Clooney plays Frank Walker, a once idealistic kid with a passion for science and invention, who is now a grumpy hermit, disillusioned with how humanity has used science to destroy the planet. As a child in 1964 (cue flashback in which Frank is played by Thomas Robinson, aged 10 when he made the film) this boy genius inventor visits the World’s Fair in New York, where a little English girl Athena (Cassidy) gives him a badge, which whisks him into a hi-tech future world utopia of gleaming skyscrapers, flying trains and scientific magic.
In the present we then meet Casey (Robertson), who dreamed of space travel as an irritating, lisping child but who has grown up into a bright and determined young woman, who is trying to stop the authorities from destroying the last remnants of the space programme. When Casey also gets hold of one of those badges, which takes her into what turns out to be a hologram image of that same future world, in her search for answers she seeks out Frank and they form one of those unlikely buddy relationships so beloved of movies, as they embark on a mission to save the planet.
Tomorrowland takes its title from a section of Disneyland created in 1955 and its inspiration for Walt’s idealistic belief that science was on track to create a utopian future for humanity. The film’s message, embodied in Frank and Casey, is how that dream in today’s world has descended into pessimism that the earth is doomed and what the world needs now is dreamers to get back that optimism for the future.
The philosophy is frankly fuzzy and I would question the Tomorrowland ethos that “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Without knowledge, imagination isn’t going to get you very far. The pseudo science is also confusing. Tomorrowland appears to be an alternative universe created by the great scientists of the 19th Century – perhaps? But don’t let that bother you. The film is impressively inventive in its imagination and as Frank says irritably at one point, “Do I have to explain everything to you? Can’t you just be amazed?” Yes, do that. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
And the ride is great fun. From Frank’s hermit house, full of his wild and whacky inventions, which include an escape vehicle involving a flying bath, to the world of Tomorrowland itself. One particular highlight involves a spectacular launch into space from the Eiffel Tower. There are robot heavies chasing the duo, whose perfect teeth and flashing smiles makes them look like black suited evangelists. Hugh Laurie is on hand as the English (of course) villain, poncing about in black leather and actually talking more down to earth sense than our heroes. “You have one half of the world dying of obesity and the other of starvation. Explain that.”
Clooney and Robertson make an appealing pair of protagonists, with Clooney sporting an impressive display of stubble to make him look older. The character, if you do your sums, has to be at least sixty. The most interesting performance though comes from Cassidy, who at the age of 11 in 2013 was named by Screen International as one of the UK Stars of Tomorrow. Looking like Saoirse Ronan’s younger sister, as the resourceful little girl who never grows older (you’ll find out why) and with a super human box of tricks at her disposal, she really shines.
Review by Carol Allen