Friday, May 22, 2015
When the film opens, a genius but pessimistic scientist Frank Walker (George Clooney) argues with an optimistic and adventurous teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) about the present of our world and about its future. Frank knows the world is going to end in a terrible chaos but Casey wants to do everything to alter the outcome of the future. Because the subject matter is related to the future, time-travel is mandatory to be included in the storytelling and to elaborate how Frank and Casey are together in the beginning. The film swiftly travels back to 1964, when Frank comes to New York World's Fair as a young boy who wants to fly with a flying machine he builds. After he receives a special pin given by a young girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Frank arrives a dazzling and splendid future world which is fancier than any Disney's theme park.
The British-accent Athena is actually a robot created by Nix (Hugh Laurie) and she is sent to the present world to find intelligent and motivated individuals. Although Frank was recruited by Athena in 1964, he has been expelled from that tomorrow-land by Nix for decades by the time Casey is recruited by Athena. The trio join together to find a way to alter the catastrophic ending of humanity on earth.
Thankfully, the director Brad Bird doesn't make this film just another robot-filled explosive sci-fi movie, although we still get to see exciting and humorous robot-fighting. Instead, he spends a great deal of time on developing his interesting characters, even the robots, to have distinctive personalities and manages to tell a coherent story despite its confusing time-travel element. On top of that, he has a message eloquently delivered by Nix that we human are responsible for destroying the earth and reaching the point of no return. He has a point.
The film keeps the story remarkably engaging and accessible. Casey keeps asking the same questions as the audience would. The film keeps Casey's curiosity (as well as ours) alive for the most part of the film, even Frank becomes agitated and tells Casey: "Do I have to explain everything? Can't you just be amazed?" The filmmakers indeed startle us with a marvelously imagined tomorrow-land.
While George Clooney is fine as Frank who seems able to build stuff beyond your wildest imagination, the film's true heroine is Casey. It's refreshing to see a sci-fi adventure led by a teenage girl who isn't just a prop for giant robots. She carries the film from start to finish and is terrifically played by Britt Robertson who looks and talks like when you smash Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, and Brit Marling together.
Next time when you encounter youngsters at a Disney theme park, take a guess if they might be robots trying to recruit you to become a driving force in changing the future. This film makes you actually fantasize that possibility, and that's an admirable achievement besides the startling visual on a giant IMAX screen.