My wife and I watched Tomorrowland last night, and I have to admit I was not expecting much from it. I had read all the reviews that called the plot disjointed. The characters had no struggle, it was overly preachy about climate change, in fact it took me a good hour of searching to find a good review of the film. People went to see it, it was a flop, but the film got people talking.
I just wanted to see it, to see what all the fuss was about. I am glad I did, and here’s why you need to go and watch it then come back here and tell me what you think.
This film was about Philosophy
Yes, that dusty old word is getting relegated from a classroom at a stodgy university and thrust into your face right from the opening fanfare to the very last bit of silence on the credits. Not a single word does not have a deeper meaning, not a single character does not have a purpose, and not a single plot twist does not precede directly from the actions of the characters. every shot fired is a metaphor for an argument, Casey and Frank are metaphors for trapped imaginations. They are not special because Brad Bird tells you they are. They are special because they dare to dream. That’s all it takes in this film to be special. Dare to hope, and someone, somewhere will believe in you.
In essence I believe this film to be the attempt to frame two philosophical points of view in a way young adults and children can start to think about the way they think. I will lay out the evidence below, and as necessary, give my comments on the frequent plot twists. If you have not seen the film, please pause here, go and watch it with an open mind, then come back and finish reading.
Massive spoiler alert.
Tomorrowland is not a theme park ride movie, nor is it “A solid film with unclear intentions and an apparent lack of a primary protagonist.” as reviewed on rotten tomatoes by Felix Vasquez Jr. It has a definite protagonist, and beautifully clear intentions if you open your mind to what the film is.
Tomorrowland begins with a bit of a speech by Frank (Clooney) about how the world is, and he is interrupted by the voice of Casey (Robertson) who keeps telling him to explain what the world could be, to take us back to when he had been full of hope. Did you ask yourself when was the last time you were full of hope and optimism for the future? If not why didn’t you ask yourself that?
The young frank wants to build a jetpack. But it doesn’t work, he doesn’t know how to make it work, every one tells him he can’t make it work, and to give up on his dream of making a jetpack. His reason for making the jetpack is not because he is a genius, or super special, or anything, but rather because in the words of the character, “I guess I got tired of waiting around for someone else to do it for me.” not because he can, but because he wants to. It is his dream. and its his dream explained in the Why a jetpack?
“If I was walking down the street,
and I saw some kid with
a jet pack fly over me,
I’d believe anything’s possible.
I’d be inspired.
Doesn’t that make
the world a better place?”
But it doesn’t work. He doesn’t know how to get it to fly. How many of us had a crazy dream at one point, only to be told it would not work? Abandon your dream, turn back now. There is no hope.
Athena however, sees in Frank the potential, if the dare to dream is not crushed out of him, and invites him to a world of pure imagination. I feel as if the movie critics completely missed the point of the imagination dimension, and disregarded it as either completely unnecessary to the plot line or some sort of Atlas Shrugged’s Galt’s Gulch. It is neither, it is purely the place each of us can go to and dare to dream. It is a metaphor for the the mind, the imagination. She takes him to a place that in my opinion was left completely elusive, and up to the viewer to discover. a world you don’t understand, a world you can barely even grasp, but if you go there, you will see what might be possible. a world of your own inner potential
The critics of this film were quick to do what they do best and slam this film based on a lot of misconceptions. I could go through he whole script, scene by scene, breaking down the plot and what it means, but I wont for the sake of expediency. Each character has a purpose, look a little deeper at why the Author put the character there. Franks technical ability’s are amazing, but what he needs most is someone to believe in him. The Casey character dares to hope, to never give up. The pin represents a map, a way to get to the future. An escape into her own imagination. At any time her character could have said no and turned back to her safe house on her safe street with her safe life. She chose to seek out what she needed to in order to get to where she wanted to be. She chose to use her mind to figure out a way to get to the future that she could never imagine, and had a willingness to ask questions and face all the challenges along the way. How is that a bad or negative life lesson? I must ask any film critic how this moral of the story creates a bad film, and how you completely missed it. As a critic, is your job simply to shovel heaps of crap onto art you don’t, can’t, or will not understand? if that is the case you don’t deserve to understand this film.
