Christian Movie Review
“Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.”
That’s the IMDB summary. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately (long sigh), the actual movie doesn’t live up to the aforementioned coolness. It’s not a good sign when you walk away from a movie and the thing you remember with the most fondness is one of the trailers before the film. (In this case, it was the second teaser trailer for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” which I hadn’t seen on the big screen yet.)
Instead of calling it “Tomorrowland,” they should have called it, “Terminator 2: The Kiddie Version.”
“Tomorrowland” was quite a surprising disappointment considering all of the proven talent behind the film, particularly the director Brad Bird who has done some exceptional pop culture masterpieces (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”). So far “Tomorrowland” is at a weak 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and sinking. Sadly, I’d say that number’s about right.
More on all that in a moment, but first…
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance for this PG-rated film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: Nothing.
Violence/Gore: There are A.I. robots in the movie who are played by human actors. When they’re destroyed, however, heads get ripped off, crushed, torsos get impaled, blown up, and then you see their inner metal parts. However, the split second before the violence occurs, they are normal human beings. So it might be frightening for a young child to see what is definitely a person suddenly have their head ripped off, even though we see sparks, wires, and gears whirring afterward. And even when we see the robot carnage, the robots are made to be as human-like as possible, so the carnage might be unsettling for young children. For example, one of the heads, after the robot is blown up, does look slightly like a charred human skull but with a tongue and eyes still intact. Also, several human characters are killed instantly by the robots (vaporized). When robots invade a person’s house, that is also a bit frightening (it would be for very young ones, at least). In other words, it’s on the more mature end of the PG spectrum, as far as violence goes, and I personally wouldn’t take very young kids to see it. Even though this is a Disney production, this film is not Doc McStuffins, folks.
Language: People say “hell” quite a few times, as in “what the hell,” etc. A few uses of God’s name (i.e. God almighty!). A few d-words.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
Frightening/Emotionally Intense Content: See comments about the robots in the violence section.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
Ernest Hemingway once gave this advice for editing: take the first 50 pages of your novel that you’ve written, get rid of it, and condense it down to the first five pages.
This movie desperately needed the Hemingway maneuver.
Actually, the beginning segment set in 1964 was fantastic. But then the entire middle section of the film — probably a good hour of it — was a weird Disney kiddie version of Terminator 2 where a good android robot is trying to save a human who is being hunted by bad android robots sent from another dimension. Although there are some nice moments: (1) the 1960s scenes, (2) the getaway scene in Frank’s (George Clooney) house, (3) the Eiffel Tower scene, and (4) the pin/jail scene which has been played in trailers for the past five months ad nauseam.
Besides a few nice moments, the script felt unfinished and bloated with an hour’s worth of screen time that could’ve been neatly summed up in five minutes. I particularly felt the way that Frank (George Clooney) and Casey (Britt Robertson) were written made the film a little irritating. They described Casey as a super genius, yet the script has her react with panicked shock at just about turn of the plot. Her intelligence would have allowed her to easily deduce many of the things that surprised her to no end throughout the film. Frank’s character, as an adult, is written to be endlessly irritated by Casey and by just about everything else. His crankiness, however, becomes excessive at a certain point.
The other issue is that, for all of its celebration of science and intelligence, the film frequently violates the rules that it establishes for its world. Quite a few glaring implausibilities and “Wait, but…” moments come and go to the point of distraction.
And then there’s the final element of this film that pushed me over the edge from hesitating ambivalence to a definite thumbs down: its heavy-handed humanistic sermonizing. It is a message movie for humanism on steroids, as I will discuss in the next section.
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, Etc.
The film does have something nice to say that I wholeheartedly agree with, which can be summarized by this exchange between Casey and her father (paraphrased from memory):
Casey: There’s a wolf that is darkness and despair and another wolf that is light and hope. Which one will win?
Father: Whichever wolf you feed.
…or something like that. (Sorry, Tomorrowland filmmakers, if I just butchered your scene.) But I definitely agree with their point: if you are always focusing on the negative possibilities and on everything that can go wrong, you are feeding a beast inside of you that could eventually destroy you. That’s the primary message of this film — and, in a general sense, that is awesome, it reminds me of Philippians
4:8 (the “whatever is true, whatever is honorable…whatever is good…think on these things” verse) — but the film arrives at the following conclusions, and then screams them with all the subtlety of a rocket launching out of Eiffel Tower:
1. The coming together of scientists, artists, and dreamers is the ultimate hope for humanity and will be its ultimate salvation from its self-destructive nature.
