Tomorrowland

I deserve some answers


It's not surprise, it's just one more thing to get out of the way.
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Reported on 2nd of June, 2015

One of the most instructive movies I can remember, by way of Red Asphalt. I do not recommend this film for any but the most advanced screenwriting class. And even then, what are you doing in a class? Go see movies! Like this one!

Don’t see this movie.

Tomorrowland

24 May 2015 @ The Gaumont Rennes


-$0.50 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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Tomorrowland, class, is an experiment in how long before you can go before you actually get to the story. The answer, given that it’s another Damon Lindelof monstrosity, is 115 minutes out of 125. This is not an exaggeration. The story, by the way, is blow up the tower. But we don’t learn that, or even that there is a tower, or what the tower does, or even what the story has to do with the tower, until the last ten minutes. My notes are the opposite of the usual: ’10 more minutes…you can do it’! The film analyst in me was on the edge of my seat: 30 minutes in, 40 minutes in, 100 minutes in, and we still don’t know what’s going on?

You’re not going to see it; don’t. But from what I can remember, young boy in 1954 goes to the future by invitation from a little girl Who Would No Way Turn Out To Be A Robot. Then, this story stops, and now there’s our heroine in present day trying to save poor, poor, underfunded NASA. The Other Girl (Who Will Definitely Not Turn Out to be A Robot) gives her a pin, which allows her to be in scenes for the trailer where she’s floating in fields of wheat. How, why and what for? Come on, we’re 40 minutes in. Why would you want to know something? Good news, when we find out, 1) We don’t actually find out, and 2) if we did, which I’m not sure we did, it has nothing to do with the story.

So heroine goes to wacky vintage store to learn about the pin. The No Way They Turn Out To be Evil Robots explain that it’s a recruiting device for super special geniuses to bring them into the future. The problem being that this is the only explanation we get in the film, it’s from a non-reliable narrator, and it’s incomplete. So really, who knows? Girl Who Couldn’t Possibly Turn Out to be a Robot turns out to be something or other, and saves regular girl.

At this point, and we’re a good 70 minutes in, they drive to see George Clooney, something which they could have done at any time. At this point, because regular girl is asking robot girl too many questions, she shuts down as fast a screenwriter getting pinned down over what’s going to happen next: “Don’t worry; I know what’s going to happen, and it will be totally cool. I just don’t want to ruin the surprise. To you. That I don’t actually know what will happen. Surprise!”‘ This is an actual scene, by the way. The screenwriter, I mean. I have no idea what happened in the film other than this: most films have too much exposition, this film is is so scared of it, it causes a robot to reset itself.

So George Clooney is grumpy for a bit, then fights more evil robots in a scene that would have been the opening for any other film. At this point someone realized there was only 20 minutes on this story, so we future backadd all that padding. It’s a form of time-travel. For the screenwriter, but still.

They teleport to Paris to fly to the future, which they could have done at any time. Why they don’t just teleport to the future, as boy George Clooney did, is best explained as we wanted the Eiffel Tower to be a Spaceship. We’re in the future (unless it’s not), and at this point, we learn that what makes Regular Girl so special is that she can figure out the Evil Tower, is, in fact, Evil (she has a lot of midachlorians). So there’s some running around and blowing it up. The film, having three minutes to go, makes more recruiting robots to recruit dreamers, which the film took to mean actors in a vague AT&T commercial designed to distract you from the fact that it’s a commercial about AT&T. Which defeats the purpose of commercials, and really defeats the purpose of narrative filmmaking.

It is a world where even the explanations don’t explain anything, or rather that each scene feels like the opening gambit for another better, then abandoned movie. With most Lindelhof joints (like Mr. Michael Bay, Mr. Lindelhof can be considered an auteur: terrible, but always in the same distinct way), there is an investment in The Reveal. It’s all witless trailer moments, this time defined as weird things which demand an explanation, unless the filmmakers don’t feel like giving you one: she’s floating in space! She’s a robot! The wacky junk store guys are robots! George Clooney’s in it! Eventually!

Really, he doesn’t show up until 100 minutes in. It’s odd.

Much as I wanted this to be strictly true, however, there’s a distastefully cutesy-pie, 3 days later sequence where Mr. Clooney and our erstwhile heroine lead argue over what is or isn’t the future. Aw, they’re telling a story about the story, without any awareness that there’s a difference between meta-narrative and self-loathing over not being able to construct narrative in the first place. I guess finding something more repellant than meta-narrative in 2015 is kinda impressive. This story about the story manifests in Mr. Clooney saying ‘what are the stakes’? Advanced screenwriting class take note, if you have created a story with no stakes at all, do not have your characters say this.

Tommorowland got translated as À la poursuite de demain, which I think is some kind of Marxist parody of late-Capitalism. I'm trying real hard to make this film more interesting than it is.

Tomorrowland got translated as À la poursuite de demain, which I think is some kind of Marxist parody of late-Capitalism. I’m trying real hard to make this film more interesting than it is.

When I say no stakes, the film offers us some more help in having another character speak what we’re thinking: I deserve some answers. Sorry Ms. Britt Robertson, you’re in the same boat as us. And here is the dual problem with secrets: the first is easy – if we don’t know what’s going on, we don’t actually care what’s going on. It’s not surprise, it’s just one more thing to get out of the way. The second is a little more esoteric, but possibly even more important: contrivance.

