Movie review: Futuristic optimism of "Tomorrowland" is contagious

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I’ll let you in on a secret I’ve learned in my years as a film critic. There is no objective rightness and wrongness in how “good” a movie is. There’s no formula. I write about how a movie makes me feel — and try to have an eye for what audiences it will and won’t resonate with.

There are definitely things wrong with “Tomorrowland,” but I’d buy a ticket to watch it again just based on how it made me feel. It certainly has the hallmarks of a big-budget summer tentpole movie, but it’s also got a sense of wonder, imagination and, above all, optimism that a lot of big movies lack.

For starters, there’s more of an air of mystery about what this movie is even about in the trailers — a mystery I think is worthwhile and will do my best to preserve here, so don’t expect spoilers below.

The story involves smart and optimistic teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) and smart and pessimistic inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney), whose paths cross in the search for a secret place that points to a smart future. Was that vague enough?

Here’s what you should know about the pedigree of “Tomorrowland.” Yes, it’s a Disney flick — complete with a product placement plug for Disney World — but it also is the work of two great Hollywood imaginations, Brad Bird (“Ratatouille,” “The Iron Giant”) and Damon Lindelof (“Lost”).

And while there’s a massive budget behind it, those imaginations were given a lot of room to run. Director/writer Bird infuses the affair with a sense of wonder that calls back to vintage Steven Spielberg, and writer Lindelof’s touch is evident in surprisingly deep musings on the nature of humanity.

It’s also awesome to report that we have another big summer movie with a strong, smart female lead. Robertson makes Casey the kind of character you hope gets a role in shaping our future. Clooney’s casting is also a solid fit — and there’s another great young character I’m leaving as a surprise.

Back to that whole “how it made me feel” thing, I think there’s an audience that’s not going to connect the way I did. “Tomorrowland” is an odd mix of summer popcorn and the sort of convoluted stuff that makes some people hate Lindelof (disclosure: I liked the “Lost” finale).

But I came out of “Tomorrowland” not only feeling entertained. I felt good about the world. That’s worth a ticket.

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

"Tomorrowland"

Opens Friday

3 1/2 stars out of 4