Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tomorrowland [2015]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars)  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (C. Borrelli) review
RogerEbert.com (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Tomorrowland [2015] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Brad Bird, along with Damon Lindelof story by the two along with Jeff Jensen) like Disney's previously surprisingly even WILDLY successful Pirates of the Caribbean [2003-] [IMDb] film franchise, is inspired by one of its theme park attractions -- here Tomorrowland.   So can "lightning strike twice?"   Can a theme park attraction be turned into another successful movie franchise?  Well that's for viewers to decide.

And though most of us (including myself initially) may begin by assuming "no," I do have to admit that Disney does do a surprisingly good job here.  Indeed, Disney does so by raising the stakes in this film and in a very interesting way.  For its film here isn't really about its Tomorrowland attraction.  Instead, it's about The Future itself.  Do we imagine a HOPEFUL Future?  Or do we prefer to see one of Decline, Catastrophe even Apocalypse and Despair?

Disney Corp's founder Walt Disney [IMDb] was fundamentally an optimist and the Tomorrowland of his theme parks reflected an OPTIMISM about the Future that certainly _he_ held, and THAT WAS PREVALENT IN _HIS_ TIME (from the 1920s through to the mid-1960s).  At that time, EVERYTHING still seemed possible.  One thinks of the can-do spirit of the American war effort during World War II: "The difficult we do today, the impossible will take just a little bit longer."

That kind of optimism does seem to be largely GONE in the United States, both in Film (one need only think of the recent REBOOT of the previously WILDLY SUCCESSFUL post-Apocalyptic "Mad Max" film franchise as well as countless "Zombie Apocalypse" film / tv scenarios) and in the larger Culture.  It's not as if the threats of Climate Change or Nuclear Terrorism are not real.  But the world of Walt Disney got through TWO World Wars and the Great Depression and seemed more optimistic about the future than we are today ...

The overwhelming theme of this very interesting DISNEY film is to remind its Viewers AND INDEED THE WHOLE CULTURE that HOPE / DESPAIR ARE CHOICES.  To use the analogy of the film the battle for a future of Promise or Despair is like that of "two wolves" WHICH WOLF DO WE PREFER TO FEED?  The one of Hope or the one of Despair?

The film then is about two individuals Frank Walker (played as a wide-eyed-still-optimistic child who came to the New York World's Fair with enormous enthusiasm by Thomas Robinson and then as much more skeptical/resigned recluse of an adult today by George Clooney) and Casey Newton (played by Britt Robertson) a still optimistic high schooler of today who, yes, accepts the reality of the problems that we face in the world today, but pointedly asks her teachers: "But what are we doing about it then?"

Great question.  And again THIS IS A QUESTION TO THE WHOLE CULTURE: What are we doing about these very big challenges that we face?


This hopeful future is symbolized in the film by a pin that both young Frank and Casey surreptitiously receive  from a young girl named Athena (played by Raffey Cassidy) who turns out to be a very convincingly anthropomorphic looking robot (compare that to The Terminator [1984] - and yes I began my writing about movies in the Seminary ANALYZING the first Terminator movie comparing Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" character to the Dragon in the Book of Revelation, a machine born of human arrogance, that is sin, designed to find and destroy the woman who will give to the future savior of the world, in that film, John Conner, initials J.C.) which is PROGRAMMED also, like the Terminator, AND SENT BACK FROM THE FUTURE to identify YOUNG PEOPLE WITH HOPE.  When the receivers of the pin touch it, they are INSTANTLY transported into ANOTHER DIMENSION where they see a marvelous CITY OF HOPE, TOMORROW-LAND, where all the world's problems have been resolved, and its citizenry lives in a world of unbounded possibility.  Arguably, they see ... (I'm a Catholic priest, I can say it) ... a kind of HEAVEN.

Again folks, this is a very interesting film.  And please compare the optimism of this film to the awfulness of the world of the recent Mad Max [2015] reboot (which in my review of that film, I did compare to the inner ring of the 7th Circle of Dante's Inferno, reserved for rapists and usurers, who sucked everything out of this life and thus were condemned to a hot desert waste in the next), the upcoming San Andreas [2015] disaster film and the like.

What world, what future would you prefer to see?

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