tn_tomorrowlandWalt Disney himself is never seen or mentioned in TOMORROWLAND, but it’s a fantasy adventure based on his belief in the future as a place of infinite promise and wonder and shit. It’s a story about kids finding a secret hidden city founded by great visionaries of the past (Edison, Verne [not me, the other one], Tesla, the guy that invented the Etch-a-sketch I think) as a hope for a better world. It’s all glorious curvy buildings, flying monorails, friendly robots and floating swimming pools.

One kid named Frank (Thomas Robinson as the kid version of George Clooney) goes there to try out his home-made jetpack. Another named Casey (Britt Robertson, SCREAM 4) is intrigued by their space program. The crew she sees going on a spaceship are young enough to be dropped off by their parents. At least half of them are women and I think only one white kid. The movie’s dedication to diversity and internationalism seems very of-the-moment, but it also relates to one of Tomorrowland’s secret entrances: inside the original 1964 World’s Fair version of It’s a Small World. Wait a minute, It’s a Small World is in Fantasyland, not Tomorrowland. Get your fuckin geography straight, Hollywood.

There are lots of little nods and references to Disneyland, where “Tomorrowland” is the name for the section that contains Star Tours, a Buzz Lightyear ride, a terrible thing they have finally decided to destroy called Innoventions, and the historic former site of Captain EO. For one thing, jetpacks have long been associated with Disneyland:

And the pins that Tomorrowland recruits in the movie use to travel through dimensions are styled after the type of collectible pins sold and traded in the park. You may notice the distinctive architecture of the Space Mountain building in an animated prologue, a Tomorrow-ized Walt Disney Pictures logo, and the metropolis itself. And Athena (Raffey Cassidy, DARK SHADOWS), a freckle-faced British tike who occasionally busts out the laser guns and super-human fighting skills, says she’s not a robot but an Audio-Animatronic. I wonder if she knows Abe Lincoln? There are also nods to director/co-writer Brad Bird’s other movies, like a whole shelf of IRON GIANT toys and a Mr. Incredible doll that show up in a collectible shop (no GHOST PROTOCOL as far as I noticed).

But the kind of invention and sweetness that we love about Disney, Pixar and Bird, while sometimes present, sort of take a backseat to a preachiness about the world needing more “dreamers” and less dystopias. It’s a dire warning about dire warnings. I’m always railing against the cynical dismissal of this type of positivity, so obviously I don’t disagree with it, but I feel like such a happy message oughta be more fun than this. They got the medicine but they forgot the spoonful of sugar.

Like in INTERSTELLAR there’s a fear of the space program being shut down. Tim McGraw plays Casey’s dad and it’s good casting because in most movies he’d be out of a job because the factory’s closing. Here it’s because the space platform is being dismantled and he’s a NASA engineer. Like the dad in AMERICAN SNIPER he has an allegory he tells her about wolves, but his is inspiring instead of scary and she tells it to him to cheer him up.

mp_tomorrowlandThe main moral is that we should be more optimistic and work on ways to solve the problems we face in the future rather than dwell on nihilistic notions of inevitable doom. It’s a good message but it seems a little obnoxious in a montage where her teachers talking about global warming, among other things, are portrayed as total buffoons. She acts like everybody else is crazy for listening to this and no one will call on her when she raises her hand to say “I get it, it’s bad. So how do we fix it?”

Sure, good attitude, except one reason we haven’t fixed it is because the powerful people who benefit financially from making a mess have done a good job of pretending the problem doesn’t exist. They’ve made a political division where one side feels like they’re supposed to be the anti-science side, like it’s sacreligious to benefit from the knowledge that mankind has developed. And that’s part of why we haven’t followed through on the things scientists have said we need to do to slow down global warming, or put enough funding into things like stem cell research or your precious space program. So don’t be so quick to mock educators, young lady. Education is one of the steps in “fixing it.” (And wait, education has been defunded too.)

Anyway George Clooney is in this, he’s a disgruntled former Tomorrowlandian turned pessimistic shut-in who lives alone with his cool doomsday clock and his hologram guard dog. And he reluctantly joins Casey in a battle with weird robotic impostor people and lasers and crazy inventions and Hugh Laurie is Mayor Nix who stopped Tomorrowland from sharing their gifts with the world and he’s a jerk and at the end he makes a big speech where I had to admit he was correct but I forget what it was about. They have some conflicts and disagreements or whatever. At some point the late Darren Shahlavi appears as “Tough Guard,” so look for that. I didn’t spot him.

Then there’s a pretty cool hopeful ending where the dream of dreaming dreaminess is reborn in a group of promising individuals of all nationalities, ages and disciplines from clean energy innovators to car manufacturers to ballet dancers and painters and I heard originally they planned to have me in there as the movie critic of the future but they thought it would be confusing to have two Verns so ultimately after going back and forth and test screening both cuts they decided to go with Jules Verne. Thanks alot, asshole. Not only would I have inspired generations of children I woulda got lifetime 50% off on churros.

The structure of the movie is weird, sometimes in a playful way. It jumps around more than you expect and has Frank and Casey narrating the story in first person and arguing with each other. It reminded me of how Bird’s RATATOUILLE told the story, but here the jokiness is more awkard and some of the information is redundant after the pre-logo animated part that already explained the premise.

Bird is never gonna phone it in, so there are fun gimmicks and neat little parts and what not. I like how by the time Casey gets there there are a bunch of jetpacks much more advanced than the one Frank brought there, and now they include sort of an airbag suit that inflates around you before you crash. Also the whole part where Frank uses various inventions in his house to escape was cool. And the part where Athena ran fast after the car like a T-1000.

And hey, wait – did they save the world by blowing up Epcot? I think they did. Yeah, I never been to Disney World but I have heard that Epcot is boring.

It’s not a bad viewing experience, but when it was over I felt like there wasn’t a movie’s worth of fun and thrills in there, and after thinking about it for a day I decided it’s because the Tomorrowland of the movie isn’t that fun or thrilling of a place. It’s better than Innoventions, sure, but it’s definitely no Star Tours.

I mean yeah, cool, there’s jetpacks, and flying things to look at for a minute. Then what? When she goes there the first time her pin has a timer on it that runs out right before she gets to go to space and she’s pissed. That makes sense for her but for the rest of us, do we really need much more time there than just a few minutes to walk around? I mean, what would we do there? Obviously I would go on Space Mountain, which nobody in the movie seems interested in, but that’s not reason enough to live there.

Do these people actually live there, or is it just their job that they go to? What do they do? They just sit around and invent stuff? And during a dry spell they just talk about their love of optimism? I guess I’m not really sure I get it. Not being a math and science guy I figure I would spend most of my time feeling stupid and left out of conversations. Robertson as Casey does seem believably smart, and we see some evidence of what a genius she is, but actually I’m not sure what she’s gonna do there either. She gets to figure out important things to save the day but, I don’t know, for a movie hero it doesn’t seem like she does that much.

I do think this movie would be much better for a kid. If I was a kid I’m sure all that hope stuff would seem deep instead of corny. It might be kind of like the way EXPLORERS made kids fantasize about building their own space ship out of junk, or the kid in GOONIES made them want to make “inventions” (which at that age means grappling hooks or contraptions that can be shot at other people’s balls). A kind of non-specific daydream of fun innovation.

Or maybe it would just make kids wish they had a jetpack. I guess screwing around on jetpacks is the main thing the magical world of Tomorrowland has to offer.

The parallels to INTERSTELLAR go deeper than what I said before. It’s similar in that a main character is a girl with a brilliant scientific mind and an eagerness to solve the problems of the future who is very close with her single father (an engineer who’s out of work because of society deprioritizing aeronautics) and who doesn’t fit in because of her love of science, which is not really supported by her school.

