Tomorrowland: A World Beyond sets its stall out as a love letter to a bygone era of sci-fi and Disney classics from Brad Bird that delivers a positive message about the power of the imagination albeit with some off the chart levels of cheese.
This family adventure mixes a wondrous sci-fi zest with a progressive spirit. Its optimistic sentiment is hard to knock despite it preaching a bit too much at times.
Britt Robertson is fantastic in the lead role of Casey Newton, delivering snappy one-liners with aplomb while desperately clinging to her red NASA cap for dear life like a young female Indiana Jones.
She is teamed up not only with George Clooney, who plays grumpy genius Frank Walker, but also relative newcomer Raffey Cassidy. The girls get to kick some ass on a perilous road trip full of grand spectacle and striking gadgetry. It’s massively heartening to witness young women at the forefront of an upbeat exciting adventure such as this.
You can feel both Bird and Lindelof’s distinct voices and influences knocking against one another throughout this fast-paced race against time and to the future, which posits a teenage girl as a potential saviour of the world.
The utopia of Tomorrowland is based on the attraction in Anaheim and recalls the work of Jules Verne and Sixties cartoon The Jetsons, and some of the machines we meet are essentially hi-tech versions of Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot.
There are many nods to Saturday family adventures like The Rocketeer, and quite a few to the bicycle-riding kids of ET. It’s something of a throwback to simpler times as it emulates wholesome cinematic family adventures through the ages.
The viewer is taken into Tomorrowland on numerous occasions throughout. Seen through the eyes of Casey it is a place of great promise but to the world weary Walker it offers nothing much.
One of the highlights is simply watching the rapid back and forth between the two as they bicker out their sides of the argument. On first meeting they try to outsmart each other to very amusing ends.
Their pairing also delivers exhilarating visuals featuring a flying bathtub and some particularly intricate home security devices.
Along the way Casey stops off at a memorabilia store, which holds a vast array of filmic history. A naïve kid scouring the shelves of past sci-fi for answers encapsulates the very essence of what Bird and his creative team achieve here.
This particular scene has a Twilight Zone feel to it and in turn Eerie Indiana, with a normal kid like Casey placed in an extraordinary situation. Some fantastic-looking retro-futuristic rayguns appear further adding to the Sixties aesthetic.
There’s a gleeful tinge of darkness to the humour that recalls Joe Dante’s best work. In addition to that it isn’t afraid to kill off characters when needed.
Unlike the recent spate of dystopia films like The Hunger Games and Divergent, Tomorrowland drives its narrative to a far more optimistic place. Rather than focusing on the negative it asks what action can be taken to change the future. Doom and gloom don’t see much screen time.
Without wanting to give too much away, Athena’s narrative delivers some moving moments, and Cassidy has great chemistry with her fellow actors. Hugh Laurie appears as the grand ruler of Tomorrowland, but at times his performance and dialogue feel far too on-the-nose and preachy.
The heady thrills of nostalgia power this spectacular looking ride along and it’s a lot of fun while it lasts.