Tomorrowland

"Where the great would not be constrained by the small!" - Andrew Ryan

I'm not the first to draw parallels between Andrew Ryan, villain of the video game Bioshock, and Walt Disney. The resemblance was intentional, but I don't think it's ever been so clear to me as it was after I saw Tomorrowland this weekend. Spoilers ahead.

It seems awesome at first glance. An alternate dimension where the creative and brilliant among us can go and not be restrained by the system, where anything we imagine can be built! Sure, the world we leave behind might go to hell, but Tomorrowland? Tomorrowland is going to continue being amazing!

And it is amazing. There's a long take when one of the characters first sees Tomorrowland that made my jaw hit the floor. It's beautiful, exciting, fun, a place I'd love to visit. Who wouldn't? There's jetpacks and crazy hover-swimming pools! It's never explained, however, why all these amazing advancements couldn't be brought back to the world we know. Is that sloppy storytelling, or a future-world inhabited entirely by people who feel they have no obligation to give back to the society that got them to where they are? A Planet of the Eduardo Saverins, if you will.

One of Tomorrowland's discoveries is a machine that can predict the future, which it turns out is pretty bleak for us on Earth. In their profound benevolence, Tomorrowland broadcasts our horrible future back to us in the hope of scaring us straight, only to find that we take to it and embrace a future that guarantees our destruction, but which at least asks nothing of us. This is where the film starts taking shots at all the dystopian fiction out there at the moment, and I agree with the central idea that we need to focus on hope and finding solutions to our problems, but the solution proposed by Tomorrowland is for all the smart and creative people to bail out and run away to another dimension. Poverty, bureaucracy, and all the other boring challenges of the Unexotic Underclass are to be ignored in favour of hovercars and rocketships. That's not a solution, it's a setup for dystopia on earth, the one thing the movie rails hardest against. I remember joking as I walked out that Tomorrowland was a prequel for Mad Max, because if all the brilliant, creative, and talented people got Raptured (whether religiously or otherwise), they'd be fine but the world would be in trouble. 

To see a movie with such massive ambition and technical mastery on display fail at making an important point because of well-intended but half-baked ideas... well, it's a disappointment. I can usually forgive plot holes, but thematic holes this big can't be overlooked.


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