Remember in Prometheus (like Tomorrowland, also co-scripted by Lindelof) when the hand-picked, expert, supposed best-in-his field xenobiologist decided to try to pet a fangy, slime-dripping alien cobra-thing that was hissing and snarling at him? Remember when Charlize Theron’s highly educated, athletic, super-smart-and-competitive character tried to run faster than a spaceship the size and shape of a building could fall, instead of just stepping to the side and getting out of its way? There appear to be story issues with Tomorrowland on that approximate scale.
But before we get started: Here’s a little shoutout to Tomorrowland for the scene where Athena tells Casey that she earned Athena’s last magic pin because she’s incredibly, incredibly special. Like, more special than anyone, ever. This was stated so baldly and boldly that I almost think Bird and Lindelof were lampshading Chosen One stories. I choose to think that, because otherwise, that scene was pretty terrible. And by the way, Casey is amazingly special because she scored really high on the something-something scale. It’s never clear what that scale is, or how Casey tested for it, which doesn’t keep her from bragging about it later. Basically, she has a lot of midi-chlorians, now let’s move on.
- Frank says he was kicked out of Tomorrowland for inventing something he shouldn’t have. That is apparently the Monitor, which shows the coming disasters that will overtake the planet. Except… why would knowing a bad future is coming be enough to get him booted? It takes Casey’s insight to reveal that the Monitor is the big evil that’s spreading despair and needs to be destroyed—so before she comes along, Frank has no way of knowing it’s an evil thing rather than a diagnostic tool. What exactly did the Monitor have to do with his eviction?
- So did the Monitor make the people in Tomorrowland despair too? Why did the place fall apart? Giving that fixing the future was their whole goal, why did they suddenly stop? Why are they so willing to trust what they see on the Monitor that they don’t, say, share their awesome inventions with the world, and see whether that changes anything? What happened between 1964 and now that caused literally everyone in Tomorrowland except Nix and a couple of faceless, disposable guards to go into hiding? (Speaking of disposable guards: The robots’ casual killing of those cops sure takes some of the chrome polish off the film.)
- Nix is angry because people give into despair about the future so easily—so he consciously keeps a device running that actively controls people’s emotions, pushing them to despair about the future and destroy themselves? That’s some Ultron-level, “The only way to save humanity from death is to kill them all” thinking. His whole point seems to be that if humanity dies off everywhere but Tomorrowland, at least the shiny beautiful future will be saved—except that shiny beautiful future has turned into a bunch of dull concrete overgrown with moss, so what exactly is he protecting?
- Why is the Eiffel Tower a rocket? I’m assuming Frank had nothing to do with it being there, he just happened to know about it, and the Tomorrowland people are so short-sighted in their nonstop thinking about the future that they don’t change the access codes when they exile people. But… why did they build an Eiffel Tower rocket in the first place?
- Okay, seriously, Athena the recruitment robot leads a truckload of killer robots to Frank and Casey and destroy his home and nearly get them both killed “because you needed motivation”? And they continue to trust her and work with her anyway? They don’t even, say, tell her not to do it again?
- Where the hell did those killer robots come from, anyway? One of them says Nix has authorized Frank’s death, so I guess Nix, in addition to having complete and utter control of what started out as a giant think tank full of geniuses, has also built his own secret police force of evil robots and set them loose on earth?
- Okay, I get that Athena wanted to explode in order to destroy the Monitor. But the clumsiest possible way to make that happen was for her to say, “It’s too late! There isn’t enough time to repair me before I explode!” and then have a 10-minute final conversation with Frank, complete with telling him multiple times that she has something to tell him before she goes, instead of just telling him. And then playing him old tape of what she wanted to say, instead of just telling him. And then sharing that teary, lengthy moment in the sky together. I mean, that is some ridiculously Shakespearian “Lo, I die” soliloquizing there. If she had that much time on her hands, why not get repaired and then make a bomb? It’s not like Nix has a second robot army hanging around in Tomorrowland.
- By the way, I’m pretty positive that someone, somewhere, is going to make a big deal out of the creepiness of 54-year-old George Clooney having a sweet romantic moment with 11-year-old Raffey Cassidy before her suicide shutdown. And yeah, it’s just a little creepy. But I actually think there’s a pretty neat undercurrent to it. He’s mourning her, but he’s also mourning the relationship for them he might have imagined when he was a little boy, and he’s mourning who he was back then, and the future he thought he had in store. And it’s a beautifully specific-to-science-fiction concept, this sixtysomething man (Frank is older than Clooney) still carrying a bit of a torch for something that isn’t human, and hasn’t changed since he was a child. It’s a little weird, but it’s sweet and sad and completely non-sexual.
- I will give the film this: That ending, with the new wave of multicultural recruiting robots out signing on the new wave of multicultural dreamers from around the world, and them all turning up in the field together—that is just beautifully managed. It’s a big emotional moment that trades on the heavy symbolism of the rest of the film, but in a much simpler way that doesn’t leave a thousand questions behind. And ending on that moment did raise my opinion of the film a good bit. But boy, could it have used more wordless wonder, and less “Wait, what?” wonder.