​"Tomorrowland" and the celebration of hope

Memorial Day weekend launches the summer movie season. And our David Edelstein has seen one of the early contenders:

Family movies often make the case for "hope" -- not excatly a controversial message. But "Tomorrowland" is pro-hope with a vengeance.

It rages against cynicism, nihilism, obsession with apocalypse in films, TV shows, novels. Love it or hate it, we must reckon with it.

I loved it, though I hated parts (I'll get back to those). I can't tell you much about the plot, since the fun is watching characters zigzag through space and being constantly disoriented.

I can say George Clooney is a recluse who was once a hopeful science nerd before something happened, and Britt Robertson plays a passionate high-school space buff -- so passionate she sabotages a NASA facility where rockets get dismantled because of budget cuts.

Emerging from jail, she finds a 1964 New York World's Fair pin that transports her to ... you'll see.

Soon, she and Clooney are being chased by robots and rocketing to other dimensions.

The director is Brad Bird, who made "The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille." His animation is grounded by love of classic cinema, his live action liberated by an animator's sense of possibilities.

It's a sense of possibilities that's gone, he argues in "Tomorrowland." We seem, he says, to get a kinky thrill from visions of our own extinction.

It's true, every action geek is crowing about "Mad Max: Fury Road," which is out now, and which makes a fetish of post-apocalyptic mayhem. There's another "Terminator" movie coming, "Genisys," with machines exterminating humans.

In the ongoing "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" series, governments make kids kill kids.

What's bizarre in "Tomorrowland" is when director Bird blames teachers warning of climate change for hastening apocalypse -- not because they're wrong, but because they don't talk about solutions. Blaming the messenger seems loony-tunes.

But I agree with this: How many more dystopian nightmares do we need? The same year as the '64 World's Fair -- that symbol of a good technological future -- the doomsday comedy "Dr. Strangelove" came out with the subtitle, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

Maybe today's culture loves the bomb a little too much. Maybe "Tomorrowland"'s anti-pessimism is an overdue correction.

Think of it: A fun summer blockbuster that says, "Break out those science books, kids!"


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