Blu-Ray Review: Disney's Tomorrowland

THE SET-UP
A former boy genius (George Clooney) teams up with a science-minded teen (Britt Robertson) as they attempt to reach a technical utopia called Tomorrowland, and stop an impending catastrophe. Also stars Raffey Cassidy and Hugh Laurie.
Directed by Brad Bird.

THE DELIVERY
Despite a really cool teaser trailer that generated a lot of buzz, Tomorrowland didn’t exactly light the box office on fire upon its release last May. It still grossed a very respectable $93 million, but the film failed to find a wider audience, and critics weren’t overly impressed.

The release of Tomorrowland on Blu-ray provides the opportunity for more people to discover the film, which is far better than the critics claimed. It’s not a great film, mind you, but it is very entertaining, and George Clooney and Britt Robertson turn in some fine performances. It’s a fun mix of action and sci-fi, with just the right amount of humor to keep the film from getting too dark (although parents should be warned of some violent scenes that will frighten young children). The film itself is a visual treat, with some outstanding special effects, especially in the Tomorrowland scenes. The film’s message, that we can all affect change in our world, gives Tomorrowland a positive, uplifting tone, but some muddled plotting will likely keep you from enjoying the movie more.

Tomorrowland’s biggest shortcoming is a plot that doesn’t fully unfold until far too late in the film. You get some of the points early on, but director Brad Bird purposely keeps other points vague or untold until the final 30 minutes of the film. It makes it difficult to really get into the story, or to truly root for the characters. If Bird (and co-writer Damon Lindelof) had made the full plot clear earlier on, it would have been a far better film.


Leaving a sense of mystery isn’t a bad thing, but in the case of Tomorrowland, it works against it terribly. The motivations of Frank Walker (Clooney) are laid out early on, except for the key point of what he did at Tomorrowland that threatens humanity. We also aren’t told exactly why Casey (Robertson) is so important or why some mysterious people are after her, until the final 30 minutes of the film. There’s also a “doomsday countdown clock” that hints at some impending doom, but again, the actual purpose isn’t revealed until much later. Had they revealed it earlier in the film, there would have been a greater sense of purpose and a little more tension in the story.

Until the plot is fully revealed, you get a series of action scenes and some character development that does help move things along. It’s all highly entertaining, but you’ll just wish you knew what it was all about.

Watching the film, you get the feeling early on that there is a great film lurking inside Tomorrowland, but it never quite breaks through. It’s a fun film, an entertaining film, but it’s not a particularly memorable one. Don’t let that dissuade you from seeing it, as it is worth watching, but you’ll wish it was a more fulfilling story.  

VIDEO AND AUDIO
The digital transfer is top-notch, with excellent color reproduction and clarity. It’s a great image, and the high definition transfer highlights the special effects well. The audio is a solid 7.1 DTS-HDMA mix, that will give your speakers a nice workout. There is a nice balance between dialogue and sound effects, something I appreciate, as I didn’t have to adjust my sound system to compensate for one over the other.


SPECIAL FEATURES
Disney packed in a number of well-done extras on the Blu-ray, which provide some nice behind-the-scenes looks and expand on the Tomorrowland universe.

“Remembering the Future: A Personal Journey Through Tomorrowland With Brad Bird” featurette. Director Brad Bird reflects on Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and NASA’s influence on the hopeful tone of his film. There is some great behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew at Cape Canaveral. Running time: 7:09.

“Casting Tomorrowland” featurette. The various cast members of the film are profiled. Running time: 7:27.



“A Great Big Beautiful Scoring Session” featurette. This featurette follows Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino as he discusses the score for the film. Footage of Giacchino working on the scoring stage is shown, including a visit by the great Disney composer Richard Sherman, whose music is also featured in the film. Running time: 6:03.

“The World of Tomorrow Science Hour - Hosted by Futurologist David Nix” featurette. This set of outtakes from a “Disney”s World of Tomorrow” pseudo-documentary features Hugh Laurie as “Futurologist David Nix” discussing scientific innovations with less-than-cooperative children. It’s actually a fun watch, thanks to Laurie’s dry sense of humor. Running time: 5:08.

“The Origins of Plus Ultra” animated short. This animated short is supposedly set in the fictional world of the film, and discusses the inventors who formed the secret society featured in the film. Running time: 3:25.  

“Brad Bird Production Diaries” featurettes. Two featurettes, “The First Day” and NASA,” feature Bird’s personal footage from the production. The behind-the-scenes footage at the “World’s Fair” is particularly interesting to see. Running time: 4:34.

“Blast From the Past” commercial. Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn reprise their roles from the movie in this fake commercial for the retro collectibles shop seen in the film. Running time: 41 seconds.

Deleted Scenes. Six deleted scenes, all with introductions by director Brad Bird, are featured. Included are “Joking on the Eiffel Tower,” “Young Casey vs. The Volcano,” “Doomsday Living Room,” “As Originally Written by Casey the Downer,” “What Happened to Tomorrowland?” and “What is Tomorrowland?” The deleted scenes are actually pretty interesting, as they delve into some abandoned subplots and provide more character development.

Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with Disney Movies Anywhere, Ultraviolet, and iTunes, is included.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Tomorrowland is a fun ride, just not a memorable one
Although Tomorrowland is a fun, entertaining film, it doesn’t quite fulfill its potential as a great movie. The sci-fi visuals are stunning, and the uplifting message is a nice change of pace from the usual overly serious tone of most movies today. It’s definitely worth a watch.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Rating: PG
Running time: 130 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Special Features: “Remembering the Future: A Personal Journey Through Tomorrowland With Brad Bird” featurette; “Casting Tomorrowland” featurette; “A Great Big Beautiful Scoring Session” featurette; “The World of Tomorrow Science Hour - Hosted by Futurologist David Nix” featurette; “The Origins of Plus Ultra” animated short; “Brad Bird Production Diaries” featurettes; “Blast From the Past” commercial; Deleted Scenes, Digital Copy.   
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Click here to order Tomorrowland on Blu-ray from Amazon!

Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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