But also this really reminded me of TRON: LEGACY in some weird ways. Both of them have a young hero who puts on dark clothes and rides a motorcycle to sneak around at night and sabotage stuff at their dad’s workplace. And then they accidentally discover a weird technology that transports them to a secret fantastical world that turns out to be run by an unfriendly misguided person. And the scene where she checks out Tomorrowland and sees people diving through different levels of floating pools really reminded me of the scene where he goes to Tronland and sees people playing sports on different levels of floating whatever they were. And both have a girl who is not human who is from the secret world and shows the hero the ropes and can fight. And some promising person from the past who is now old and exiled. And probly other similarities. And remember, Disney brought in Brad Bird and Michael Arndt to write reshoots for TRON LEGACY. Hmmm.

But you know what? There’s no light cycle chase. Just a couple short jetpack scenes. Needs a light cycle chase.

The other connection is that TOMORROWLAND’s decent but not spectacular money-making may be what made the studio decide to cancel plans for a TRON 3. Which is too bad, not only because I would’ve enjoyed another one of those stupid movies but because it seems likely to put a cap on a period of creative risk-taking for the studio. This particular one didn’t pay off too well, but it’s cool that they took a talented director and let him do a weird, obviously very personal movie. I guess that’s sort of what they did with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN too, and that worked out for them, but they can only have so many swing-and-a-misses on these other movies before they run out of pirate booty.

I actually tend to be a fan of modern Disney live action flops. Here they are ranked in order of my preference:


And I believe #1 there is the most hated and most money-losing of the bunch. With that in mind, working against me liking TOMORROWLAND was the fact that it was the #1 movie of Memorial Day weekend. Working for it: it was the lowest grossing #1 Memorial Day weekend movie in 20 years!

But I should’ve known since it was doing okay, not an out-and-out failure, I was gonna be mixed on it. Oh well. Have hope, people. I have seen the future and in the future there are better movies than TOMORROWLAND.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 at 12:11 pm and is filed under Family, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “Tomorrowland”

  1. “It’s a good message but it seems a little obnoxious in a montage where her teachers talking about global warming, among other things, are portrayed as total buffoons.”

    Man I forgot about that moment in the movie. So weird. Was Brad Bird really shitting on educators? Because all the “smart” characters in this film are inherently super gifted and obviously didn’t need the education system we have in place. Was that supposed to tie in to the whole “packaging and selling of impending doom” deal? I kinda love Brad Bird and his movies, but this one left me feeling really blah.

    Awesome comparison to Tron: Legacy, by the by, the parallels are definitely very interesting.

  2. I had a Belgian waffle at EPCOT one time. Belgian waffle!

  3. In Belgium they are called “waffles”.

  4. Do the Belgians call US style waffles American waffles? Or do they just laugh and laugh and walk away shaking their heads when you ask about US style waffles?

  5. I skipped this and not without shame because I love Brad Bird, but it was just too soon after FURY ROAD and I just didn’t really have the money nor the enthusiasm considering it didn’t get rave reviews.

    I’ll check it out when it comes out on blu ray though.

  6. This sounds like ATLAS SHRUGGED without the evil

  7. I really need to see LONE RANGER. I think I’m really gonna enjoy it.

  8. For some reason, perhaps because of the title “Tomorrowland”, I started reading the review expecting the film to be Westworld redux. The actual premise sounds interesting, but a part of me still feels that perhaps it could do with a little robot rampage at the end.

  9. [Note: no Belgian waffles were harmed during the making of this movie]

    anaru— It is, albeit with a smaller array of characters.

    I think my favorite part was [SPOILER] the fight that occurs in a novelty shop, and most of the stuff that gets tossed around is Star Wars merchandise— a none too subtle way of Disney saying “Ha HA!… it’s ours now, bitches!”.

  10. I gotta say, I find something kinda creepy and Ayn Randian about Bird’s supposed optimism. It’s so much about the naturally great individuals who are being held back by a repressive society. I could kind of ignore it in THE INCREDIBLES (where the movie’s villain is basically inspired by his jealousy over people who are naturally objectively better than him and reject his feeble attempts to help) but with TOMORROWLAND too, it’s kind of hard not to see a pattern emerging. I think that has something to do with the reason people aren’t really connecting with this one, and why Vern would say he doesn’t see what he would do in Tomorrowland. Because most of us aren’t geniuses, most of us aren’t great men of vision who are being held back by a conspiracy of mediocrity. And even if we were, it would be a dystopian world of monster egos clashing over differences in vision.

    Unlike some of you, I am a guy who finds science and the idea of exploration and optimistic futurism deeply emotionally appealing. But I don’t think Bird/Lindelof have correctly identified the conflict between our often disappointing world and the lofty ideals we all strive for. Because they haven’t diagnosed the problem very well, it’s hard to identify with the entire source of conflict here.

  11. The thing that’s stopped me from connecting with any of the Bird/Pixar alumni films I’ve seen is that they seem to be written in praise of the exceptional while being exceptionally middle of the road themselves. That’s not the same thing as being mediocre; they’re very, very, very skilled at being middle of the road, which is a true talent. But this worship of geniuses, outliers, and oddballs seems disingenuous coming from a collective that’s done nothing but lob easy softballs right across the middle of the strike zone. They’re finely crafted populist entertainment that seems to have a real disdain for populism.

  12. Nah, the execution and filmatism is just as exceptional as Bird’s rat chefs and superheroes. I think you might want to check your facts there Mr. M… not sure how anybody could call Ghost Protocol middle-of-the-road in any respect.

  13. “They’re finely crafted populist entertainment that seems to have a real disdain for populism.”

    Yeah, actually I think that word “disdain” is important here, because it seems like both INCREDIBLES and TOMORROWLAND (and to some extent, RATATOUILLE as well) don’t just celebrate the ‘incredibles’ among us, they also have a king of anger and disdain for everyone else (normal people and government types in INCREDIBLES, teachers in TOMORROWLAND, critics in RATATOUILLE). You’d think truly great people wouldn’t have to worry so much about everyone else holding them back.

  14. I’m sick of talking about GHOST PROTOCOL, which I’ve recently learned to partially enjoy by thinking of it not as an action film but as a somewhat realistically rendered cartoon adventure for children, so let’s just say I see absolutely nothing exceptional about any aspect of that film whatsoever and agree to disagree.

  15. And actually, IRON GIANT has a pretty big persecution complex too. Man, what is this guy, Mel Gibson?

  16. Maybe “Tomorrowland” didn’t work for different reasons but “The Incredibles” did work exactly because of the Ayn Randian bullshit.

    It’s a finely crafted piece of personal mythology, an opiate like a religion, a psychological earworm: it’s not you who is to blame for your failure, you’re a genius… the world holds you back because it wants you to be mediocre.

    Which is in fact fine and harmless as a piece of pop psych motivation, if you’re dealing with a beaten down person feeling momentarily bad for themselves.

    But combined with an egomaniacal, narcissistic personality, when the belief becomes so delusional that it is used to oppose anything for the benefit of society, including things actually important like education and healthcare, that’s when this crap becomes very toxic.

    I consider myself individualistic and self-occupied but I hope I’m not so stupid as to believe everything I need and all my success is simply a product of me. Some people unfortunately do believe this, and use it to justify giving nothing to society and believing society gives nothing to them. Magic captains of industry who simply will great technology and great fortunes into being… nevermind the thousands toiling to make it actually happen, and that plenty of actual captains of industry frequently make grave fucked up mistakes that actually holds real progress back. Pure narcissism.

    It’s a sort of quintessentially American disease, individualism taken to an absurd, willfully blind extreme. At least I hope the rest of the world isn’t taken in by Ayn Rand bullshit and can see it for what it is: a shallow con on vanity and ego.

    I love individualism. Assertive, independent, proud. The only way to live in my book. But not vain, deluded, and selfish. The world needs more individualism and less personal sacrifice for malformed outdated reasons to simply conform. Unless it’s blind and psychotic with denial about the fact you still fucking live in a society and you want it to be healthy on baseline measures, at least. For your own benefit that a healthy society means you have a richer life, financial or otherwise, if for no other good reason.

    So yeah, spot on Mr. Subtlety: Brad Bird is creeping me out now and I feel a little disgusted with him. The myth of the great man held back by a world that wants him to be mediocre is extremely powerful but also delusional narcissism.

