“Every day is the opportunity for a better tomorrow.”
Despite some bad reviews from ideologues on the right and the left Tomorrowland is a good movie—it’s not a great movie, but then again it’s not exactly targeted at an adult audience, so one would be insane to expect perfection. But director Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has followed up his previous successes with another wonderful film—the problem is that while there are traces of depth in his work he still hasn’t managed to flesh them out into full fledged great art. So let’s deal with the spoiler free stuff first. First you should go and enjoy this movie. It’s fun, it’s fast paced and has more than enough eye candy to keep you entertained. It starts off with a quirky narration that goes back and forth between your two main characters competing for how to tell the story and just goes from there. The story follows teenage Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) and Frank Walker (George Clooney) as they attempt to prevent the end of the world that has been predicted by the technology of Tomorrowland (a Galt’s Gulch of scientists) started by the likes of Tesla and Edison to give dreamers a place to create and push the limits away from the constraints of the normal world. Now some of you may have heard that the movie is just spouting liberal propaganda on global warming. Let’s run through all the times the liberal idea of climate change is mentioned: Once as a general statement about climate change by a high school teacher who is clearly shown to be an idiot, arctic ice melting is mentioned once by the villain (who is also kind of clueless), and there is a general statement made once by Clooney’s character Frank about environmental disasters. Oh and windmills are shown at one point. So ignoring the works of the bad guys and idiots let’s look at environmental disasters and windmills. Anyone who has done even a cursory look in to how China is dumping chemicals into water, air, and soil knows that there are legitimate environmental disasters in the world that do need to be dealt without even having to believe in any of the chicken little BS of man made climate change. Yes liberals are insane in their devotion the religion of global warming, that does not mean we as conservatives have to take a knee jerk reaction against the problems of all pollution (especially since pollution and environmental disasters actually go hand in hand not with capitalism but socialism and communism—probably because a capitalist thinks long term and needs there to be resources in the future as well as the present) but that doesn’t mean that there are no environmental problems at all. And windmills. Windmills may not be the panacea that liberal loons make them out to be, but they’re not a terrible technology—not cost efficient yet, and shouldn’t be something we put taxpayer money into, but it’s not a technology that is completely bereft of value. The problem with these claims of being environmentalist agitprop is that “conservative” columnists are as bad and knee jerk as their leftist counterparts.* Let me state in no uncertain terms, the movie is not environmentalist clap trap. In fact you could interpret it as saying that the worry about the environment is nothing more than people giving into their worst fears. I also saw some whining that this was like every other teen movie lately where the main character is “special” for no particular reason…except that this character is a genius, who from the first scenes is shown to have a strong grasp of technology and problem solving, who implicitly understands not only how systems work but how to grasp time paradoxes to solve problems…so no, this movie is not just another in a long line of pointless special snowflakes, but one of an actual character with actual intelligence who is not saved by a string of deus ex machinas but rather sets out to destroy the god from the machine that is out to destroy humanity.
So still without getting into too many spoilers, this movie shows the conflict between two different views of utopia. Utopia has never been a popular version for literature, possibly because of the flaws of Tomorrowland, but there are two visions from the last century that stand out. The first that most people are familiar with is that of Atlas Shrugged, where all the great artists, scientists, engineers, writers, etc. for the purpose of saving great minds from the coming destruction of the world in Galt’s Gulch where due to the freedom allowed bring about technological and artistic marvels . The other great utopia of the last century is Shangri-la of Lost Horizon, where Christian and Buddhist monks worked together to provide an ark of the world’s past along with a perfection of the spirit to help save the world after war and ignorance had burned up the rest of the globe. One sought the perfection of the mind the other the spirit but both supposed utopia assumed that an apocalypse was coming and it could not be averted. But the flaw of both of these, and the flaw of Tomorrowland’s villain (Hugh Laurie who does a lot with a character who was not given nearly enough screen time), is that they all accept the end of the world. Now as one of the great writers of the last century put it “I decline to accept the end of man” and as one of the great writer/directors of the last few decades** “Heroes don’t accept the way the world is.” And with Casey, Tomorrowland gives us the hero none of these stories previous had, someone who doesn’t accept that the end of the world is inevitable. And because she doesn’t accept it, she finds a way to stop it. Thus improving on the first flaw of the previous century’s two major ideal utopia’s (not to mention in the end Tomorrowland seems to blend both the value of the mind and the spirit). I will say that the Disney needs to rub it in everyone’s face with the fact that they now own Star Wars was a bit much…and the ending, well in a move below Bird’s skill, we see the collection of a new regime of dreamers only through a montage of quick scenes and a overly sapping score playing. I’ll be honest it fell a little flat. But it didn’t completely erase everything I enjoyed from the two hours prior. As for acting Clooney more or less phoned this in, not nearly his best performance (which would of course be Danny Ocean) but not the terrible ones he turns in for his overly serious movies. However actresses Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy (who plays the wonderful Athena) really impressed me and I hope to see more of both these actresses in the future.