A scene most taken to task by critics is the dialogue between the nihilist Nix, and Frank. I have reproduced it below.
If you glimpsed the future
and were frightened by what you saw,
what would you do
with that information? You would go to…
Who? Politicians? Captains of industry?
And how would you convince them?
With data? Facts?
The only facts they won’t challenge
are the ones that keep the wheels
greased and the dollars rolling in.
But what if…
What if there was a way
of skipping the middleman
and putting the critical news
directly into everyone’s head?
The probability of
widespread annihilation kept going up.
The only way to stop it was to show it.
To scare people straight.
Because what reasonable
human being wouldn’t be galvanized
by the potential destruction of everything
they have ever known or loved?
To save civilization,
I would show its collapse.
But how do you think
this vision was received?
How do you think people responded
to the prospect of imminent doom?
They gobbled it up,
like a chocolate eclair.
They didn’t fear their demise,
they repackaged it.
It can be enjoyed as video games,
as TV shows, books, movies.
The entire world wholeheartedly
embraced the apocalypse
and sprinted towards it
with gleeful abandon.
Meanwhile, your Earth
was crumbling all around you.
You’ve got simultaneous
epidemics of obesity and starvation.
Explain that one.
Bees and butterflies start to disappear.
The glaciers melt.
Algae blooms all around you.
The coal mine canaries are dropping dead,
and you won’t take the hint!
In every moment,
there is the possibility of a better future.
But you people won’t believe it.
And because you won’t believe it,
you won’t do what is necessary
to make it a reality.
So you dwell on this terrible future,
and you resign yourselves to it.
For one reason, because that future
doesn’t ask anything of you today.
So, yes, we saw the iceberg,
we warned the Titanic.
But you all just steered for it anyway,
full steam ahead.
Because you want to sink.
You gave up.
That’s not The Monitor’s fault.
Put them through.
Thanks for visiting, Frank.
It was genuinely nice to see you again.
This is the Nihilist view of the world. That is the point of the speech. not the author talking to the audience, but one character talking to another. This sailed straight over the movie goers heads, over the critics heads. He wasn’t talking to you, he was talking to Frank. Get over yourself. This speech is exactly the definition of a nihilist worldview
Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.
Nix is the ultimate Nihilist, reveling in finding all the negativity in the world, and broadcasting that negativity into every corner of the world. But wait, you said that this dimension was only a metaphor, a metaphor of imagination. And Nix is that voice in every one of our heads telling us its pointless, that we are doomed. We are not good enough, you cant change anything, I cant change anything, humanity is doomed to despair. But Frank needs Casey to beat the argument. To not think of despair, but rather a course of action. That course of action is to simply hope, and dream, then act on those hopes and dreams. hope for the future can change the future, because the future hasn’t happened yet.
I can’t prove it, but I truly believe nothing in this film was random, even the character names. Newton, I believe, is in homage to Isaac Newton, the great granddaddy of modern science, who dared to dream that everything can be understood, that the world we live in works in a certain way that mankind can figure out the way its works. Casey Newton’s character says many times in the film “I know how stuff works” and Nix is the antithesis of that, Merriam Webster defines nix as simply nothing. Nix doesn’t know how stuff works, he has no hope, no dream, and even when its right in front of him, as Frank was in the very beginning of the film, giving him something to believe in he refused it, turned away to await the inevitable destruction of the world
This barely scratches the surface of the film, but i hope you watched it with an eye for the details. The things that needed to be explained were, and the things that did not need to be explained were not, completely for the reason of leaving it up to the moviegoer to try to figure out how it works.
If you loved the film, please comment. If you hated the film please comment, and if you didn’t understand it, explain why not. What scene didn’t make sense to you, what specific article of dialogue didn’t belong?
I look forward to hearing from you about this, because I believe that this film was beautiful and deserves to be defended,