A Brief Defense of Tomorrowland

Posted: June 1, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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MV5BMTQ4OTgzNTkwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzI3MDE3NDE@._V1__SX1391_SY669_At one point in The Incredibles , a weary Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) drives home from work and finds his little neighbor boy staring him down curiously. “Well, what are you waiting for?” Parr groans. The thing is, I feel like Parr when I read these incredibly negative reviews of Brad Bird’s latest film, Tomorrowland. Said critics are clearly not like Mr. Incredible’s inquisitive neighbor; for if they were simply waiting for “something amazing,” they would have left the theater satisfied, mouth agape, ready to return for more. Of course, the really fascinating and ironic thing about the all-too-prevalent panning of Tomorrowland is that many critics, through their reactions to the film’s optimism, substantiate the very claim they attempt to refute, namely that the modern obsession with dystopias may be doing more cultural damage than we realize.

What if an insatiable, unbridled hunger and thirst for bleak post-apocalyptic literature affects in society a pessimism that, if left unchecked, leads to fatalism? This seems to be a central question of Tomorrowland, but a plethora of film critics intimate that it is a forbidden question. Indeed, a cursory glance at reviews featured on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes makes it sound like Tomorrowland is Hallmark-esque, replete with pseudo-optimism and cheesy sentimentality, when nothing could be further from the truth. You would think the realization that children are a primary audience of Tomorrowland would be enough to satiate the critics’ fury, but I contend that these responses are an indicator of a two cultural phenomena: an increasing predilection for dystopian hopelessness and a dismissal of narrative optimism as fundamentally childish.

If anything, however, Tomorrowland is child-like in the way that Christ and C.S. Lewis used the term. IMV5BMjAzNjI1OTE3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE2NzQ3NDE@._V1__SX1391_SY669_t was the latter who says that “[c]ritics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves.” Bird’s film, then, can be seen as an ode to childlikeness that seeks to reinstate some of the wonder and joy in life that we’ve lost and forgotten. It is—and I do not make this comparison lightly—something like Terrence Malick for kids. And even in its weakest moments, Tomorrowland is so adept at awakening its audiences’ imagination that it makes naysayers look like yet another character from The Incredibles: The Underminer, who “wages war on peace and happiness.”

That such an original, charming, and, yes, optimistic film has been deemed naive—even juvenile—is one sign that we may be marching closer to dystopia than we realize. It’s time that, as Lewis says, we “put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” And it’s time to go see Tomorrowland.

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  1. […] A Brief Defense of Tomorrowland at Reel Thinking […]

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