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Caution: potential spoilers.
This came out in 2015, but I didn't see it until 2017. I know I do the whole "this came out/I didn't see it til" thing pretty often, but mostly for things with a larger gap. Normally, I'm not sure whether I'd bother mentioning a two year gap, but honestly, this one feels more important. It's a movie I very much wanted to see since before it came out, and I'm sure I would have loved it whenever I saw it, but... it kind of felt more timely when I did see it. So maybe my appreciation was somewhat enhanced by events in the real world. It's hard to say. Anyway... before I saw it, I had listed it in my "science fiction movies I want to see" page, but now that I have seen it, it was hard... I mean, even harder than usual... for me to decide where to put my review. Sci-fi was still a prime contender, though it was really more of a sci-fantasy kind of thing, which meant "fantasy" was also a distinct possibility. And being a Disney movie, of course "family" was also an option. So was "art films," because this is very much a "message movie." And there were other possibilities. In a way, it's kind of at least a potential dystopian film. And... whatever. I have decided to call it an "adventure" film, but all those other things (and possibly more) apply.
It begins with a man named Frank Walker (George Clooney) addressing... well, it's unclear who he's talking to. There's also an off-screen voice that keeps interrupting him, provided by Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). Anyway, Frank is talking about the future, and his view of it is dismal. Casey wants him to be more upbeat. So she convinces him to start from his childhood. When he was 11 years old, he went to the 1964 New York World's Fair, where I guess he wanted to enter his invention, a jet pack, into a competition. He talked to an official at the Fair, David Nix (Hugh Laurie), who was somewhat discouraging. But there was also a girl named Athena, who was more encouraging. She later secretly tells Frank to follow a group she's traveling with, including Nix, but to avoid being seen. And... they go on a boat ride ("It's a Small World," which is normally associated with Disney theme parks, but apparently it was at the World Fair first. Thanks, Wikipedia.) Anyway, Athena also gave Frank a pin, which in the course of the ride was scanned by a laser or whatever, and that allowed him access to something that's not a normal part of the ride. He soon winds up in Tomorrowland, which is apparently in an alternate dimension. But there's not too much that can be said about that yet, because Frank the narrator doesn't say much before he once again gets negative, and Casey takes over the narrative.
Casey begins with a very brief scene from when she was a little girl who was into stargazing and constellations, and hoped someday to go to the stars. Her narration then flashes forward to the present, when as a young woman she has been sneaking into a NASA launch facility at Cape Canaveral, where her father, Eddie (Tim McGraw) works as an engineer. Casey causes a series of malfunctions that will postpone the planned shutdown of the facility. During one of these excursions, she gets arrested. When she's released and her personal effects are returned to her, they include a pin, the same kind Athena had given Frank decades ago. She has no idea how it got among her things, because she'd never seen it before. But when she touches it, she finds herself in a wheat field, and sees Tomorrowland in the distance. She tries to get there, but it's just a holographic (but fully immersive) recording. She's actually still in the same place she was, so... that leads to some minor accidents. (Really, it's surprising someone as smart as Casey was so slow to learn to be more careful.) She eventually does get an up-close look at the wonders of Tomorrowland, though she can't interact with it, or any of the people she sees there. But soon, the pin's battery dies. So she wants to find another one, and her little brother, Nate, finds a website for a memorabilia store in Houston, called Blast from the Past.
Casey gets Nate to tell their father she went camping, while she actually takes a bus to Houston. While she's gone, Athena shows up at her house and asks Nate where she is. And she looks the same age as she did in 1964. After briefly keeping up the lie, Nate admits the truth, so Athena can find her. Meanwhile, Casey learns a bit about the pin's origins from the store's proprietors, Hugo (Keegan-Michael Key) and Ursula. But they want to know where she got her pin, and whether a young girl gave it to her. Of course, she hadn't met Athena, and had no idea where it came from. But they don't believe her, and they try to stop her from leaving. It turns out they have real ray guns, but before they can kill her, Athena shows up and saves her. Subsequently, the two of them go looking for Frank, who is now an adult, of course. He's become kind of a hermit, and he's built all sorts of defenses and whatnot into his house. But Athena leaves her there alone, for now, and doesn't show up again until androids attack Frank and Casey. The three of them manage to escape, and... well, I don't want to give too much away, but they do return to Tomorrowland.
So anyway... we learn about the origins of Tomorrowland, and about an impending apocalyptic event, and... stuff. Honestly, even if I didn't want to avoid spoiling the details, I'm not sure I could really explain it. So I'll just say I found the whole movie fun and amusing and dramatic and cool. And most of all, optimistic. And some of the bad stuff that happened (or was expected to happen, or something) just reminded me a lot of the political situation in America at the time that I watched the movie. Of course the nature of the apocalypse was more fantastic than what's going on in the real world, and in both the movie and reality, it all depends on the way people react to things. In the movie, the apocalypse is averted essentially through optimism. Well, optimism and an explosion. Still, I do love the idea that people have the power to change things for the better, when they believe a better world is possible. And... I dunno what else to tell you, except that we do finally see who Frank and Casey were addressing at the beginning of the movie.
Oh, also there's a tie-in book called "Before Tomorrowland," which I definitely plan to read someday. The authors include Brad Bird and Damon Lindeloff, who also wrote this movie (which Bird directed). So it should be good.