miss it; a main character tells you exactly what it is! One of the insidious implications of this storyline is that it will be the exceptional people who will have the power to save the world. Not only does this message run counter to our story of the Kingdom of God in which the meek inherit the earth, prisoners are set free and the blind begin to see, but it ignores the everyday reality in which exceptional persons mess things up in exceptional ways.
Still, I rather enjoyed this movie for its many small pleasures and it’s positivity. I dare you to watch Tomorrowland and not want to buy the world a Coke ™.
Three halos: An optimistic family film about the possibilities of imagination and innovation; an unusual number of unuttered epithets.
Two pitchforks: A lot of violence is done to humanoid robots in the course of the movie.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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