This weekend brings us one of the more original summer blockbusters in recent memory and a remake of one of the classic ’80s horror films.
Disney has brought us a number of films based off of rides in the Disneyland park, all with varying degrees of quality. Pirates of the Caribbean reintroduced the pirate movie genre, before it killed that very same genre with the sequel(s). Haunted Mansion was made. (It’s the nicest thing I could say about it.) Yet, now director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Iron Giant) has created a utopia based off of an entire section of the theme park in Tomorrowland.
Sadly, this land is missing a 3D Michael Jackson and Star Tours.
In Tomorrowland, Casey (Britt Robertson) ends up as the owner of a strange pin that magically transports her to a seemingly alternate dimension that shows a brilliant metropolis of innovation. She quickly loses the opportunity to revisit this tech-wonderland and makes it her mission to find its location once again. Along the way, she encounters a strange guide in Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who leads Casey to Frank (George Clooney), a grumpy, paranoid, former resident of Tomorrowland. Together, the three of them travel the globe to reach their destination, all the while being chased by Agent Smith-type robots.
Before you see the movie, you should know that even though it’s called Tomorrowland, the place itself is hardly featured. More accurately, this should be called ‘Journey to Tomorrowland.’ It’s all about the journey, not the destination.
In terms of how much this movie actually shows Tomorrowland, I’d have to equate it to last year’s reboot of Godzilla. That title monster was largely kept from sight. Whenever it was shown, it would be a glorious establishing shot, but the moment would be fleeting. When the beast finally gets its time to shine, it’s only at the end. In short, though the marketing would have you believe this is about Tomorrowland, it’s mostly about the characters, who all have a different means of innovation.
This is a strangely funny movie. It doesn’t throw a constant barrage of one-liners in your direction. Rather, it works based on its sight gags. Sci-fi fans will have a visual field day during a grand fight in a novelty toy store. Several items from Star Wars and The Incredibles are used as weapons during the melee. Some of the action is so frantic and surprising, that even Edgar Wright would be impressed. Tomorrowland is a movie built on Easter eggs. It caters to fans of Disneyland, by putting a secret portal in It’s a Small World. It also partially delves into history, as it glosses over references to Edison and Tesla.
There’s also a major problem with Tomorrowland. The ‘How’ is great, but there’s not reason for the ‘Why.’ Once the existence of Tomorrowland is explained, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and think, “That’s it?” In the villainous monologue, it gives an overly preachy diatribe about the state of our bleak modern society. On the surface level, it’s a meta statement on current summer blockbusters. Yet, it answers nothing about the climactic reveal. It goes into Atlas Shrugged territory, which will immediately rub people the wrong way.
Strangely, it’s only when the group gets to Tomorrowland that the movie goes in the wrong direction.
It should also be noted that there are several moments that get a little…weird. George Clooney was a brave man for taking this role that could have easily led to mockery. Thankfully, the emotion that Brad Bird brings, removes most of the awkwardness and keeps you captivated.
Tomorrowland is strong because of its characters and ambition, but the third act does its best to ruin the experience. Even with its flaws, I give it a B.
In 1982, this story co-written by Steven Spielberg was brought to life by he and director Tobe Hooper. It surprised audiences with its then-great special effects and haunted house that wanted to claim sweet little Carol Anne.
Instead of Carol Anne, the remake focuses on young Maddie. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are the parents this time around. They mistakenly buy a house that fits their budget. Two of their three kids protest this new environment, while Maddie immediately takes a liking to it. It doesn’t take long for the ghosts to cause mayhem for this struggling family.
The first, and maybe only, question is… Is this movie necessary. Much like the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s a decent introduction for millenials who fear movies from the ’80s, but it is not necessary. The story has been told.
Overlooking the fact that this is just another remake, it should be noted that this is a decent movie. Based on its own merits, it has the right amount of scares in order to affect children’s nightmares for a few years.
The strength of this movie is the audience it targets. It’s PG-13, but targets a younger audience that can’t see R rated movies. Poltergeist is mostly told through the perspective of Maddie’s slightly older brother, Griffin (Kyle Catlett). Early in the movie, we realize that Griffin has a paralyzing anxiety to begin with. As the house starts making noises, or clown dolls dash across his room, that fear becomes justified. He feels responsible for his little sister. In fact, he reacts to the horrific circumstances far more than his parents.
Another actor who stole the scenes he was in was Jared Harris’s Carrigan Burke. Burke takes the place of Zelda Rubenstein. He hosts a Ghost Adventures type show called Haunted House Cleaners. His tagline is even, “This house is clean!”
At 93 minutes, everything feels rushed. In the first act, we are shown how the Bowen family is struggling financially. Rockwell’s character is recently out of a job and DeWitt’s character is a writer who is willing to go back to work. Yet, once the spirits start haunting, these plotlines are sent into the chasm, never to be referred to again. Poltergeist could have been 20 minutes longer and it would have been a stronger movie.
Overall, this movie creates horrifying images that are sure to haunt the younglings, but it doesn’t give any new scares for horror aficionados. It’s worth renting, but it will be forgotten in a year of It Follows and Crimson Peak. C+