Disney’s Tomorrowland is more than a promotional tool for one of its Lands; it is nothing short of a rallying cry for dreamers of the world to change humanity’s course for the better. The movie opens with the animation style of cell-drawn Disney classics, over which the narrator speaks of humankind’s “unwavering belief in progress,” the dark side of which is “domination.” We are at risk of spiraling toward destruction, he says, and we must use our imaginations to free us.
It’s a bold beginning from a multinational corporation that, some may say, has completely dominated the world culturally and economically since the 1950s. I genuinely believe this movie’s not merely a money-grab and that the higher-ups are making a real appeal for a better world — after all, isn’t that what Disney aims to offer?
Problem is, for a revolutionary movie, it is shackled with the tyranny of convention. You’ve seen this Disney movie before: The real villainy of the world is lack of hope and imagination, and all it takes is a heroic kid to think differently than dour adults. And the heroes do not fight back with peace but with laser guns, and everyone is seemingly always running from a soon-to-detonate explosive. It makes for a jarring, violent movie, rickety as the Matterhorn but less enjoyable. After the wide-eyed hope and wonderment of the movie’s beginning, it falls into a sort of joyless series of combat scenes and vague appeals to the special powers of lead girl Casey (Britt Robertson). (Maybe Disney has come quite a ways: Now the woman, not the man, is the one who can fix the world.)
George Clooney reprises his role as Ornery Handsome Man, yelling at everything like someone woke him up too early. The future looks like Dubai, and one wonders how many robots were enslaved to build it. It’s a cool movie in a lot of ways, yes, but it falls short of its ambitions. Because, Disney, the problem isn’t a lack of dreamers; it’s that we all awake to norms and rules that would take an entire, immediate global overhaul to dismantle, and hardly anyone seems willing to go there, especially not Disney, at least not in this film.