From Disney comes two-time Oscar winner Brad Bird's riveting, mystery adventure 'Tomorrowland,' starring Academy Award winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as "Tomorrowland." What they must do there changes the world-and them-forever. Featuring a screenplay by 'Lost' writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, from a story by Lindelof & Bird & Jeff Jensen, 'Tomorrowland' promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of.
Let's get this out of the way at the very beginning – 'Tomorrowland' is not a very good movie. It's clunky, it's a little too preoccupied with showing off its special effects, and it's downright preachy when it's not engaged in its action scenes (which, like clockwork, seem to arrive every 10 to 15 minutes, lest the audience get bored). But it's also hard to really hate 'Tomorrowland'. Here's a movie that tries so hard to be something that's going to inspire its viewers, it's difficult not to admire it just a little. So many movies don't try to be anything…'Tomorrowland' shoots for the stratosphere. It doesn't come close to making it, but I sure appreciated the attempt.
The movie begins with a flashback, as the older version of genius Frank Walker (George Clooney) tells viewers about how the younger version of him (Thomas Robinson) visited the World's Fair in 1964 with his prototype for a jet pack. There, he runs into scientist David Nix (Hugh Laurie) and the young and mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy). He also stumbles onto the construction of Tomorrowland itself, although viewers will learn later in the film that he was banned from the development in the 1980s for as yet undisclosed reasons.
Viewers are then introduced to young teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) in the present day. She's somewhat of a genius herself and is the daughter of a NASA engineer (Tim McGraw). Casey keeps getting herself into trouble by trying to stop NASA from tearing down a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, which will put her father out of a job. She gets arrested one night and when she's bailed out of jail, she notices a strange pin with the letter 'T' on it among her personal items. Even stranger, when she touches the pin, she seems to be magically transported to a world where Tomorrowland is a working and thriving city of the future.
Casey will soon discover that Athena (who is still as young as she was in 1964 – and viewers will learn why around this point in the movie) was the one who got the pin into her possession, and it's only given out to individuals who fit a very special criteria (which, again, is revealed during the course of the film). Casey also learns that there are those out there who will stop at nothing to find Athena and anyone who has been given one of the pins.
Athena drops Casey off at Frank's home, but the grown Frank is a much more somber one than the youngster we saw back at the beginning of the movie. We soon learn out why. Frank has knowledge that the world is going to end and even knows how many days Earth has left. However, when Casey's presence in his home lowers the percentage estimate of Earth's demise on his computer setup, he realizes this young girl may be the savior of the human race. He now plans to take her to the real Tomorrowland…where David Nix is waiting.
The plotline of 'Tomorrowland' has a lot of issues, and it's not always as engaging as one might hope. This is basically a kid's movie, and sadly, the screenplay is much more on the fantastical side of things than embedded in any real science. I feel it's my duty to report that Damon Lindelof shares a screenplay credit here with Director Brad Bird, and while it's unfair to state without hard evidence the source of 'Tomorrowland's weaker story elements, let's just say Lindelof doesn't have a very good track record in his post-Lost career and leave things at that.
What 'Tomorrowland' does deserve credit for is the message it's trying to deliver to viewers – particularly younger viewers – about using one's talents to try and make the world a better place. Yeah, it's a rather simplistic idea, but it's also a really big idea, and I applaud Brad Bird and Disney for putting such a positive message in a tent-pole release. The film beats us over the head with it, but if one kid gets inspired by what he or she saw in 'Tomorrowland', that can't be a bad thing, right? What did bother me though is that for as much as this movie wants to inspire kids, it also bookends most of those positive speeches with mindless shootouts, explosions, crashes, and fisticuffs. That seems rather disingenuous for a film that is trying to encourage us all to become better people.
Still, while 'Tomorrowland' is an easy movie to feel let down by, it's a movie that's also difficult to really dislike, and, at worst, it's an admirable failure. Both the direction and acting is well-done, it's primarily the screenplay that should have gone through a couple more re-writes before filming began. I can't quite recommend the movie, but I don’t think anyone will feel they've totally wasted their time by giving 'Tomorrowland' at least one visit.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tomorrowland' appears on Blu-ray in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack, which houses the two discs inside an eco-LITE Vortex keepcase, with the 50GB Blu-ray on the inside right and the dual-layer DVD on the inside left. The case also includes a pair of inserts – one containing a code for a digital copy of the movie, and the other being an advertisement for the Disney Movie Club. A slipcover matching the art of the keepcase slick slides overtop.
Before the Blu-ray goes to the pre-loaded material, it asks users to make a language selection. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front loaded with a promo for the Disney Anywhere movie app, followed by trailers for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and Inside Out. The main menu is a video loop of a wheat field with Tomorrowland in the distance (as seen in the movie) with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'Tomorrowland' was shot digitally on Sony CineAlta cameras and is presented on Blu-ray in the 2.20:1 aspect ratio, which is exactly the ratio intended by the filmmakers (many who saw the non-IMAX version in theaters may have wondered why there were black bars at the top and bottom of the presentation – this is because your projectionist was showing the film at the 1.85:1 ratio instead of the correct one).
This is a spectacular-looking transfer of the movie and one I don't hesitate to give a reference-quality score to. Colors are bright, yet properly saturated throughout. Skin tones are detailed (every wrinkle in Clooney's face can be seen here, making the rest of us guys feel better about ourselves), and black levels are inky deep. Both detail and depth are wonderful throughout, and the Blu-ray delivers some real 'pop' to it. There's a lot going on visually in 'Tomorrowland' and the fact that this transfer handles all of it so flawlessly is a real credit to Disney Home Video.
The only problem I noticed was some minor aliasing that didn't occur until the end credits (an animated segment) of the movie. Otherwise, the transfer appears to be glitch-free, and I detected no instances of macroblocking, banding, or noise.
The main audio here is an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is simply going to blow listeners away. Not only is it full of the kind of immersion, directionality, and LFE effects one hopes for in an audio track, but it has so much fun with the various aural effects, that the audio actually adds a level of additional enjoyment and appreciation to the movie.
Every rocket blast, laser, swoosh, splash, thump, and boom of the audio has an impact on the viewer/listener – usually via the rear speakers and, more often than not, by adding some seamless panning from one speaker to the next that really makes you feel as if you're part of the 'Tomorrowland' world. Thankfully, although the audio track is always busy, it's never overly aggressive nor improperly mixed with the spoken word – which, by the way – is equally clear and distinct. I detected no flaws whatsoever in the audio, meaning that this title's reference-quality video is accompanied with some reference-quality audio. There are flaws to be found in this movie, but the A/V presentation on this release isn't one of them.
In addition to the lossless Enlgish 7.1 track, there's also an English 2.0 Descriptive Audio track, as well as 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
'Tomorrowland' may ultimately prove to be a failure, but it fails in big and glorious ways. The plot may have more than a few problems, but the acting here is admirable, the visuals can be stunning at times, and Brad Bird provides the competent direction that can only come from a seasoned filmmaker. Yes, despite its flaws, 'Tomorrowland' is still worth a look.