  17. My favorite Ayn Rand mention is in a video Joss Whedon did during the last presidential election when he talked about Mitt Romney being a harbinger of the zombie apocalypse. He was talking about the 1% not being the rich anymore in the zombie apocalypse, but the fast and agile and how you should hang out with them. Then he pauses and says, “Unless they read Ayn Rand.” That pretty much sums it up.

  18. For me Bird’s I guess elitism or exceptionalism, far from being Randian, is just a welcome counterpoint to the patronizing bullshit my generation was told. “You can go to any college you want and study anything you want and BE ANYTHING YOU WANT!!” Not everybody has what it takes to be a great cook or 100 meter dasher or whatever. And as a result a much-higher-than-ever-before percentage of people my age are sitting around with useless degrees working dead end jobs.

    Bird doesn’t treat his special people as something just anybody should be able to aspire to be, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    By the way sorry if I’m being obtuse as fuck in this discussion, I don’t really know anything about Tomorrowland and am sort of half-reading the comments to keep it that way.

  19. I wish they let Brad Bird make a Star Wars movie.

  20. Renfield: They tried to let him make a Star Wars movie, but he turned them down because he didn’t want to quit TOMORROWLAND.

    I don’t agree with the Ayn Rand comparisons. I see the similarity people are pointing to, but the thing I hate so much about Rand’s philosophy is that it’s all about selfishness and fuck everybody else. None of Bird’s movies are about that, they’re all about helping people. The Incredibles are super heroes for chrissakes, their entire purpose in life is the opposite of Rand’s. In TOMORROWLAND it’s the bad guy who wants to keep the creations of these elite geniuses to themselves, and the good guys who want to share them with the world.

    Also it’s worth mentioning that Bird doesn’t like being called Randian and has said that she’s something you only like when you’re a rebellious teenager and don’t know better. Since he’s not a politician he has no reason to lie about it.

  21. The Original Paul

    June 5th, 2015 at 12:12 am

    I always thought of THE INCREDIBLES as being about accepting yourself and others around you for what or who you really are. But looking back… yeah, the “supers” thing could be read that way, couldn’t it? I’m not sure about the notion of the individual superman though. Felt like the movie pretty much spent most of its time disproving that particular notion by making it clear that Buddy was wrong when he said “the only person you can rely on in this world is yourself”.

    I don’t see what’s “Randian”, as you put it, about GHOST PROTOCOL. But quite honestly I was just glad that that movie wasn’t as awful as MI:3. It’s still not the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequel that I wanted, but I found nothing particularly objectionable about it.

  22. The Original Paul

    June 5th, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Damn it… ninja’d! And by Vern, of all people!

  23. Sheesh, I’m a little disappointed to see how many of you buy into this “Bird worships Rand” bullshit. I’m glad that we are 99,9% on the same page when it comes to socially more relevant stuff like sex- or racism, but I expected more from you.

  24. But literally no one said what you just put in quotes there. And only two people came close. Mr. Subtlety said he found the supposed optimism of Tomorrowland to be “Ayn Randian” and BR Baraka said “Ayn Randian bullshit” made The Incredibles work. Then just as many people (two — Vern and renfield) said they disagreed.

  25. That’s enough for me. You all count double.

  26. I saw this last weekend and I was surprised by how long it took to get going, and then how rushed it was in the end. From the trailer, I would have assumed everything that happened in the first hour and 40 minutes would have happened in the first half hour.

  27. The Original Paul

    June 5th, 2015 at 6:00 am

    Well my absolute, definite, scientifically-proven opinion is: I don’t know enough about Rand-ism or whatever it’s called to give a definite opinion one way or the other.

    Argument settled!

    (But seriously: If “Randism” is equal to “selfishness” though, then I think THE INCREDIBLES goes out of its way to discredit that notion. For what it’s worth.)

  28. The other (sort of) political thing going on in THE INCREDIBLES is this notion that the Heroes need to go away because they’ve caused some bad things to happen. The jumper sues Mr. Incredible. People blame the heroes rather than themselves for their problems. It’s a commentary on personal responsibility, with a dusting of envy.

  29. I’m usually bothered by depictions of teachers in films, which usually attack an already vulnerable but deeply necessary profession. I haven’t seen Tomorrowland, but the description of that classroom scene already rubs me the wrong way. One of my favorite depictions of a teacher in film is actually the teacher from Frankenweenie, who isn’t there to inspire his students. He’s just there to show them some cool science stuff. And when he gets in trouble, he calls all of the parents morons. It’s a relatively small part of the film, but it was also refreshingly pro-teacher.

    On that list of Disney live action bombs, I would probably bump John Carter towards the top. Although, The Lone Ranger might still maintain the number one position, depending on how I felt at the time.

  30. Some years ago before ATLAS SHRUGGED was made into the OPERATION DELTA FORCEs of fiscal conservatism, I heard rumblings that it was going to be made into a big budget film, and that some of your big name “Hollywood liberals” like Angelina Jolie and maybe even Mr. Tomorrowland himself George Clooney were interested. The spin was that they loved the book because the theme of personal exceptionalism appealed to them. Now that may well have been a load of old hooey, but maybe TOMOROWLAND is sort of like the version of ATLAS SHRUGGED they would want to make; yes, there are some uniquely gifted and talented people out there, and yes, their gifts sometimes go supressed or unappreciated, but they want to use these gifts to help people and make it a better world for everyone, not just to build odes to their own egos.

    I saw the start of THE INCREDIBLES the other day (seemed far better than I remembered BTW) and the people getting in the way of Craig T Incredible don’t frustrate him because they are stopping him from achieving his full potential, so much as they are stopping him from helping all of the people he could be helping. And post-prologue the film starts with Coach Incredible helping an old lady work around unfair insurance policies, hardly consistent with how we see Randoid thinking today.

    But Bird has admitted he went through a Rand phase for about six months in his youth, and it may be that he is subconsciously recalling parts of her work in his own writings. You don’t have to be an objectivist or even conservative to see some appeal in the brush strokes of Randian themes, just as many find great worth in the traditions, writings and customs or religions they don’t follow. Perhaps THE FOUNTAINHEAD is about the limit for a non-Randiod though, which is why it was made into a classic (if still crazy and somewhat kitschy) film, whereas ATLAS SHRUGGED couldn’t even get all the way through a low budget series without recourse for crowd funding.

  31. Well, I mean, I don’t think Bird is exactly the same as Ayn Rand, and I believe him when he says he finds her philosophy repellent. And yes, of course it makes a big difference that Bird’s characters are at least ostensibly doing what they do in order to help people, something which would be kind of an anathema to Rand herself. This isn’t THE FOUNTAINHEAD, it’s not like he’s gonna put in a rape scene and then say she secretly wanted it or something.

    That said, I don’t think you can so easily dismiss the fundamental similarity in their ideas of great geniuses and wunderkinds being oppressed by the dull masses (even if those dull masses are who they want to help). I mean, it’s still a fundamentally kind of narcissistic, elitist martyrdom fantasy. And I still think it’s part of what keeps people from connecting with this movie in particular. I don’t think it’s an accident, Vern, that you were left wondering what you would do in Tomorrowland. I mean, there doesn’t really seem to be a place there for the normal people, all those buffoonish schoolteachers and so forth who were holding back the great geniuses of our time from improving the world.

    To be fair, almost all hero’s journey stories are in some way ego-maniacal and narcissistic fantasies, and that’s fine. It’s not like I demand all our fantasies be positive, that would be a pretty boring world. But there’s something that feels weirdly exclusive about Bird’s particular fantasies, something that seems to be about leaving the slow people out as much as it’s about empowering the individual. Us normals, we’re not really what they’re looking for in Tomorrowland. They just expect us to enjoy the jetpacks they make and respect the inherent greatness of the people who made them. Even Renfield, who disagrees with me that these themes are bad, still agrees that they’re present. I don’t know, maybe that is the way the real world works and we should just celebrate the fact that we’re not all equal and pay a little more homage to the great ones among us. But it sure does make it hard to connect with a story about them, and I’d wager it has a lot to do with why a lot of people felt sort of distant from TOMORROWLAND.

