In this fantasy/adventure, an optimistic teen (Britt Robertson) and a disillusioned inventor (George Clooney) attempt to save Earth from destruction and discover the secrets of a place known as Tomorrowland.
Fritz: It seemed like when we left the screening, both of us felt a little let down by Brad Bird's new film. Since we've had a few days to mull it over, what did you think was missing?
David: First, I think what was missing was a competent screenplay. It was a mess. The film introduces one character's story, then after about 15-minutes decide to interrupt and begin another character's story. That's just sloppy. Having key flashbacks throughout might have worked better.
Fritz: It definitely is a movie that feels like it needed another draft of the script. With a few days to think about it, I'm actually liking it less. It takes too long for Britt Robertson to meet up with George Clooney (about an hour after the stilted opening scene/framing device), yet for a movie that's so slow developing, it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, Judy Greer is credited as Robertson's mom and very briefly appears in an early flashback (blink and you'll miss her), and she never appears again and no explanation is given for her absence.
The film also has an unfortunate tendency to tell rather than show. In the first act, Tim McGraw (as Robertson's dad) tells a story of two fighting wolves: one is love and hope, the other is despair and bitterness. Which one wins? Whichever you feed. That's a nice parable, and it's repeated again in the finale. But it would've been nice if that theme had been integrated into the story instead of explicitly stated twice. If they had found ways to make Clooney's character an example of how bitterness and cynicism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, then the movie could've been really moving.
I also found the villain's motivations murky at best and idiotic at worst. Did you feel the same way?
David: Yes, the villain's motives are not quite clear. And the final act has too much gobbledygook talk, but at the same time it drowns in too much digital effects.
But you put your finger on what is really wrong here - the characters aren't fleshed out at all. Robertson is the main character, but what happened to her mom, and why is this character always look on the bright side of things? It would have resonated if there was a family tragedy but she was strong enough to keep going and juxtapose that with Clooney's emotionally broken character.
However, I did enjoy the middle section on the movie which was basically a chase. The reason I liked it was because of this young actress Raffey Cassidy. As the mysterious Athena, she steals what there is to steal of this film. Tomorrowland really comes alive when she is on screen. This kid has star power, don't you agree?
Fritz: Cassidy and Robertson are both good, and their banter is often amusing. I think we'll see more of them both on the big screen. The middle section also has a really fun fight scene set in a memorabilia/nostalgia shop. The rest of the film could have used that energy and creativity.
Brad Bird is a good director, and he'll likely recover, but it's hard not to think of his other works when watching Tomorrowland. It doesn't have the emotional heft of The Iron Giant, the thrills of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, or the surprising darkness of The Incredibles. It's a PG movie that's too slow and too long for small children and not exciting enough for preteens. That leaves a narrow demographic for a major tent pole from Disney.