I recently wrote a script with a big reveal. The big reveal turned out to be that I didn’t care about it that much, and it’s because every word and gesture felt, because it was, contrived. I was working to keep the secret alive, and it sucked. As such, I have some sympathy for writers this situation – you get attached to things, and it blinds you. I have zero sympathy for Mr. Lindelhof, who, besides being a contemptible hack, is also singlehandedly responsible, really, this is not an exaggeration, look at his resumé, for the shitty state of big Hollywood today.

In the case of Tomorrowland, the contrivance is additive. They’re trying to incorporate a ride into a film, and instead of playing around with this, as Pirates of the Caribbean did. It’s odd that PotC should turn out to be the example of the good way to turn a ride into a film. Tomorrowland, on the other hand, takes the ride as gospel. We gotta see the ride. You know, that they tore down years ago. The pin, which teleports you doesn’t actually teleport you; it’s a ride to make you interested in what is probably the future, but maybe it isn’t.

The irony of this vis-a-vis how a trailer, or the first 115 minutes of this film, operates, should not be lost on us. Because this film is itself a ride in the worse way possible: for the characters. Our heroine does nothing, no interest, no action, just goes along until the end where she turns out to be the only one smart enough to figure out that the Tower of Evil is, I don’t know, something or other. With the modern CGI film, I often find myself making the dual crab-claw gesture for the imaginary PS4 controller. If a character is going to jump from rock to rock shooting mushrooms, I want to play him. There’s no imaginary PS4 to reach for here; just safety bars.

In my attempts to actually explain something, I’ve left some things out, possibly in the spirit of the film. There are some extremely problematic retrogressive elements of the film, wherein our heroine is super mad about all the yucky negativity of icky global warming and totally gross poverty and overpopulation and war. Why can’t we just be more positive, and I quote:

You don’t want to because it’s hard to have ideas and easy to give in.

Class, do not have a character say this in a film that is lazy with no ideas.

Nothing gets us off our butts like irksomeness, if the amount of money I'm paid to write this is any indication.

If I could be bothered to read other reviews I would discover that other reviewers had taken the appropriate swipes at this retrograde climate change denial. But what makes the film especially abhorent is the way in which it replicates what made climate change, you know, actually happen. It was precisely this imagination of this future. Tomorrowland, and I’m not sure if I’m talking about the ride, the film, the ethos or all three, offers really only one advantage to our own – speed. All its shiny technology is about movement: jetpacks, hoverrailtrains that hover over hovertrains, portals for when you don’t want to be retro going a mere 4000 miles an hour, rocket ships built beneath Paris the most excavated city in the world, even time travel, both forward and back.

This fantastic future puts one in mind of the opening lines from The Phantom Tollbooth:  ‘Milo was always in a hurry, but he was never sure where he was going’. Like pretty much everyone, I find myself in this situation a lot, almost as often as I quote The Phantom Tollbooth to myself in the futile desire to calm down. What I don’t do is write a movie about how great the world would be if only everything was faster.

Tomorrowland‘s morality is best summed up by a simple shot of a hovering baby carriage. What was a parody of our hysterical laziness ten years ago in Wall•E must now be considered the shining emblem of progress. The unquestioned and unquenchable desire for the I can’t wait to get there future is what built global warming. I don’t blame Mr. Lindelhof for his unawareness of this irony; irony requires an appreciation of juxtaposition, which requires knowledge of concepts, which requires knowledge of objects in space. I’m frankly surprised he can remember to draw breath. Mr. Bird, who worked at Pixar, should fucking well know better.

And so what emerges is a kind of combined This is 40/About Time lovechild of Mr. Bird and Mr. Lindelhof. Isolated by success, this is the message that can be expected from the lucky few who live it: dreams solve everything! They came true for us with no cost to anyone that we have to deal with on a daily basis!

This message isn’t strictly, or even loosely, true. It’s shit and shittiness that motivates us, and, yep, our dreaming. We don’t envision a better world sui generis, like say, technology in a movie that, given all the time travel back and forth, was invented in the future, brought back to the past, then discovered in the future, and so wasn’t actually invented by anyone….okay, I’ll be quiet.

We react. Nothing gets us off our butts like irksomeness, if the amount of money I’m paid to write this is any indication. It’s not just that World War II built the NHS, it’s that Armageddon built Gravity, that Airport ’75 built Star Wars that The Sound of Music built Weekend. I don’t know if any of the filmmakers saw any of these movies and rushed to make their opposite, but I do know that anger is the best motivation for art: we write better when we write against. Mr. Lindelhof saw poor people and he wanted to make money. Go with God. But Mr. Bird saw shitty films, and he wanted to make good ones. He should see this one. He might learn something.

Profits!
The robot traps in George Clooney’s house were kind of fun.
$2.00
No lie. It was fascinating to watch.
$1.00
Total Profits
$3.00
Losses!
This from the AT&T ad: I made a car that looks like a Toyota! I’m a dreamer!
$2.00
I’d like to give more demerits, but I’m still unclear on what happened.
$1.50
Total Losses
$3.50

-$0.50

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