Athena: Do you ever wonder what would happen if all the great thinkers came together to actually change the world for the better and the results was, well, miracles? Casey Newton: Who are you? Athena: I’m the future.
Past this point I talk spoilers. So the main plot point is nothing exactly new—a machine that can see the future strangely enough predicts the end of the world thus starting a self-fulfilling prophecy. The slight twist on this plot point is the way it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. In an effort to try to avoid the end of the world the villain, Governor Nix of Tomorrowland (Hugh Laurie) his bright idea is to beam subconscious images of the end of the world into the minds of everyone, his theory that if you show people how bad it will get people will work to avoid it. He proves to be wrong as the images he beams into everyone’s head only makes them obsessed with the violent and hopelessness he’s trying to get them to avoid. Yes you can blame House for the fact that there is poorly made dystopian teen movie every other month, a slew of equally bad dystopian books, the zombie obsession, the violence, the wars, it all seems to be getting worse because he’s putting the idea that it’s getting worse into our heads. And Nix’s point is that he’s screaming that the Titanic is about to hit an iceberg but no one is changing course. The solution that Casey finds is taken from the somewhat cliché, but poignant in this case parable of the two wolves.
“You have two wolves fighting. One represents darkness and despair, the other light and hope. Which one lives? Answer: The one you feed.”
Nix is only feeding the one of darkness and is shocked that only darkness is coming about. And in this respect he is like every liberal in history. Think about it…we have a President who talks about Hope and Change—but dig below that he talks about nothing but envy, inequality, injustice, hatred and guilt. He talks about Hope but offers none, like Nix talks about saving the world but only offers images of it failing. And like every liberal he doesn’t understand the point of human existence. Early in the film when presented with a child prodigy who has created a working jet pack (save for a few small glitches) he has the audacity to ask “what’s it for?” and doesn’t except either that “fun” or “offers hope” are acceptable answers. He looks only at utility, never at the end (the point of existence, Happiness, seems to elude him). Which is why he also makes a poor scientist, as a scientist would see an experiment fail (beaming the images of doom didn’t work) and try something new (like images of hope), he just beams more images of doom. He screams that the iceberg is coming but never offers what the course should be, he keeps doing the same thing even though it doesn’t work—you know like how when liberals throw money at a problem and it doesn’t work so their solution is to throw money at the problem because maybe this time it might work. Strangely enough the solution is to stop the images of doom, and in long term offer hope, offer things that work, offer real innovation. Now what this movie also shows is the careful balance of the need for government. When originally talking about Tomorrowland they praise it as a place where dreamers and inventors could work without having to deal with the problems that politicians and the powers that be could put up—and this is very true, government more often than not proves to be an impediment to innovation with bad regulation and over regulation. But at the same time Tomorrowland’s lack of government did what happens to every anarchy, it fell into tyranny because anarchy sounds nice but it never, ever, works. And finally the fact that it is negative thought that is the real enemy here, this movie moves from science fiction and partly into the world of spiritual. The idea of how thoughts create reality is about as close as you get to the spiritual idea of the Law of Attraction within a non-spiritual film. Regrettably as with any film lately to try and cross into this spiritual area (Interstellar, Winter’s Tale, Age of Adeline) the film has not been met with praise from critics and pundits (you can guess which wolf this class tends to feed). But this is a powerful message that does need to be embraced.
“Dreamers need to stick together.”
Now if there is a problem with the deeper ideas of this film it’s the ending.*** They solved the problems of Atlas Shrugged and Lost Horizon in refusing to give into the end of world but they kept the Atlas problem of retreating from the world. They start a new round of gathering the best and brightest, the dreamers of the world and bringing them to Tomorrowland. This is still a flaw in their logic because while bringing the best and brigh test together to do great things, it is pointless if you don’t share it with the world (I would prefer at a healthy profit…but as the scientists of Tomorrowland seemed to have solved the problem of scarcity, that may not be needed). I would really like to see a sequel where they deal with this problem and realize that while coming together to do great things is needed it’s only half the equation and you need to share what you have found with the world…however as the opening weekend was less than spectacular (see my point about spiritual ideas in movies) and Disney being so avaricious lately that anything that doesn’t make a 200% profit is viewed as a failure, I worry I might never get the sequel this needs to wrap up that last problem. *You know there were also statements in there like how bad greed was…but in context it was the short term greed that we all hate, not the longer greed rightfully praised in the Greed is Good speech. If you’re going to talk about the ideas of the film then you have to be an adult and look at the statements in context, if you’re going to say it’s a kid’s film and I’m looking too deep to look at things like context, then it’s a kids film and why are we even having this discussion? **At least until he started making terrible superman shlock. ***That and there is a brief moment where you have to hear the worst song in existence (you’ll know it when you see hear it)…but if you just focus on him going down a secret hatch hatch randomly and channel a line from another Disney film (“pull the lever Kronk”) you might be able to get through that godawful excuse of a song. I give it a 4 out of 5.