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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Comedy > Science Fiction > Futurism > Tomorrowland (2015/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

Tomorrowland (2015/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B/C Sound: B/C+ Extras: C Film: C

Sometimes a major big budget motion picture comes along that is so odd and all over the place that you wonder how it got made in the first place. One that does not know how to promote itself, one that cannot make up its mind if it is a comedy, drama, goofing off or making some kind of statement. The kind that is trying to have some kind of purpose, but cannot seem to get it out of its system what it wants to say, if it will actually tell us. Such a film is Brad Bird's Tomorrowland (2015), a big budget film that is sold as science fiction in its ads, but is wall to wall fantasy that is not a space opera with its endless techno-gadgets, but one that does put its money on the screen if to no avail. You wait for it to start and add up, but it never does, making it Bird's first box office disappointment.

It begins with George Clooney (actually in character, but you would never know with its Disney Channel/breaking-the-fourth-wall approach we get) talking about what has happened to get to where they are (the other of the they being a young female voice off-camera constantly interrupting in a none-too-convincing bit) already setting us up that we are 'safe' as we watch. This is a tired approach, but we stick with it. We see a young man at The 1964 World's Fair (ironic since despite being a key Fair, was criticized for offering little new) there to win a prize for inventing his own jet pack (we can see Electrolux on the sides, implying he used a vacuum cleaner or two to build it) and meets the contest head (Hugh Laurie, who will figure prominently later in the tale) not optimistic it works.

Instead of telling the young boy one was already invented in the finished product of the Bell Rocket Belt jet pack (it would show up a year later in the pre-title sequence of the 1965 James Bond megahit Thunderball), he just talks of it likely does not work, which gives us a flashback of him testing it out and it not working out in an almost visual knock-off (and certainly an intertextual reference) to another disappointing Disney film, The Rocketeer and when he really gets in trouble with the jet pack failing, a bad recycling of the pre-title sequence of the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker. Still keeping up with all this?

Even at that point, I was still waiting to see where this was going, including waiting for the bit about 'what if all the great minds and artists of the world got together and combined/stored their talents and work to make a better world' which has its elitist side (Bird's Incredibles has been criticized for this) that was dealt with much better in the Canadian TV series The Starlost and even better in the forgotten big Saturday Morning live-action filmation TV hit Ark II (both reviewed elsewhere on this site), but Tomorrowland is never interested in seriously exploring the thing it is promoted as doing, so the elitist side rears its unpleasant head at the least (the extreme being the totalitarian vision of Adolf Hitler or authoritarian technocracy of the communist Soviet Union under Josef Stalin our of a science fiction past, et al) which does not spell any kind of optimistic future that adds up. We even get bits of Interstellar for whatever reason.

From there, this simply becomes an adventure romp with surprisingly unconvincing digital visual effects (the Ultra HD camera chosen for the film does not help) with formula action, bad jokes, tired chases and Britt Robertson as Casey Newton playing the most unconvincing optimist in recent world cinema history, with very, very limited joy or energy that does not inspire anything whatsoever. This becomes more ironic when they have to fight robots that can only be described as The Matrix-lite. By the end of over two hours (!!!), we get the hijacking of the climax of John Carpenter's remarkable They Live (1988) totally erasing the priceless points & the politics and a supposedly, allegedly 'happy' ending that addresses none of the serious world problems the film brings up on the side throughout. This even leaves it open to mirroring echoes and overtones of the ending of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987) whether Bird and his co-writers realize it or not (the Ayn Rand side does not help this one). A Disney version of the Peace Corp. will not save the world.

If the film is not being sinister, the worst part is how listless, unexciting, boring, unimaginative and futureless it really is. As an alleged joke, a character is named Hugo Gernsback, an author of science fiction known for his optimistic vision of a bright, better future with Art Deco buildings and progress, one that became shopping malls and decaying cities in the post-modern future of the likes of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) which Tomorrowland is trying to hijack & make happy or palatable, but cannot resolve or render a paradox between the two. This was addressed by a story and difference known as 'the Gernsback Continuum' which the makers of this feature cannot to claim to have never heard about.

Of course, this is also a film taking icons from Disney's past and bringing them back to life while updating them, but is no match for their one film that did a far better job of this... Tron: Legacy. If you must see Tomorrowland, make sure you sure not tired or operating heavy machinery.

The 1080p 2.20 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Blu-ray is accurate and looks like all the better footage I have seen of the production, but as noted above, though 65mm negative film was considered (see the American Cinematographer magazine article), Bird and Director of Photography Claudio Miranda, A.S.C., choose digital cameras and in another bad choice, picked the brand known for delivering the coldest images of all of them: Sony's CineAlta series. Yes, the cold look makes even daylight seem overcast, so this is visually never optimistic and never creates any believable density of its own world. Add the mixed digital visual effects and this never gels. The anamorphically enhanced 2.20 X 1 image is especially soft and best skipped.

As for sound, the best theatrical presentations were in Dolby Atmos 11.1, offered here in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that is decently well mixed and presented, but has more than a few spots where the mix is just plain. Unless I missed something, I doubt I am missing much in this case from the mixdown, but when this kicks in as it needed to much, much more, it is better. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD version is weaker by comparison and cannot capture the warm, richness or finer detail of the DTS.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while we get a faux ad for the toy store in the film & under 4 minutes of Supervision Production Diary: First Day Shoot at NASA in both disc formats, but the Blu-ray adds much more including Remembering The Future: A Personal Journey Through Tomorrowland With Brad Bird, Casting Tomorrowland, A Great Big Beautiful Scoring Session, Animated Short: The Origins Of Plus Ultra and Deleted Scenes.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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