Blu-ray Review: Tomorrowland

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If you passed on director Brad Bird's mega-budget Disney extravaganza Tomorrowland in theaters over the summer (and based on the underwhelming box office returns, many folks did), definitely, absolutely, positively give it a shot now that it's on Blu-ray (also DVD and Digital HD). The sci-fi actioner got lost among the usual onslaught of more predictable fare, but it's a damn sight more rewarding than distressingly unimaginative retreads like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World. Too many moviegoers decide whether to see a movie based on the "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes without even bothering to read any actual reviews. Despite getting saddled with bad buzz, the reviews for Tomorrowland weren't necessarily bad—more like disappointed, often suggesting Brad Bird's ambition possibly got the better of him.

While it's true the third act trips over itself in an attempt to tie up a sprawling narrative that gradually unraveled, Tomorrowland is, in fact, an ambitious and often visually-stunning adventure. The dénouement is admittedly a big chunk of forced sappiness, which doesn't help. It's overly pat and it's likely to leave viewers with an empty feeling (though there is genuine emotion to be felt; the bond between protagonists rings true). As negative as that assessment might sound, it's honestly it's not enough to ruin every moment of real inspiration that preceded it. One thing Tomorrowland is not: predictable. 
tomorrowland scenery rs.jpg The focus shifts from an opening act featuring Frank Walker (George Clooney) looking back on his 1964 childhood (Thomas Robinson plays the young Frank) to sometime in the near future, where teenage Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) resorts to illicit activities to thwart NASA's plans to decommission a launch pad. Her intentions are good—dad Eddie (Tim McGraw) is a NASA engineer losing his job. As a child inventor at the 1964 World's Fair, young Frank meets Tomorrowland leader David Nix (Hugh Laurie) and his apparent assistant, Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Though his jet pack wins no prize, Athena gives him a little insignia pin. Much later, when Casey runs afoul of NASA, she gets the same pin. Simply making contact with the pin puts the holder in a seemingly virtual reality version of Tomorrowland.

No spoiler warning needed to say that Casey eventually meets up with the adult Frank, but not before she embarks on a mission to figure out what this "magic" pin is and why it was given to her. No need ruin the rest. If you're not interested by now, maybe this isn't the flick for you. On the other hand if any of this sounds intriguing, by all means run down a copy ASAP. Director Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Ratatouille, The Incredibles) keeps things moving at such a steady clip that the 130-minute runtime flies by. Almost, that is. By the time we find out what really united Frank and Casey, it's an anti-climax that deflates the rush of what leads up to it. But the film is frequently thrilling and maintains a great sense of humor throughout. While it ended up tanking for Disney, hopefully it finds new life in the home video arena.
tomorrowland hugh laurie rs.jpg Top marks for Disney on a Blu-ray presentation that is definitely reference quality. Claudio Miranda's cinematography, combined with an army of digital effects wizards that crafted some truly impressive visuals, makes Tomorrowland a must-see in high definition. The 1080p transfer is as close as it gets to flawless. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix is also everything one would expect from a $190 million movie. Crank it up and enjoy.

The bonus features are far from extravagant, but there are an intriguing 23-minutes of deleted scenes, all with optional audio commentary by director Brad Bird and his co-writer, co-producer Damon Lindelof. Aside from that there are six featurettes totaling about 30 minutes, covering everything from the origins of the film to casting to Brad Bird's production diaries. The Blu-ray package includes a standard DVD and a Digital HD download.

Tomorrowland may not knock it clear out of the park on every level, but it makes an honest effort. That's more than can be said of most blockbuster (or wannabe blockbuster) fare. It's also worth pointing out that this is a female-driven adventure, with Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy doing terrific jobs carrying the picture. Clooney and Laurie are fine in what amount to supporting roles, but it's the younger stars who do the heavy lifting here.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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