There's nothing quite like seeing a Disney film at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Dan and I went to a late afternoon showing of Tomorrowland on the Friday of its opening weekend. We made a last minute decision, but two hours prior to showtime, we were still able to secure VIP tickets for the balcony.
We arrived thirty minute prior to showtime and joined the VIP line, which was already snaking around the entrance and down Hollywood Blvd. The line didn't start moving until minutes before the scheduled showtime. As soon as I entered the theatre, I powered off my phone, but they had to have been running nearly twenty minutes behind schedule.
We fed through the VIP station to pick up our drinks and buckets of popcorn, which had the plain logo, no snazzy marketing for Tomorrowland. Our seats were in the last VIP section in the top part of the balcony. They were centered, but too far back from the screen. I don't know how the El Capitan can sell these as VIP seats. We booked them thinking that anything labeled VIP would have a great view. Lesson learned.
One of the biggest components missing was the organist. I've never seen a film at the El Capitan without him. He was very much missed and I hope that he wasn't missing due to an emergency/illness or Disney cutbacks. There was no mention of his absence.
The stage show was a short magic presentation with illusionist Greg Wilson. This was plain weird and a stretch to have it tie in with the movie. Wilson kept repeating the phrase "imagination" as a way to bring it back to the film. He also had a tenuous tie-in by mentioning that his father, Mark Wilson, was a magician at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The World's Fair plays a prominent role in Tomorrowland.
Wilson's show lasted about fifteen minutes and it had three basic illusions, plus a lot of antics involving Wilson and his assistances zooming around on a Segway. Segway = Futuristic. The illusions were good, but the corny costumes, cheesy story and flimsy sets took center stage. Wilson seems like a nice guy and he clearly enjoys being on stage, which made us like him more than David Copperfield, but the show felt like "backyard birthday party magician" fare. The El Capitan would have done a better tie in, if they had done a cutesy musical review with performers in period costumes from the 60's, maybe singing a retro version of It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and talking about the World's Fair. Retro would have put us in the mood. Wilson's magic show left us baffled, wondering what type of movie was heading our way.
Another missing El Capitan staple missing. They skipped the pulling back the layers of curtains with the pretty light show. I know it's silly, but I missed it.
After the film, they ushers were anxious to clear the auditorium. We managed to race down to the basement to quickly view the display of props and costumes from the film. This was the best part of the El Capitan bonus features.
On to the film...
PLOT - Imagine if there was an alternate reality where the great inventors and dreamers from earth built a new society? As a boy, Frank Walker (George Clooney) dreamed of being an inventor. He attended the 1964 World's Fair in New York and he met Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a girl who gave him the opportunity to follow her back to this other reality, named Tomorrowland.
In the present day, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is a inquisitive teenager. Her father works for NASA and his role in the space program is being phased out. Casey finds herself in jail, after attempting to break into Cape Canaveral to mess with the machinery that is being used to decommission the launch pad in an effort to stall her father's impending unemployment. As she leaves jail, she finds an unusual pin in her personal belongings. She does not know where the pin came from and when she touches it, it transports her to a field outside of Tomorrowland. She is both fascinated and scared. Casey searches for anyone who can give her information regarding the pin.
Casey's search leads her to Athena and Frank. She learns that Tomorrowland might not be what it seems and that earth is on the fast track to utter destruction.
LIKE - Tomorrowland is magical. As a huge Disney fan, I felt that it struck the right balance with mixing the vintage vibe and making the story current. It perfectly captured the spirit of the theme park land that inspired the film. The World's Fair tie in was marvelous and I loved hearing, It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and having the characters ride It's a Small World. The twist inside It's a Small World was brilliant and completely unexpected.
When Casey and the young Frank (Thomas Robinson), see Tomorrowland for the first time, it's breathtaking. I was sitting there thinking, "Oh wow" along with the characters. How much fun must it have been to come up with ideas for the Tomorrowland world? The multi-level pool with the divers looping through the levels was my favorite element.
I most appreciated all of the plot twists and unexpected elements that fill Tomorrowland. Imagination and Invention are the two biggest themes and they really are infused in the script. A film is nothing without a strong script and Tomorrowland is a huge winner in the writing department.
The best part is that after the writing, all of the other elements fall into place. The film has style to spare and the pacing never slowed. The cast was perfect. Robertson held her own with Clooney, never falling into the trap of a cliche teenager role.
DISLIKE - The only very minor fault, is maybe the themes are laid on a little thick towards the end, especially when the villain, Nix ( Hugh Laurie) is giving his big monologue. That said, I think that the themes and message are good to hear. The movie leaves you feeling uplifted and hopeful, even if the ideas not subtly woven into the story.
RECOMMEND - YES!!! It's the end of May and Dan and I agree that Tomorrowland is the best film that has come out this year. It's visually stunning, immensely creative and heartfelt. This is a must-see on the big screen.