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James Tarr

I finally got around to watching Tomorrowland (2015) with George Clooney. This movie is famous for being a huge bomb for Disney, and I was curious as to why, seeing as it starred a very good actor and was written and directed by the very talented Brad Bird (who also wrote and directed one of my top ten favorite movies, The Incredibles). After having watched it, the reason for its failure is crystal clear. Disney spent $190 million to produce this movie which seemed, from the trailers, to be a fantastical (and beautiful) sci-fi adventure. Instead, it is a message movie disguised as a sci-fi adventure.

The message? Humans are horrible. Humans are selfish, short-sighted, and destroying the planet due to wars, climate change, etc. etc., all of the hackneyed lazy tropes Hollywood rolls out for any movie set even just a few years into the future.

Sure, there are jetpacks and a couple of cool action scenes where our protagonists fight robots, but that’s not nearly enough to save a movie whose third act crashes and burns. In addition, there is the confused narrative that can’t decide who is the protagonist, and so tries to evenly split the role between three characters. One of whom, a young girl, turns herself into a suicide bomber at the end of the movie to save the world from itself. Yes, you read that right. Good job Disney, just what American audiences were looking for in a summer blockbuster movie, a disjointed narrative and teenage girls killing themselves to prevent a dystopian nightmare future.

If you want to make a message movie, that’s fine. Just don’t try to pass it off as something else.  And don’t think there is enough widespread demand for a message movie—predicting a future roughly half the country doesn’t think is going to happen, by the way—to support a $190 million production budget which, once you add up all the marketing costs, is going to have to bring in at least $400 million at the box office just to in hopes of breaking even.  Instead, it grossed $210 million worldwide.