It was a rare, disappointing weekend for Disney. Tomorrowland opened to little more than $32 million, far less than its projected $50 million opening. On the news of the lackluster performance, Disney’s stock fell one percent (- $0.89). Despite the doom and gloom of critics, Tomorrowland will pick up revenue in DVD sales and theme park tie-ins. Disney may make up for its losses in pin sales alone. Personally, I think the movie is a solid 8/10. (Click for a podcast of the non-spoiler and/or spoiler review) And while Disney’s future with Tomorrowland looks bright, I’m not sure our future will fair as well.
Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), tells the story of Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) and Frank Walker (George Clooney) as they attempt to rescue a futuristic city known as Tomorrowland. With the help of pint-sized robot Athena (Raffey Cassidy), the three work together on a quest to save the future.
At best, the movie is getting mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Admittedly, Disney did some things to shoot themselves in the foot, such as having an extremely limited Thursday night release. They also advertised heavily to Disney fans, which resulted in a movie that performed great with Disney fans, but achieved little success beyond that. And there’s some of the plot holes (e.g. Casey’s mother disappears with no explanation). And yet in every review there seems to be one main point of contention—the movie is too preachy about optimism. For example, here is part of a review from The Houston Chronicle
It completely fails to deal with the fact that geopolitical forces, governments, corporations, banks, insurgencies — they’re pretty impervious to one person’s dreams, unless you’re Elon Musk. Optimism and hope take you only so far, which is why Houston looks like such a strange patchwork of utopia and dystopia…If the secret to creating a perfect world — or a perfect city — were so obvious, we’d be there by now.
If the problem with Tomorrowland is that it is preachy, the problem with us is that we fail to listen. Despite universal health care, investments in renewable energy and increased economic performance, only 37% of Americans think our best days are ahead of us, according to the 2015 Rasmussen report. Right now it is easier to start a business than almost any time in history, and yet American business deaths outnumber business births for the first time in 35 years, according to Gallup. As Casey says in the movie, “It’s hard to have ideas and it’s easy to give up.”
The point of Tomorrowland, however, is not that the world will be fixed easily or that the solutions are obvious. The film preaches just the opposite. Changing the future is hard. Sometimes, you have to do it alone. A lot of times, you will fail. Tomorrowland dares you to work to change it anyway. Yes, work. Somehow the idea of people working to change the future is getting lost—or ignored—by critics. Perhaps this willful ignorance stems from our unwillingness to change our personal problems.
For example, a whopping 70 percent of Americans are disengaged from their jobs, according to a Gallup poll. Internet classes and e-commerce make hundreds of professional fields open for all takers, but we sit waiting for the current situation to change rather than pursuing our passion. We choose the future that requires the least from us and remain disengaged from work, from life and the future. If we cannot fix our own lives, how can we fix the world?
Tomorrowland’s simple answer is to work at it. Walt Disney once said “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” Though most would look at Disneyland as a “utopia,” even its creator knew it would always need work. That’s how it is with the future. It will never be “completed.” But just like Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Ray Charles, The Wright Brothers and countless others, you can work to change it.
If we refuse to listen to the message of Tomorrowland, we will sit and wait for someone to do something about the changing state of the world, claiming the challenge is too great or that previous leaders were in a “different time.” That is why Tomorrowland preaches—for the sake of the future. It’s up to us to listen. We ignore the message at our own peril. As Tomorrowland puts it, “In every moment there’s a 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.”
As always, the latest Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm movie news is available weekly in our latest podcast and on www.TheDisneyMovieReview.com. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes for our weekly wrap up of Disney movie news or learn how to download podcasts to your phone. My name is Ken and I hope you have a magical day!