As part of my birthday celebrations1 I finally watched Tomorrowland, a Disney movie from 2015 that was such a disaster it made about 9% of what they had spent making it2.
Anyway, I watched it, and I liked it.
Maybe not liked-liked-liked it, but liked it, yes.
The story in a nutshell: a girl is given a pin that transports her for a few minutes in a utopian world. When she decides to learn more, androids that look like nerds try to kill her. She hooks up with a disillusioned scientist and together they … OK, together they try and get the world back on track, re-capturing the spirit of wonder and the craving for progress of the first half of the 20th century.
At the core of the movie is a question I’ve often asked myself in the last decade, with increasing frequency: how come that self-preventing prophecies and cautionary tales have turned into templates?
How come that people trying to act cool have nothing better to say that vent their hopes for the extinction of humanity?
How come that science has become a bad word, and now we get flat-earthers, and if you call them dorks people will call you a fascist?
How come that everybody is ready to list us all the current problems, but when it comes to the solution, the answer’s always “that’s the way it goes”?
Tomorrowland has its heart in the right place, and basically asks the big question: what turned a species of explorers and inventors into a species of defeated morons?
“Even the 1964 World’s Fair happened during the Cold War. But there was a sense we could overcome them. And yet now we act like we’re passengers on a bus with no say in where it’s going, with no realization that we collectively write the future every day and can make it so much better than it otherwise would be.” (Tomorrowland author/director Brad Bird)
Where the movie gets muddled is in giving the answer. You can get to it, but it is never really spelled out.
It does not help that Tomorrowland was mangled in post-production, cutting a lot of footage and deleting scenes, and that the plot is marred by the usual “you are the chosen one, only you can save the world!” cliché – which is really the opposite of everything science and progress stand for, but OK, it’s Disney, you know they always had a thing for that sort of neofeudal attitude.
And yet, the movie was the brainchild of Brad Bird, the man that in 1999 gave us the wonderful The Iron Giant, and there is a lot in Tomorrowland that captures again the spirit of the animated feature.
First of all it looks like a million dollars … well, 330 million dollars, if we must believe the estimates.
The scenes set in 1964 are a wonder, and the science city of the future is just incredible.
And then the Eifel tower turns into a launch ramp for a steampunk rocket designed by Tesla and Verne.
You can’t beat this sort of stuff.
George Clooney is great, as is Raffey Cassidy, that steals the movie in her role as Athena. Britt Robertson manages not to be insufferable as the chosen one (and this was the Spanish title of the movie – no kidding).
The special effects are spectacular, as are a lot of nods to classics like Rocketeer.
All in all a good movie, with a pair of slow bits and some missing parts.
But the central idea, that we are the ones that make the future, and the future is what we make… ah, remember what I said a few days back when talking about Scaramouche?
That’s my current pet peeve – I can’t stand any longer people that decided to give up, and then tell me it’s not giving up, it is the way of the world.
Frack it, it’s not!
Tomorrowland ends offering us its answer – we should start giving more space, respect and resources to those that are not giving up.
That are not the chosen ones, but just regular Joes and Janes, that still think the future is what we make it. Way to go, I say!
- yes, I know, I’m talking a lot about my birthday. But what the heck, it’s not every day that one turns fifty when he feels thirty at most. ↩
- I heard from various parts that Disney actually worked hard to kill this movie, making every possible blunder in marketing and presentation… just like it happened with John Carter, and possibly for the same motives. ↩