2. The real problem is that our culture is too fixated on the Apocalypse.
Let’s focus on the first message, “The coming together of scientists, artists, and dreamers is the ultimate hope for humanity and will be its ultimate salvation from its self-destructive nature.” Hmmm…I once went to a summer camp at a school owned by Disney, and it was full of scientists, artists, and dreamers. We couldn’t even agree on what should be served in the cafeteria. And I would refer you to C.S. Lewis’s novels “That Hideous Strength” and “The Great Divorce,” which provide some scathing rebuttals to this humanistic premise that “if only all the really smart and creative people got together, humanity would be saved.” Have you ever lived in a dorm room full of artists? It’s not a pretty sight. Have you ever seen two artists try to share a studio space? I have. It was ugly. (I remember Artist A spitting on the paint brushes of Artist B when Artist B was gone because Artist B was “insufferably arrogant,” according to Artist A.)
Don’t get me wrong: I love innovation. I love start-up companies. I love new inventions and technology that improves and saves lives. I spend most of my time as a full-time freelance writer writing for start-up companies, new tech entrepreneurs, and marketing companies who help the “dreamers” build new, amazing enterprises. In fact, I’ve written many articles about Disney’s mind-blowing Start-Up Accelerator Program for start-up companies.
So I love all that stuff. And I’m an artist myself. But to say that the coming together of all the best scientists, artists, and dreamers is the only (and the ultimate) salvation of humanity, well, that comes from a naturalist’s, secular humanist’s worldview. I love science and art, but I do not agree with the secular humanist worldview about these big questions. Among many other things, it doesn’t address our most profound problem: the great divorce between humanity and its Creator. This divorce has transformed our fundamental spiritual nature in a way that goes far beyond the power of technology — a transformation that lies at the root of humanity’s self-destructive tendencies and cannot be undone without a restored, redeemed relationship with God. (And what exactly is this “transformation?” Well, that’s for another article, another day.)
Let’s look at the second message: The real problem is that our culture is too fixated on the Apocalypse. Although the film never mentions religious people, it shames them by implication with this indirect message: anyone who believes that there will be an Apocalypse is part of the problem, not the solution. Nevermind that the teachings in the Bible about the Apocalypse also point to a time immediately after the devastation when the earth is renewed, when it enters a time of unspeakable joy and recovery — and this means that many Christians (including myself) actually have an impossible-to-kill optimism and hope about the future.
Oh, and the film assumes that global warming is indeed a fact that no one should ever question.
The film strongly implies that the scientists, artists, and dreamers who become man’s salvation are the people who go out and “do something” to stop the glaciers from melting and wars from happening.
POLITICAL SIDEBAR: I’m going to get “political” for a moment and express some pent up frustration. But, seriously, whether you are a liberal, a conservative, a Ron Swanson Libertarian, or a Tory, don’t you find it at least a little concerning that there is so much data that contradicts so many models of global warming? For example: near-surface temperatures have not gone up for 17 years. So what, right? So there’s a pause in warming, who cares? Why does that matter? It matters because there are more than 70 different prominent climate models that warmists created, and none of them predicted that such a pause would happen. They predicted quite the opposite. And what about the record cold temperatures? No big deal, right? Warmists say that the record cold temps in the US are counter-intuitive examples because global warming in other parts of the globe are causing the record cold here. That makes sense, right? The whole butterfly-causes-a-hurricane chaos math, right? Well, Princeton physicist Dr. Will Happer refuted that claim: “Polar vortices [which caused the record cold] have been around forever. They have almost nothing to do with more CO2 in the atmosphere.” But the biggest problem with the record cold: none of the warmist climate models predicted there would be record cold temperatures in the US. They predicted the opposite. Here are some other questions: if man-made CO2 is the primary force in warming, why did the earth begin warming in 1850 when human CO2 emissions didn’t start to expand until 1940? Another question: Why did the earth’s temperatures go down between 1940 and 1975 when man-made CO2 emissions were soaring? These are valid questions. The whole point of the scientific method is to ask questions and never shy away from data that disproves your hypothesis. Not only do some people ignore that data, they launch an attack if you even hint at questioning the group-think consensus about global warming. Why would they do that? Some folks are starting to wonder — quite loudly — if the way Warmism produces massive amounts of money and political power to flow into certain hands has something to do with it. In an op-ed for The Australian, a government official in Australia recently wondered that very thing when he said: “the real agenda is concentrated political authority. Global warming is the hook.“
So, given all of that above, the fact that “Tomorrowland” lectures us about breaking free from greed and lust for political power by freely pursuing the solutions of the scientific method and always being curious and asking questions — while simultaneously stating as fact a “science” whose adherents do not like you questioning their claims and who use their claims to accumulate massive amounts of wealth and power — is, well, slightly hypocritical. I love many things that Disney makes, but I’m getting a little tired of liberal Hollywood always lecturing the “common people” about eco-rules that they violate in ways that you or I can’t even imagine. (Do you own five private jets that produce 800 tons of carbon emissions a year? No? Neither do I. But you’d be surprised how many Hollywood liberal elites — the same ones who lecture the common folk — own multiple private jets and use them in ways that redefine the word “excess.”)
All of the distracting worldview issues mentioned above combined with plot and character writing that misfired made “Tomorrowland” a less-than-stellar movie theater experience.
My rating for “Tomorrowland”: [usr 3]
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