  32. Films also like to fetishize the natural prodigy, someone who is just naturally gifted and thus outside of society. If such people exist, they’re incredibly rare, but films keep on coming back to this archetype. If you’re going to succeed in any given area, then it takes plenty of government, family and economic support that the individual has no control over. You also need to exert some good old fashioned hard work and have a good bit of luck. I think the overrepresentation of the misunderstood genius in popular media works against students and young people entering into the workforce. People assume that either you are smart or not, either you understand something or you don’t. But in the real world, people spend lots of time and sweat trying to get good at their chosen profession or hobby, whether that’s being an engineer as a job or spending your weekends playing in a rock band. Sorry for the rant, but this is something that’s been on my mind recently, and the discussion of The Incredibles, whether it’s a Randian allegory or not, reminded me of it.

  33. I wish there could be separate versions of some of these PG action movies — one for little kids who are experiencing blockbuster cinema for the first time, so the score/soundtrack has to tell them how to feel and how big and wondrous things are onscreen, and then a cut of the movie for ‘seen-it-all-before’ veteran moviegoers who are sick to death of swelling orchestra music telling them how to feel about the big wondrous imaginative stuff onscreen.

    This reliance on cheesy nu-classical music is really no different than when silly action movies introduce a badass character with an accompanying riff that sounds like what a drunk air guitar player hears when he fingers an homage to Judas Priest. But these big uplifting scores for kiddie movies and Spielbergian-toned movie moments get a pass, despite how hackneyed and counterproductive they are in terms of originality or engaging viewers in an uninsulting way, because horns and woodwinds and shit are considered respectable whereas electric guitars and keyboards are considered cheap and déclassé. I dunno, I just don’t ever want to watch a movie where a little kid opens a door and walks into a magical realm with big buildings & gadgets (or dinosaurs) flying around and then we see his/her face light up as an overblown generic Mussorgsky-wannabe piece overtakes the audiotrack.

    Anyway, I liked most of this movie enough to wish the plot weren’t so stupidly murky. Vern’s review is spot on. Hope the blu-ray has the alt-version with his chosen-film-critic-of-the-future role intact. Hopefully you got paid even if they edited you out; if not, call your local SAG legal department immediately.

    George Clooney’s big action set piece is fucking great. Pretty sure I saw the whole scene as a teaser/trailer a few months ago; as a separate piece of cinema, it’s one of the best shorts of the year. Brad Bird and crew remain action experts.

    This is a weird complaint but I didn’t like TOMORROWLAND’s costume design at all. Bad guy robot goons wearing all black? Lame. Those ugly, tacky toy store employees. The Star Trekkie uni-wardrobe of Tomorrowland’s leaders. Blegh. And none of the normal civilian earthlings wear attractive or memorable or uniquely fashionable clothing, unless the NASA hat counts.

    Did anyone else think of THE INCREDIBLES when that kid’s jetpack airbag safety system turned him into a big marshmallow tumor cluster?

  34. Let me contrast that point with the approach a different movie takes: consider SCHOOL OF ROCK.

    When Jack Black first auditions the kids in his class, he’s ecstatic to find that they have all the skills he needs: one kid knows guitar, another bass, another drums, one plays keys, and there are couple are strong singers. The brown nosing class president auditions for the singing role, but she’s not good at it and he doesn’t pick her.

    Soon, he has the whole band set up. He wants them to start practicing. “What are we going to do while you practice?” one kid who wasn’t picked asks. “Just sit back and enjoy the rock!” Jack beams.

    TOMORROWLAND stops right there. Yeah, not everyone can make a jetpack. But everyone can enjoy a jetpack. Sit back and watch all the cool stuff we can make when you’re in standing in our way!

    But SCHOOL OF ROCK goes further. “you mean we’re not in the band?” The kid asks sadly. Jack turns. He clearly hasn’t considered this. After all, he’s always been one of the good ones, in fact his own band has just thrown him out not because he’s bad, but because he just rocks too damn hard. It hasn’t occurred to him that the kids that don’t get picked will feel left out.

    But he knows what to do. Because there’s more to being in a band than just the players. Soon, every kid has their own job, and they all get to play a part in the process. A few of the non-band kids end up more important than the ones who lay the instruments. The point becomes that everyone has something to contribute, not that most of the class should just sit back and enjoy the few who are already great. It’s a much more inclusive fantasy, and I think one which invites even non-musicians to feel like they’re part of this thing, not passive bystanders.

    I hasten to add, by the way, that I don’t think any of these films has a political subtext or a hidden agenda. I don’t think Bird is secretly trying to turn the culture into a Randian dystopia, or that he’s even channeling his secret feelings of persecuted greatness. I don’t object to stories which have dubious moral messages, and I certainly have enjoyed every single Bird film that I’ve seen. I’m purely looking at this from an artistic point to view, and trying to unpack why this particular movie has seemed to so universally keep viewers at something of an emotional distance. I think a lot of us know on some level that we’re not really on the guest list to TOMORROWLAND. This isn’t our story, in fact, we don’t even really know anyone whose story it WOULD be. Maybe all the great geniuses who our society is oppressing really felt emotionally involved, but that ain’t most of us. In fact, it may not really be any of us.

  35. The Original Paul

    June 5th, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Mouth – I was thinking about a film I recently rewatched, and it just hit me: you just completely nailed the only thing I actually don’t like about E. T. (Most people would say it’s a masterpiece, I think. And I wouldn’t disagree with them. Definitely one of Spielberg’s best, which is saying a lot.)

    And I think it’s because I didn’t see it when it first came out – not until I was much, much older in fact. Maybe people who saw it as kids love the scoring, but to me it just makes the (incredibly emotional) scenes in the film feel “corny”. The music just sounds so damn overcooked to me now, it’s almost like scoring a giant intense action sequence with “yackety sax”. And it’s not a corny film. It’s anything but that.

    (If I had to choose a favorite John Williams score, it would probably be SCHINDLER’S LIST. Proving that the man knows how to rein himself in when he needs to, it’s a triumph of Herrmann-esque minimalism, using short jarring violin strokes to punctuate the horror, and simple melodies to help accentuate the emotion of the film. Everything about it is understated, subtle, and brilliantly effective. Just perfect.)

    Anyway, your post makes me wonder: if I’d have seen E. T. as a child, rather than as something closer to the cynical human being that I am today, would I find the scoring as jarring as I do now? Would it even bother me? A lot of people love that score.

  36. The Original Paul

    June 5th, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Damn you, lack of “Edit” button! I only meant to italicise the word “don’t”!

  37. Honestly, I always thought that the score was the most unnecessary part of the movie. Most of the time I don’t notice it anyway and when I do, I usually don’t care much about it. Recently I’m watching THE SHIELD for the first time and it took me up to season 4 before I even noticed that it doesn’t have a score at all. I mean, sure, there are some super catchy themes sprinkled throughout film history, but I kinda hope that filmmaking will evolve past scoring soon. (Although the last big evolution in basic filmmaking was “It’s okay to make your stars look dirty”, which was in the 70s, so I don’t hold my breath.)

  38. I was watching something recently, but I can’t remember what, it was probably a TV program. Anyway, whatever it was, it had Every. Single. Moment scored. It was so annoying I couldn’t concentrate on what was actually happening.

  39. The Original Paul

    June 5th, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Maggie – not to keep ragging on Marvel, but that was how I felt about THE FIRST AVENGER. Absolutely nothing in that movie happened without a deafening blast of trumpets and strings. If Cap had been seen taking a dump, it would’ve been scored with triumphant rousing orchestral crescendos.

    If you haven’t seen Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, you might want to give that a go. (I know it’s saying a lot to assume people haven’t seen that classic, but hell, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch ROAD WARRIOR yet, despite having bought it a few weeks ago. I’ll get around to it.) The scoring in it is… unique. It’s got almost no music in it at all. Almost everything is done with pure ambient sounds. So much of film relies upon a musical score nowadays that it’s easy to forget that it’s possible to make a masterpiece without using music to set a “mood” at all.

