Ed Driscoll

'Tomorrowland Chokes on a Big, Fat Green Pill'

When the trailers for Tomorrowland played at my local theater and made the rounds on the Internet, I admired the glittering digital effects, but waited to read the initial reviews before seeing it, as I knew that anything starring George Clooney had to be packing a huge leftwing sucker punch in there somewhere. And of course, it turned out to be the obvious one — global warming. (Shocker!) As Rick McGinnis writes at The Rebel (H/T: Kathy Shaidle), “Tomorrowland chokes on a big, fat Green pill:”

The damning verdict on mankind’s self-sabotage is delivered in a bombastic, furious speech by Hugh Laurie’s Governor Nix, the film’s affably caustic villain. But hold on – by Tomorrowland’s logic, aren’t we the real villains, snuffing out the future as we despoil the planet despite the warnings subliminally beamed to us by Nix from Tomorrowland’s cosmic wifi?

As Pogo the possum said in Walt Kelly’s comic strip, “We have seen the enemy and he is us,” and it is still some kind of heavy s***, apparently.

Laurie’s speech – and the whole clanking ecogeddon conceit – sits astride the film like a colossal choking bolus, a sour, finger-pointing jeremiad that kills the hurtling action dead, and forces anyone who doesn’t worship the gospel of Green and its sackcloth truisms abruptly out of the story and into an eye-rolling frenzy.

If you’re looking for some kind of internal logic, give up now. Our loss of faith in the future and the technology that was supposed to take us there is the tragic condition that Bird and Lindelof make their film’s foundation. And yet the same technology that harvests energy and improves crop yields, enables travel at once-implausible speeds and makes cities denser yet healthier places to live than they ever were is the villain that robbed us of that future.

Ponder this message for a minute, and then wonder that no one who read Tomorrowland’s script ever drew a red line through Laurie’s big scene and said, “OK – right here. You’ve lost me.”

There is, to be sure, a great film – still unmade – about our loss of faith in a better world we imagined so fervently in the shadow of two world wars. But a new kind of faith – the gospel of Green and all of its logic-busting assumptions – has clouded reason and, almost like collateral damage, ruined what could have been a great little film about wonder and optimism and scientific inspiration.

At the Washington Post, Sonny Bunch adds that the filmmakers have met the enemy and he really is us. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht’s legendary quote about socialism (see also, previous post on Bernie Sanders), Disney and their fellow Democrat stenographers with media bylines seem to think it would be easier to dissolve the audiences and elect another, after “‘Tomorrowland’s’ dour brand of optimism proves a hard sell:”

As is usually the case when something flops pretty hard, the Hollywood press is searching for answers. This time around, the wheel of blame landed on “audiences.” “As much as people claim they love fresh and unique movies, they’re more likely to shell out money for sequels and reboots,” writes Brent Lang at Variety.

* * * * * * * *

Allow me to suggest, though, that “Tomorrowland” had bigger problems than a recalcitrant audience. Moviegoers didn’t shy away from Clooney’s latest picture because it was an original property or because they were in search of “noisy thrills and dumb jokes” (of which “Tomorrowland” certainly had plenty). They avoided the film because Hollywood didn’t know how to sell its rather scolding message of spiritual uplift.

Lang hints at this problem. “Disney may have erred in keeping too many of its secrets close to the vest,” he writes. “Aside from a magical pin, Clooney as a crusty inventor and a few sequences of spaceships hurtling through what appeared to be a cornfield, it wasn’t always clear what the movie was about.”

After seeing the flick, one can understand why the Mouse House obscured the plot: “Tomorrowland” is less a kid-friendly action-adventure flick than a moralizing tale that demands we as a society shed our pessimism and embrace a more optimistic outlook — or die horribly.

There’s another issue at work, which John Nolte of Big Hollywood has written about for years: George Clooney is beloved in Hollywood because he’s a great looking guy and outspoken “old-time liberal and I don’t apologize for it,” as he once described himself in an interview. Which is why, other than his all-star Oceans 11 caper franchise, he’s not quite the surefire box office draw that Hollywood believes he is. There are some actors whose myriad personal quirks and idiosyncratic beliefs can be overlooked because audiences are reasonably assured that for their $10+ ticket and a similar amount for popcorn and a Diet Coke, they’ll likely receive a solid two hours of stuff gettin’ “blow’d up real good,” as legendary film critics Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok used to say. (I’m looking at you, Tom Cruise.) But with Clooney, the reverse is true, which is why he’s often a recipe for under-performance at the domestic box office.

But still isn’t that for the best, considering that the less movie theaters in operation, the less air conditioning being used, the less DVDs being sold (as enviro-obsessive James Cameron once told an interviewer while hawking his own DVDs!) and the less people attending the related theme park rides. Plus, smaller payoffs for the One Percent. Too bad in this case the One Percent turn out to be socialist Hollywood stars and executives, but hey, I’m sure for a price, Giorgio Armani’s Beverly Hills boutique can custom-tailor a fine hairshirt.