‘Tomorrowland’ fails to amaze

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Between director Brad Bird’s creativity and Disney’s proven track record for family-friendly films (not to mention deep pockets), I had high expectations for “Tomorrowland,” especially after watching its amazing trailer. I went in wanting to become entranced by an amazing fantasy world where anything was possible. Instead, I came out of the theater perhaps more cynical than ever.

Here are my five questions for “Tomorrowland.”

What is it about?

A young girl named Casey (Britt Robertson) will do anything to keep her engineer father employed by the nearby NASA base that’s scheduled for demolition, including sabotaging equipment so that they will need his repair services. But when she lands in jail and has to be bailed out by her father, she discovers among her belongings a strange pin that transports her to another dimension with every touch. Wanting to find out more about this fantastical mystery land, she searches for a man named Frank Walker (George Clooney) who may have the key to returning them both to Tomorrowland.

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Does the film live up to the trailer?

That would be a huge negative. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that the trailer is a bit misleading. All of its footage comes from the first act of the film. While that’s an excellent marketing strategy for films that have the goods to genuinely surprise audiences with amazing twists and turns that shouldn’t be revealed in trailers, it feels like “Tomorrowland” does it because the film itself doesn’t know what it wants to be.

The film’s structure is very disjointed, with the big reveal of Tomorrowland coming at the beginning via some very awkward narration by Frank and Casey. I’d have preferred a slow buildup with just a few teases here and there that culminated with an awesomely amazing reveal. Instead, the film decides to blow its load in the first 10 minutes and can never live up to that great opening, resulting in some serious letdown.

It also never does explain what happens in Tomorrowland. The audience is only given a brief glimpse into its visually stunning world but never learns more about it and what it’s there for. We’re told stories about Tomorrowland but not shown. I really wish the film had taken some time to introduce us to a few people there and find out what they’re all about.

And without some concrete evidence of how positivity and dreams can change the world, the film’s vague message of hope rings truly empty.

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Sounds like a mess. Who’s the writer?

The first thing I did when I went home after seeing the movie was check who the screenwriter was. I was not surprised to learn that “Tomorrowland” was the work of Damon Lindelof. Lindelof is infamous for not being able to cleanly execute effective payoffs for terrific premises. He did it on “Prometheus.” He did it on the TV show “Lost.” He’s like Professor Harold Hill of “The Music Man” and his ideas are the musical instruments. He’ll convince you that they’re great and will tease you with the joy you’ll feel if you buy into them. But he has no idea how to actually execute them.

Will children enjoy the film?

While the Disney name and adventure-filled premise will no doubt appeal to children, the film can be a bit dark for the younger ones. There’s quite a bit of robot carnage with beheadings, limb dismemberments and brutal beatings by blunt objects. Even the humans aren’t spared, as several are vaporized by robots.

The general plot is also a bit of a downer as it foreshadows the end of humanity on Earth and might actually go over the heads of children. This is not your typical Disney film with song and dance numbers. If you can get past that grimness, the film does conclude with a message of hope.

Is “Tomorrowland” another theme ride turned potential film franchise for Disney?

While the film will more than likely have a strong performance at the box office, I just cannot see it taking off like “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The subject matter is questionable and the film doesn’t really leave itself open to a sequel. Oh well, there’s always Space Mountain.