  40. That’s wild Vern, so instead of a Brad Bird Star Wars we get his first (apparently) mediocre picture. What a bummer!

    Mr. Subtlety, you’re right on the money to bring up School of Rock and I think Linklater is a great populist filmmaker and counterexample to Bird. But I think most filmmakers arrive at their populism not by the same sense of humanism and observation as Linklater, but simply by the desire to be as inoffensive and crowd-pleasing as possible. That Bird’s perspective is an examined one (as I’ve learned from this comments section) comes as no surprise to me.

    I mean, maybe this is a can of worms, but depiction IS kinda endorsement in film insofar as you are saying “this subject matter was worth spending 200 million dollars and a year of all these talented people’s time to portray”. Film, too, makes immortal heroes out of its characters; it declares them to be exceptional beyond measure simply by placing them in the frame. So there’s a certain honesty to Bird exploring the consequences of this phenomenon.

    Beyond that I just think he’s a tremendously gifted storyteller. The first act of Incredibles has some of the best suburban/corporate angst this side of 1999 (the year that brought us American Beauty, The Sopranos, Fight Club….), with the husbands sneaking out to listen to the police radio and such marvelous details. He beats out Abrams and Shyamalan as the true “next Spielberg” for me, and I’m pretty chagrined that his new movie is supposed to suck.

  41. Renfield: Can I ask why you feel so strongly about Bird’s directing chops? He’s only made two “real” movies, one of which nobody likes and you haven’t seen, and the other is well regarded but still just a hollow set-piece delivery system that doesn’t have anything the slightest bit Spielbergian about it. I get that I am not the market for cartoons, but even if I was, I don’t necessarily think directing some good ones proves that someone has the skills to be a great live action director. A director’s true talent, I believe, is making magic on the day, in the midst of a million forces that no one can control, something that Spielberg is clearly a master of and something an animation director never has to worry about. So I’m curious what makes you think this guy has such potential.

  42. Majestyk: Well I don’t share the same disdain for cartoons that you do, it would never have occurred to me to rank his animated direction in a different category from his live action work. Two “real” movies? At least you had the decency to put it in quotes :)

    I don’t know much of what goes into making an animated film, or a live action film for that matter. But I can look at the final product and see a unity of vision, an imaginative mind, a gifted visual storyteller.

    What’s Spielbergian about Ghost Protocol? It’s what happens when you give a virtuoso a great sandbox to play in. He has so much fun with the world of super spies and their gadgets that you wonder why you had been cheated by the first 3 films.

    Great directors see possibilities in the medium and subject matter they are given. To bring it full circle, Spielberg’s flood chase in (animated) Tin Tin gives me the same sort of vibe of a director just alive with the possibilities of the tools at his disposal.

  43. And I dunno man I suspect your whole theory that animated filmmaking is somehow insulated from reality isn’t quite fair. Some of the very great animated films have Terry Gilliam-esque stories about their production, about the interference of those million uncontrollable forces (Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, Thief and the Cobbler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8crsKbeaeU).

    I know that your perspective is a canonically legitimate one (many of the great film theorists dismiss animation) but in my opinion none of this shit is easy to make, it all is the result of tremendous blood/sweat/tears on the part of fiercely dedicated artists.

  44. I’m not dismissing animation, other than it’s not usually my cup of tea in its present form. I just think it probably requires a different toolkit than live action directing, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily say anything about your capacity for the other. I’ve found the live action attempts of the two big Pixar directors pretty lifeless, like a bunch of previz’s with actors comped in, so the theory holds water for me, but I’m still in the minority on GHOST PROTOCOL and lots of people seem to still blame JOHN CARTER on the marketing and not on it just not being very good, so maybe it’s just me.

  45. I think John Carter stinks.

    So, my question is, has Brad Bird stated that he is a really big fan of Star Wars or something?

  46. Analysis of THE INCREDIBLES in brief: not Randian or Objectivist; rather, aristocratic in nature. It’s about people with inherited power who protect those who don’t have it and who they view with a mixture of obligation and mild disdain and frustration. Probably not the intended reading, but it’s the main one that occurred to me on reflection.

    I don’t think that Bird’s specifically into aristocrats, but I do think that he’s into experts and family units. It’s a short jump from those predilections into something resembling a sort of aristocracy of merit, where it isn’t political power that’s inherited but some sort of special talent instead. Some people respond very strongly to family alliances (blood or otherwise) placed in opposition to some sort of impersonal wider society. There are a lot of interesting possible dimensions there, but I have no idea which would apply in this case. I just think that Bird’s stories are likely always going to be concerned with intimate social units that the outside world doesn’t understand. It’s a big enough niche that it’s unlikely to actually limit his stories in any discernible way.

  47. SofS: meritocracy.

    Which is a fine attitude. If you have talent and you work hard, you deserve a larger share, I agree with that.

    Maybe Bird emphasizes the talent a little too much. Hard work actually matters a lot more in real life than talent.

    But that’s not as dramatically interesting, or as easy to translate into attention capturing drama. So Bird probably has the right approach ramping up the talent on display to entertain and (perhaps) enlighten.

    Unfortunately, in regards to American politics, those who seem to give the most lip service to the concept of meritocracy actually endorse policies that promote classism and plutocracy. If only the rich get good healthcare and a good education, it’s not really a meritocracy as it’s not a level playing field.

    I wonder how one would dramatize that problem. I think it’s time in the USA for another watershed NETWORK “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” social/ political satire movie lampooning the lame status quo of ultrarich with growing bank accounts and a dying middle class.

  48. I was into seeing it off the strength of Brad Bird. Dude just seems to have pretty good taste IMO. Then I saw all the people online complain about the exact same issues I had with any other Lindelof written movie being present in this one and just spent the money on FURY ROAD again instead.

  49. Really sad to hear about the death of TRON 3 though. I liked LEGACY way more than I ever thought it would be and would’ve like to have seen a follow up. Shit was like an event with the most kick ass post-conversion 3D I’ve seen to date.

  50. Majestyk, I get what you are saying more clearly now: talent in one medium doesn’t necessarily translate into talent in the other.

    It’s interesting in the case of Andrew Stanton. The first half of WALL-E features solid world-building. It introduces future-Earth with an eye for wonderment that completely eludes him in JOHN CARTER. Then again, I found the second half of WALL-E to be similarly wanting.

  51. BR Baraka — I think my problem with this whole paradigm isn’t so much that Bird emphasizes natural talent, but that he tends to frame the conflict as a world of mediocrity holding back the great ones among us. They’re stories of persecution as much as they are celebrations of talent, which kinda leaves a bad taste, especially since I don’t think most people can really relate to that. Everyone loves a hero’s journey, but I don’t think most well-balanced people identify with the idea that their inner greatness is being vindictively suppressed by the mediocre majority.

  52. Yikes – can of worms well and truly opened.

    When I said ATLAS SHRUGGED, I meant ATLAS SHRUGGED, not the philosophy of Ayn Rand in general. In that book, a group of over achievers feel they have to hide their greatest inventions from “the wrong people”.

    If you think “the wrong people” = the snivelling, resentful, unwashed masses, you have gone full Rand. If you think “the wrong people” = warmongering capitalists, you have the premise of every teen wish fulfillment movie made in the 1980s, along with the origins of both IRON MAN and BATMAN. If you think “the wrong people” = “I love my fellow humans but I feel maybe they arent quite ready for this shit yet for a variety of reasons that may include both resentment and violence” you have (I think) TOMORROWLAND

    When teenagers try to solve the world’s problems, they lurch staright to an extreme. When grown ups try to solve problems, it’s all about finding a balance – the privileged should feel a moral obligation to help the non-privileged, and the non-privileged should give them a chance to do so without reaching for the torches and pitchforks.

    I’d like to think that’s what Mr Bird is getting at.

    Disclaimer: I have not seen the children’s film that is the subject of this review, but I will if someone thinks I have missed something here

  53. After watching it last night, I wanna point out one thing that annoyed me, but nobody else has mentioned: This is a movie about how awesome learning and inspiration is and how you can change the future, even if you are simply a good guitar player or dancer and how the self destructive nature of humans isn’t even their fault*, because someone accidently made them do it.

