Feeding the wrong wolf: Tomorrowland and the wish for atom age kiddie movies


TOMORROWLAND is a kids movie aimed straight at aging adults.

I know. You’re thinking So? Doesn’t that describe every summer movie nowadays? It sorta does, but very few movies are this blatant about it. You know those people who complain that there are no more gosh wow space adventure stories, because everything in entertainment is grim and dour and apocalyptic, and no one has hope for the future? This is the movie for them; it even includes silver rocket ships and jet packs.

It even makes all that grim/dour/apocalyptic entertainment a plot point: those writers/game makes, and filmmakers are a major cause of the END OF THE WORLD!

That’s right. The world is going to be destroyed, but instead of trying to make things better, they’re making totally awesome Mad Max movies. If only people were trying to fix our problems instead of being pessimistic all the time!

Enter our heroes, George Clooney, plus a 25-year-old teenager, and finally a truck driving, kung fu robot in the form of a 12-year-old girl. Clooney’s role is to a) grump a lot b) explain the plot and c) finally believe in our hero. The not-teen is there to protag her little heart out, and the 12yo is a pure wish-fulfillment character for little kids. Like I said, she drives. A lot. And she lays the kung fu on some grownup robots, complete with power poses.

It’s… weird to see a children’s movie that clearly wishes we could return to an atomic age aesthetic, like telling your nieces to shut up about Katniss and read some Heinlein juveniles.

But to say that it’s a weird jumble is not to say that it doesn’t have fun moments. It does. And yeah, I’m in favor of positivity and a focus on solutions rather than cynicism in real life. That’s real life! (Art and entertainment is a different matter.) So the film ends up with a (ham-handed) message that I appreciate. Like a lot of movies nowadays, there are terrific set pieces, but they don’t come together in a sensible way, even by the standards of the summer movie.

Kid’s might like it, though.