Based on the talent involved, this could have been a truly incredible film. Disney produced and directed by Brad Bird, who also shared in screenwriting duties with Damon Lindelof, how could this not be a home run? Like Lindelof’s “Lost”, it features interesting concept, great characters, and a weirdly unsatisfying ending.
Some have complained that the trailers are misleading, but they are not. Unlike many trailers these days, they tell you just enough to pique your interest and get you in the door, which is where the real story telling begins. (As it should be) That being said, the film does follow a rather unusual story structure. It begins with Frank (George Clooney) breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly. He has some interesting things to say about how dark and dreary the future has become. A number of times he’s interrupted by an off-screen Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) Eventually she convinces Frank to tell the story of his childhood as a boy-genius-inventor. Starting off at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the film begins to shine. We are treated to a number of familiar images and reminded of the wonder and hope that the future used to hold. After the first part of Frank’s childhood story is told, the film jumps forward to present day, and we see Casey become an integral part of the plot. Tying these two characters and timelines together is Raffey Cassidy, who puts in a truly remarkable performance as Athena. Clooney can barely hold his own against this kid, although arguably he’s given less to work with.
Further bolstering this movie, is the wonderful message it preaches, primarily to kids. Be Optimistic! Be Creative! Don’t let others hold you down! Reach for the stars and change the world! When’s the last time you experienced such a positive and uplifting message at the theater? Unfortunately, the final act pushes this message a bit too far, and becomes heavy handed and preachy. To its credit, the script still tries to present it in a clever, and at times humorous manner (Think “The Daily Show”) But coupling this on top of other plot issues, events that ignore basic logic, and an -incredibly- long death scene, it’s hard to swallow.
With such a great message, and a handful of truly delightful scenes, this would be a wonderful film for younger audiences. Unfortunately, it’s extremely unlikely they would sit through it all.
Note 1: Parts of this feel like Disney’s version of “The Terminator.”
Note 2: Why is “The Future” filled with so much phallic imagery?