    Yet the movie is not above letting the villain die a pretty harsh death, instead of saving him and showing him how wrong he was and maybe let him unleash his full potential as a good guy.

    On another note: I think it’s a shame that the movie was neither a huge success or a box office bomb and/or critical punching bag like LONE RANGER, since by now it’s apparently already forgotten and although it’s Bird’s weakest outing since RATATOUILLE, it really doesn’t deserve that fate. (Oh well, we all know that by 2045 it will most likely be a cherished cult classic, like so many other Disney bombs.)

    *Big, fat bonus point for being pro-human. I may be overreacting, but I’m so sick of SciFi and Fantasy (or pop culture philosophy) that portrays us either as some kind of anomaly, that destroys everything including each other, earth and maybe the universe or as the weakest and most flawed creatures among all other species living in Space, Middle Earth or wherever.

  54. This is my favorite Bird joint. It has exploding robots to go with its sanctimoniousness about the power of creativity or whatever.

  55. I finally saw this one and I have no idea where to begin; I’m honestly kind of flabbergasted this film got made. It’s supposedly for kids but it’s slow and boring and confusing and characters keep talking in vague clues and mysteries which feels like a TV-style hook to keep us interested, which may work over a season of a show like Lost, but is excruciating in a movie. It takes forever for the plot to actually come together and for a conflict or stakes to show up. It has George Clooney playing a cranky old man who’s way older than Clooney, and has Britt Robertson, a 26 year old who’s already been naked onscreen at least twice, playing someone…14? 15? It’s rated PG but it’s incredibly violent (yeah i know most of the deaths are robots but still, a scene where Robertson is beating one’s face in with a baseball bat that goes comically on and on has no place in a kid’s movie. Not to mention what, 5 cops get executed point blank with laser guns?) Oh, and whose bright idea was it to have Clooney’s “love interest” be a robot that looks like a little girl? And no, that’s not an exaggeration/you’re reading too much into it – he’s literally playing someone heartbroken that the girl he loved a long time ago turned out to be a robot and the big climax is her admitting her feelings for him, which could be OK if we first saw them as both teenagers but not when he’s an old man and she looks like she’s 10.

    Look, I appreciate that this is an original blockbuster that has big ideas that’s not based on a comic book or YA novel. But it’s also ridiculously derivative, an unholy mishmash of the plot of Tron Legacy (as Vern points out, they’re way too similar), the robot protector from another reality fighting other robots like The Terminator, the central conceit of Paycheck (the fortune telling machine actually causes a self-fulfilling prophecy so it must get blowed up real good), and of course the suited robot assassins from Halloween III with herky-jerky fast-forwarded robot fights straight out of The World’s End. I did kind of like the Constantine vibe with the scene with the teleportation machine that drains your blood sugar (by the way, why couldn’t THAT have just brought them to Tomorrowland? If you’re teleporting just to get to ANOTHER place where you can teleport again, your movie is too long and your budget is too big).

    I didn’t entirely hate it, there’s some good setpieces (the “preview” of Tomorrowland is kind of incredible actually), and I actually do think Bird shows some Spielbergian wit and playfulness in some of the action sequences. But this is definitely a bad movie and further cements Damon Lindelof as the reigning king of bad screenwriters.

  56. Oh yeah, Burning Questions: I really don’t understand anything that happened here, so I hope you guys can help me out: 1) What happened at the end? I get they sent more robots out to recruit people to Tomorrowland, and they gave them that “preview” pin thing, but how are they actually going to get there? Make another Eiffel tower rocket? And are they going to Tomorrowland permanently? Seems weird the movie seems to be saying “smart people need to share their advancements and knowledge to help the people back on earth” but its last shot is of the next generation of geniuses getting the hell away from those suckers on earth. 2) They made such a big deal of everyone using their camera phones to record the Eiffel tower turning into a rocket, are we supposed to infer those videos went viral and all the new wonder and awe and positivity or something warded off the apocalypse? (as opposed to the shock and horror since it honestly looks like the blast DESTROYED a giant chunk of Paris). I mean, we’re told the apocalypse is inevitable in 59 days, and the heroes are like “but we don’t accept that!” (and as CJ said, blow shit up and give the villain a violent and painful death) and then we’re told later “ha, they said we’d be dead in 59 days but we got past it!” but uh…HOW? Don’t tell me that turning off the subliminal apocalypse-showing machine somehow stopped global warming and wildfires. 3) Who were the robots? Who was Hugh Laurie? Was he a robot? Why were they built up as a threat the entire movie but nowhere to be found during the climax? (Speaking of which, where was Britt Robertson, the MAIN CHARACTER during the climax??) 4) Where did everyone in Tomorrowland go? When they finally get back it looks abandoned and it seems the only guy living there is Laurie? What??

    This really does remind me of Interstellar, a movie where they say the word “science” alot and talk about how “science” is going to save everyone over and over again because this is a movie made by intelligent, forward-thinking people but also we’re going to throw in magic at the end and literally say that love conquers data and facts, but if you don’t like this movie you’re a mouth-breather who doesn’t like SCIENCE. Except in Tomorrowland, the movie mentions “positivity” and “optimism” over and over again in a movie where we’re told to cheer at a little girl tearing off Kathryn Hahn’s head with her bare hands and that dystopian movies like Hunger Games suck because they apparently make the apocalypse look like something fun to look forward to (huh?) even though I’m pretty sure I can’t think of a single post-apocalyptic movie that makes the apocalypse look enjoyable. (Well, the Mad Max movies do have some “fun” in them, and they’re also more positive and optimistic than this movie).

  57. About how the people in the end go to Tomorrowland: The heroine also got the pin first, figured the mystery out and watched the full commercial and then the next day, the little robot girl was supposed to pick her up. I guess that’s how it will go. The next day all these people who got a pin will most likely get a visit from a weird kid. (And they will probably go there through the same wormhole thingy that the teenage girl used to get her family.)

    BTW, for me, the Paris blast didn’t look like it destroyed anything. Unless you count a possible peak in crime, as long as Paris is dark from the EMP.

    All in all, as much as I enjoyed the movie (And I really do not agree with the “slow and boring” accusation, although the last act really dragged a little), the whole concept of Tomorrowland was seriously underdeveloped. I can imagine some of that might be studio tinkering (Which studio wouldn’t get cold feet after producing two of the biggest box office bombs in a row!?), but we never learned if Tomorrowland was in the future, a parallel dimension or another planet. I assume Hugh Laurie was a robot too, since he didn’t age. Also there only seemed to be humans (and robots) in that place. Does that mean that they either weren’t smart enough to find extraterrestrial life, aliens don’t exist or they were simply racist? Also if Laurie was simply so frustrated with the humans’ misunderstanding of his apocalypse warning, that he went: “Fine. Die, if you want to. Why should I bother!?” Why sent he killer robots to earth, to prevent anybody from even TRYING to cancel the apocalypse? I get that he was a metaphor for the “not my problem” mentality, but he wasn’t a good one.

    I still love this movie for its pro-science and -humanity approach, its mix of kick ass SciFi action and preachy kids movie and most of all the animation sensibilities, that clearly give the movie a level of fun and originality, that is often missing these days. It’s just that it’s not the kind of movie, that can survive a deeper analysis.

  58. Thanks, CJ – I thought the exact same thing about Laurie- the movie keeps saying that he’s not a “bad guy”, he just doesn’t want to help Earth, but then yeah, why DOES he keep sending killer robot sleeper agents back to Earth to Terminate people? It’s like Lindelof thought it would be complex to give him a “the villain is right!” speech but didn’t care that it completely contradicts his actions. I think he wasn’t a robot, by the way, since he howled in some pretty convincing pain when he got his leg broken and I don’t think the other robots did when they got hurt. I guess he concocted some shake(?) that kept people from aging, but I guess we’ll never know the formula since he got comically squashed just like Charlize Theron in Lindelof’s Prometheus. And was he seriously just chilling in Tomorrowland by himself for like 25 years or whenever Athena got kicked out? We see a crowd show up after all the ruckus is over – were those the robots they send out at the end? Or other people that lived in Tomorrowland that didn’t seem too bothered by giant explosions downtown and their leader getting crushed to death. So weird the movie tells us this is a place where the world’s best and brightest go to get away from the world, and we’re literally not even sure if they’re there or not.

