Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tomorrowland

2015, Brad Bird (Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Incredibles) -- download / netflix

Fuck it. I have/had to rewatch this to fully remember it. Which is neither here nor there, just a statement of time, not of fondness, because I rather liked it, despite it lacking in many areas.

Of note: I initially typed The Impossibles, which I guess would be a version where a family makes up  the Impossible Mission force. I'd watch that.

Retro future. The idea of The Future as seen through the eyes of people behind us. Rocketships with port holes & bright colours. Vacations on the moon and space suits with fishbowls as helmets. Personal jetpacks. Robot butlers. Raygun Gothic design choices, as William Gibson penned it.

I love this aspect of pop culture, though strangely enough not so enamoured with its most popular iteration -- steampunk. I don't dislike Steampunk, I just don't care for it as much as I thought I would. It may be more the steampunks themselves, as I find myself rather dismissive of their dressup as a fashion choice. Getting old, get off my lawn.

Anywayz, love retrofuturism. Still love rockets and laser guns and jetpacks. And the idea of a future that would be enhanced and improved by technology indistinguishable from magic. Focus on improved. We should be vacationing on the moon by now, or more accurately, I should be reading with envy, about people's trips to the moon. I still am yet to take a proper vacation.

We are briefly introduced to the retrofuture Tomorrowland when young Frank Walker talks his way into the 1964 World's Fair to showcase his jetpack. While dismissed quickly because it only mostly works, he catches the eye of a young girl who gives him a pin and some instructions. The pin triggers his entry, from the Disneyland Small World pavilion, because this movie is the latest adaptation of a Disneyland ride, in case you didn't know, to Tomorrowland. Athena, the young girl, thinks he really belongs here. Aaaaand fade.

Casey Newton, played by Britt Robertson (who has previously been a witch in The Secret Circle) is the daughter of an engineer watching his time at NASA wind down. His last job is to participate in the dismantling of a launch facility. Casey is doing her best to delay that by sabotaging the deconstruction equipment. Her dad is not impressed. But someone is; a young girl observing Casey's actions slips her a little pin of a stylized capital T (the same one Athena gave Frank 40 years before, and yep Athena is the same girl, but not at all aged) and when Casey touches it, poof, she is in Tomorrowland. Well, she can see Tomorrowland.

OK ReWatching as it just showed up on Netflix. Being reminded of actually how much of this movie I love.

Casey is given a time limit to see into Tomorrowland, but is desperate to know more. That takes her to Texas, to a retro collectibles store. Once she confronts the salesfolk in the store, she is drawn into the odd conspiracy behind Tomorrowland, which Athena desperately wants her involved in, and the legacy of Frank Walker and his time there.

My gawds, I love that store and the evil robots who run it. There is Keegan-Michael Key (i love that name) as the paunchy bellied, be-dre(a)ded nerd but actually evil robot. Once Casey escapes their clutches, with the help of superheroic roboto girl, we meet some REAL evil robots. Brad Birds movies might feel very very PG but he always reminds us of the stakes, as the smiling evil robots dust the bystanders.

The movie is like a ride. With brief pauses for some comedic drama, it jumps from bouncing, exploding, running, riding and flying all over the place. Clooney is incredible as the older Frank, a disillusioned, cranky old coot (though its hard to take him seriously as a "coot"; its Clooney!) who was kicked out of Tomorrowland when things started going odd there.  Britt is wonderful as the equally cranky, but doubly optimistic young girl who is the destined Last Hope for Tomorrowland... and our world. I am not completely onboard with the destiny idea but I love the idea how boundless optimism can affect the world in the greatest of ways. Its Brad Bird after all, and he is all about the feels.

Frank's house, the quiet countryhouse with all the hidden tech, is why I love Brad Bird's mind. Frank was kicked out of Tomorrowland but that didn't make him any less the genius, just a whole lot more cynical.  I get that. The movie is so much about losing your dreams, giving into apathy and mundanity. The world needs as many dreamers as it can.

There are little details that define why I like Bird's direction so much. When Casey steps on Frank's doorstep demanding his attention, he has a non-lethal countermeasure that blasts you off the stoop with sound or air. It tosses you ass over tea kettle, and when she lands ten feet away you are not so much as hurt, as intimidated. It just looked so.... appropriate. Frank's not a bad guy, just a guy who gave up.

P.S. Also have to mention --- the Eiffel Tower is a launch platform for a Tesla Rocket. Of course it is, why didn't I see that before ?!?!?

The only problem is once they actually get to Tomorrowland.... then the movie seems to fall kind of flat, with a destiny to be fulfilled, worlds to save and hand wringing bad guys to be defeated. Third acts are often set in bigger worlds, wider sets, larger ideas, but I didn't fall into it the way I hoped I would. And yet, I am not completely sure where I would have taken it myself.

Part of why I didn't like the third and final act was that Tomorrowland seemed to be empty. If evil Governor Nix was allowing Earth to be destroyed so Tomorrowland could prosper. But where are all the people? Tomorrowland 2015 is all dusty and dirty, empty and silent. Why? Some details would have been nice.

Frank and Casey are set up against Governor Nix, an ageless meglomaniac who has been broadcasting the apocalypse into the minds of we on Earth. I guess I am one of those who Frank complains about it, because in the preachy dialogue where he outlines why he gave up, I am highlighted. I am one of those guys who sees the end of the world coming, and buys into the packaged, pop culture versions of it. Gamma World, Mad Max, po-ap Teen Fiction, etc. I love that shit. But I also get how seeing that as our only future is not exactly life affirming.  It is up to people like Casey to help us out, a teenager who still has boundless affection for the world and what we can become. Now, if the tech of Tomorrowland can just help her help the world along.