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“Tomorrowland:” The most important movie you've probably never seen

If the pandemic has caused endless doom scrolling, now might be the perfect time to watch a story about relighting the spark of optimism.

By Hilary Van Hoose, Special to the Star

Gerorge Clooney stars in the 2015 film "Tomorrowland." (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

Filmmakers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof took a risk in a landscape of remakes and sequels by creating a retro-futuristic blockbuster with a heartfelt original story. Despite not being a box office success, it paid off in more important ways.

In 2015, most critics panned “Tomorrowland” as a bundle of trite platitudes about optimism wrapped up in a shiny package. But this is a deeply personal story that explores optimism, not blind faith about things turning out well despite inaction.

“Tomorrowland” tells the story of Casey Newton, a brilliant girl with a flare for science played by Britt Robertson, who convinces former gifted boy-scientist turned aging cynic Frank Walker (George Clooney) that it’s not too late to save the world. The pair and a charming android girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) embark on a perilous yet family-friendly adventure to Tomorrowland in hopes of finding out how to prevent the end of the world.

For lovers of sci-fi and Disneyland alike, this film does not disappoint. It features everything from a Terminator-esque chase scene to a backstory about Disneyland's Tomorrowland as a clever front for the real thing, with Walt Disney as a member of a secret society of geniuses who built another world in an alternate dimension. Viewers might need to watch this film a second time because of the worldbuilding details stuffed into each scene. Can viewers expect anything less from the writers who gave us “Lost” and “The Incredibles?”

An entire generation of kids were encouraged by Walt Disney and JFK’s promises of a “great big beautiful tomorrow” where they would study civics and STEM and use their hard-earned skills to solve all of the world’s problems. “Tomorrowland” came out in 2015, at a moment when many felt those promises had been broken for a long time. Written almost as a love letter to the optimism of baby boomer-era kids who had lost hope as adults, this film explores themes reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol,” about overcoming the cynical and misanthropic worldviews foisted upon young people.

This film is even more relevant in 2021. At a time when ignoring and belittling scientists and the scientific method is prolonging a worldwide pandemic and accelerating a climate catastrophe. At a time when so many people think the only two ways to react to an existential crisis are to either pretend it is not happening or to resign themselves to destruction and enjoy the spectacle of watching the world burn, “Tomorrowland” reaches forward from the past to remind us that it is not too late to keep those promises made decades ago.

If we nurture and embrace the scientists, the visionaries, those with imagination and tenacity; “Tomorrowland” argues we can do anything — even save the world.

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