    I still don’t get why the ending involved taking the world’s finest away from Earth; isn’t that literally counterproductive to what the message is? Especially because we just staved off the apocalypse by mere days, is this really the best time to TAKE AWAY the people who matter the most? I guess they’re EVENTUALLY going to share their inventions and knowledge with the world (all speculation, none of it is in the film), but they need to be left the hell alone by the unwashed masses for a while to work in peace?

    Also, are all the people they invited just going to disappear too? There’s going to be a lot of kidnapping/missing persons reports/hurt loved ones. (Is this a prequel to Lindelof’s Leftovers?) I guess Clooney’s parent(s) were unsupportive, so let them think their son was kidnapped for years, right? Fuck em!

    Yeah, not to be a Man of Steel-style truther when mentioning Paris being destroyed, it just seemed weird that they launched this ship with no regard for any of the people on the tower or in the area (I hope that guard they knocked out is OK), and when you see all the lights go dark below when the ship takes off, they could have thrown in one line about the liftoff causing an EMP or the propulsion not causing any damage below or SOMETHING, but from what info was given to us and what we see on screen, the blast flattened the shit out of everything near the Eiffel Tower. What makes it even worse is how pointless it is – we JUST had a pretty cool teleportation scene, and the Eiffel tower transforming into a rocket would be a pretty world-changing event but there’s no mention of it ever again. It’s simply a cool set piece idea shoehorned into a script where it doesn’t belong.

    I think I thought it was slow and boring (despite a decent amount of action/noise) because i didn’t feel emotionally connected to anything I saw onscreen, and I think alot of that is due to the story structure, how they’re withholding so much information and dribble it out so slowly that I honestly lost interest well before they even get to Clooney. Plus Robertson isn’t bad or anything, but I just didn’t connect with her either, the same way I did with say, Katniss or Daisy Ridley in TFA.

    And btw, apparently a prequel comic/novel or something explained Tomorrowland was another planet that we can travel to via wormholes, which is weird b/c the movie seems to heavily imply it’s a parallel dimension. I don’t know what that says about the movie that it doesn’t really matter what it is.

  59. grimgrinningchris

    April 17th, 2018 at 5:34 am

    Vern- Epcot isn’t boring. Sure, FutureWorld has dealt with some of the same issues as Tomorrowland in terms of attempting to STAY ”future”, and sure, I really miss Horizons and World Of Motion and the old Wonders Of Life pavillion, but it is still beautiful and endlessly fascinating and World Showcase still continues to redefine what a theme park can be…

    Also, Epcot has the best and most moving (every.god damn. time.) nighttime laser/fireworks/pyro show of any Disney park.

    And there’s gelato.

  60. Well, I guess everyone who wanted Brad Bird to shut the fuck up and lay off anything that could be interpreted as Ayn Rand-ian got what they wanted, because Incredibles 2 may be the emptiest, blandest movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t always need my movies to be “about” anything, but it’s just so weird that Incredibles 1 and Tomorrowland hammer home their themes over and over again with zero subtlety, while Incredibles 2 just seems content to noodle around and then occasionally dabble in big action setpieces that are pretty good but are y’know, animated so they have zero weight. This is the animated equivalent of MI4: Ghost Protocol, a movie that succeeds and exists ONLY to generate visceral thrills that animation can’t recreate. Take that away and you’re stuck with…well, I guess you’re stuck with the 10th highest grossing movie of all time, so I guess I’m in the minority here.

    Seriously, I’ve wondered for the past year how this movie could be so financially successful, when I literally know nobody who’s seen it, I never heard anyone talk about “that scene” or “that character” (because there are no memorable scenes or characters), in fact I never saw a commercial or trailer for it, and I had no idea what the plot was, who the villain was, etc… And now that I’ve seen it, I’m still boggled by how anyone could get excited about or really like this movie. I figured the plot would be Incredibles Balboa, with the kids now as adults and the parents are now grandparents, since it’s been 15 years since the first one. But nope, this pulls a Halloween II and literally starts at the end of the last one, before spinning its wheels aimlessly for 90 minutes, GOTG2 style, and then the “plot” kicks in and you’re just wondering “wait, is that all there is?” Look, I appreciate that the “story” is a sloppy mashup of Mr. Mom, Get Out, and Speed 2: Cruise Control, but the whole thing just reeks of stockholder appeasement and trying to sell new car and raccoon toys. Part of me thinks Bird resented being told to lay off the “excellence vs mediocrity” thing and went about making the most mediocre movie he could think of to show them corporate fools what’s up. And then it ended up outgrossing ET and Star Wars and Dark Knight because this world has gone crazy.

  61. For what it’s worth, I saw INCREDIBLES 2 and liked it. I’d put in that lower tier of Pixar movies that are enjoyable but not particularly deep or memorable (e.g. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, FINDING DORY, the CARS movies). I did think the action setpieces were creative and interesting, and use superpowers in fun ways I wish more live-action superhero movies did. Like the chase scene with Elastigirl on the transforming motorcycle or the climax where Void is trying to save people with the portals. I think Brad Bird excels at those kind of clever action setpieces, and I’m surprised he has yet to do a Star Wars or MCU movie.

    If you don’t know anyone who saw this movie then I guess you don’t know a lot of people with kids, because pretty much every parent I know got dragged to this thing, hence the huge financial success. That includes me, but I’d rather see this with my kids than like, ANGRY BIRDS or the EMOJI MOVIE.

  62. I was confused at first why they would want to continue the story right after the first one, because it seems like seeing them older would be more interesting. But then I saw how important it was to the story for Violet to be at that specific awkward age. And I realized that it’s kind of cool to take advantage of the medium and make a sequel almost as far apart as CHINATOWN and THE TWO JAKES where everybody looks exactly the same age. Yet it was clearly a movie made later because it cared so much about centering on the female characters.

    I definitely liked it much more than Neal did, but I admit I quickly forgot it. TOY STORY 4 actually stuck with me more and I don’t know anyone talking about that one.

    Crustacean, did you know that Brad Bird could’ve done THE FORCE AWAKENS, but turned it down so he could finish TOMORROWLAND? But only after trying to convince them to let his friend pre-JURASSIC WORLD Colin Trevorrow start it and then he comes and finishes it.

  63. I liked INCREDIBLES 2, but it’s obvious that, despite what Bird said about “having the right story that needed to be told now”, it is really “just” another adventure without any real stakes (especially compared to part 1) and Bird most likely only did it to get his market value up again after TOMORROWLAND.

    I have similar feelings about TOY STORY 4, which I saw just Saturday. Everybody involved obviously tried their best to not tarnish the good name of the series and they succeeded, but it really is just a cashgrab. At no moment I thought “Damn, I’m so glad that they decided to tell us this chapter!” Part 3 was a perfect ending, part 4 is just a nice, little addendum. And although Forky was the center of the marketing, he disappeared for most of the movie and was more a plot device to make it more difficult for Woody to return to his kid. (That they end this movie with a self-referential “Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that either” joke, isn’t really helpful either.)

    Still: Really good movie. Kinda forced at times, not as exciting as the prison break adventure that was the predecessor, but a worthy sequel. Also the first TS movie that actually made me laugh tears in one moment! (I seriously wonder how much input Key & Peele had for that certain moment.) And holy shit, does it look great! The first scene takes place in a rainstorm and looks at times almost photorealistic! And in close ups you see all kinds of typical plastic and fabric textures on the toys! Not to mention the cat! I’m pretty sure at this point, if Pixar wanted to, they could make a completely real looking movie.

  64. Also I really wasn’t too fond of THE INCREDIBLES 2’s outdated “Fathers can’t be as good as mothers when it comes to parenting” sitcom jokes, although at least they ended this subplot pretty early on.

  65. I really wanted to like INCREDIBLES 2 more than I wound up liking it, but it was fine. I think CrustaceanLove’s ranking of it as about equal with MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is pretty accurate- it’s not a groundbreaking work of genius, but it’s a fine way to spend a couple hours, certainly if you have to entertain some kids too. Gotta disagree with neal on his dislike of GHOST PROTOCOL, though. That movie is a blast.

  66. Oh don’t get me wrong, I actually do like Ghost Protocol, and it’s an instant recommend for that skyscraper sequence, but I think when it comes to the actual story and villain and characters, it’s the weakest of the series by far (yes, I remember Part 2 exists but I’m sticking to that statement). And seriously, I don’t need my movies to be “about” anything – action movies and horror movies and porn movies can be great even if they don’t aspire to do anything more than deliver cheap thrills and excitement, but I just can’t remember a movie in recent memory that was as devoid of content as Incredibles 2. There’s literally no “theme” that I could find, no characters have any more development or anything resembling an arc. (If anyone can name one thing Dash does in this movie, I’m all ears). It’s literally a big dumb action movie (and again, the action sequences are pretty good), but since it’s animated, instead of being thrilled, I just feel like I saw someone play a good-looking video game for two hours. (If there was a live action remake of this though, I’d probably like it even though it’d just be a Michael Bay movie without his politics or mean-spiritedness).

    Speaking of movies that just aspire to thrill, I may have been more down on John Wick 3 than most people here, feeling it was more of “John Wick Live!: The Stunt Show” than an actual movie. But at least it took John to new places, expanded on its world-building, showed us a different side to existing characters, etc… Incredibles 2 doesn’t do any of this – The world and its rules isn’t developed any more, Frozone isn’t in it any more than the last one, we still don’t get to meet his wife. Violet is stuck on the same boy who doesn’t notice her AGAIN. I guess the one big development is everyone discovers Jack-Jack has powers even though I could have sworn they discovered this at the end of the first one. This movie is so much of a wheel-spin, the villain’s plot is to make superheroes illegal even though they’re ALREADY illegal. And even though it sounded like I’m complaining about the fact that it Halloween II’d the first one instead of taking place years later, I don’t mind it in concept since hey, how else can you do this except in animation, right? But if you’re going to set this right after the first one, maybe don’t do an exact retread of the first plot? I mean, you’ve had 14 years to come up with a plot and “another mysterious benefactor hires The Incredibles and also turns out to be evil” is the best you can come up with? And The Incredibles fall for this again even though technically this shit just happened to them like 2 days ago? I’m sure there’s Incredibles fan fiction written by a kid that’s better than this.

    Again, there’s much, much worse movies out there for kids. If I ever have kids I’m sure they’ll love it. But when the biggest takeaway is “Man I totally prefer Batman v. Superman” (the other Holly Hunter Superhero Sequel), something’s gone horribly wrong.

  67. “no characters have any more development or anything resembling an arc”
    Not true! Mr Incredible went from incompetent sitcom dad to slightly more competent sitcom dad!

    Also I gotta give the movie credit for a semi-successful fake out on the villain’s identity. (mild spoiler) If they weren’t trying so hard to make us believe that the brother was the real villain, I would’ve never expected from a 2018 Disney movie that the free-spirited sister, who baited our heroine with feminism and girl power, would turn out to be the villain!

  68. TOY STORY 4 was interesting because even though it’s been 9 years since TOY STORY 3 (only slightly less than the 11 years between TOY STORY 2 and 3), it picks up the story less than a year after the third one. It doesn’t make the most airtight case for continuing the series, but it’s a very enjoyable epilogue. I do like all the weird existential questions it raises about Forky.

    After watching TOY STORY 4 with my daughter we went through and watched the rest of them in reverse order, which was an interesting experience. It’s shocking to see the pleasingly cartoony characters and photo-realistic environments in TOY STORY 4 devolve into the terrifyingly ugly CG humans in the first movie. Plus the toys in the first movie are real assholes.

    One thing that has never been clear to me over the whole series is when/why/how the toys pretend to be inanimate around humans. Is this instinctual, or is it learned behaviour? It’s clearly something they do voluntarily, because in the first movie they drop the act to scare the neighbour’s kid. But then there are also toys who seem completely unaware that they’re toys. Like, if Buzz Lightyear really thinks he’s a Space Ranger, why would he care about maintaining the illusion of being an inanimate object? Forky seems even less self-aware, so I don’t know why/how he knows to stay inanimate in the presence of humans.

    Vern: Did not know that about Brad Bird. I saw his name bandied about a lot in reference to the new STAR WARS movies, but I didn’t know if he was ever involved or just on everyone’s wish-list.

  69. neal- I definitely agree that GHOST PROTOCOL has basically a nothing as the villain. He wants to blow up the world! We all understand how that’s bad, right guys? Let’s just get on with this. I actually really enjoyed the guy from ROGUE NATION as a bad guy, but then they turned him into another guy who just wants to blow up the world in FALLOUT. That’s fine, I guess, we gotta stop people who want to do that, but he was a little more interesting as just the head of a shadowy private intelligence agency.

    I think you’re articulating really valid complaints about INCREDIBLES 2 that I just never really bothered to think that much about. It’s got a genuinely great sense of design, and Brad Bird really can make an excellent action sequence, but I never really cared about what was happening.

    That, to be fair (and as you mention) is a complaint I’m starting to have about the JOHN WICK movies as well. I loved 3 (more than 2, even), but it is like a rollercoaster in that I don’t necessarily have a lot of emotional investment in the character of John Wick at this point. He spent the whole third movie trying to get back “in” with the High Table and then immediately throws it all away at the very first opportunity. Why did I just watch him go through all this shit if he didn’t really mean it? I dunno. Like I said, a rollercoaster. Wick is like the traincar I’m sitting in for an excellent ride at Action Disneyland.

  70. The “Toys stand still when humans are there” thing never made sense to me either. I mean, I would totally accept it as a toy thing, if part 1 wouldn’t be about a toy who doesn’t believe he is a toy! You can’t tell me that Buzz didn’t at least try to make contact with the “giant alien”. Even as a kid that was one plothole that made me crazy!

  71. I wouldn’t say TOY STORY 4 is any more of a cash grab than TOY STORY 2 was. Sure, the ending of TOY STORY 3 felt definitive, but so did the ending of the first film; there were no gaps, or story elements that needed to be picked up. The first film was a complete story.

    I think the real problem they’ve run into is that there’s really only one story that can be told with the concept of “toys that are alive when people aren’t looking”, and the struggle to keep that fresh, while valiantly attempted is starting to show. So even though TOY STORY 4 felt (to me at least) like a Pixar film made with verve and passion it can only go so far.

  72. True, but part 4 IS cashgrabbier than 2, because 3 was a closer to the saga. Part 2 was really just “Here is another one”. One could say “Hey, they gave us some backstory about Woody”, but it really only exists because successful movies get a sequel.

  73. (Oops, pressed “submit too early”)

    But at least part 1’s ending had a “Maybe they have further adventures” ending. By the end of part 3 we knew that everything will be fine now for the gang.

  74. But 4 impressed me in that it progressed beyond 3’s seemingly definitive ending and convinced me that yes, this is actually a happier and healthier place for Woody to end up. It upended his entire idea of a toy’s purpose in the world!

  75. But it’s only a happier and healthier place, because part 4 retconned at least for Woody the happy ending of part 3. The question “What happens when Andy grows up?” was more or less in the room since part 1, although until part 2 it was only said out loud by the audience. “What if Molly suddenly doesn’t give a shit about Woody anymore?” was basically a problem, that was only made up for this movie.

    Again, I like TS4 a lot, but it’s also the most nitpickable of the series, starting with the question about its sole existence.

  76. I get where CJ is coming from. Remember how in love with Woody Bonnie first was. She even exclaims “my cowboy!” when Andy first shows him to her before the toy exchange. Even quotes “There’s a snake in my boot”. I live with a 9 yr old and 2 yr old. Both girls. I have yet to see them lose complete interest in their most favorite toy after just a year. A kinda forces way to get an arc going but like Vern I did also enjoy where Woody ended up. It was a healthy space for him. He has led and absorbed responsibility over an entire family of toys long enough. He could actually enjoy being now.

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