Hello all (5 of you…)! Sorry I have not been regular about posting. The past two months have been a little nuts. You may have noticed from other posts that I have begun writing for the site LA Screenwriter, they are an awesome site for aspiring screenwriters look for new articles on tips and skills and industry news. They are also a great resource for scripts. Through the site I had the chance to attend Scriptfest/Pitchfest in Burbank last weekend where I reacquainted myself with some old friends in the industry, met a lot of new creative writers and people on the production side. I will be posting an article on LA Screenwriter about my weekend there, so definitely keep an eye out for that! Now, onto the topic at hand: TOMORROWLAND! I know it is not television related but after hearing really lackluster reviews about the film (and finally seeing it) I cannot take my mind off of it.
When I was growing up I LOVED watching movies like THE WIZARD OF OZ and LABYRINTH. The classic young, female heroine embarking on a journey. The advertisements and clips for TOMORROWLAND definitely gave that nostalgic feeling. In the film, lead heroine CASEY embarks on a journey to find Tomorrowland and bring her own positive idealism back to our world. As I watched the film, it felt like three separate pieces of a puzzle, with only the third act truly feeling like one of these classic journeys.
The first act is incredibly long and points to the idea that the protagonist is not Casey but Frank (George Clooney). It is a long but adorable introduction. It is followed an introduction to Casey, which is equally long. So now this is dual protagonist? The movie is ultimately her goal but there is a very strong subplot for Frank, so you could make a strong argument for dual.
The second act of movies like OZ and LABYRINTH are dedicated to the journey and for me they are the most fun of the film. We learn about the world, make new friends, and are tested repeatedly. That happens in Tomorrowland but it is very clunky. We still haven’t made it to Tomorrowland but that is okay as well, in Oz and Labyrinth that visual looming over the heroine is what keeps the story going. The problem is that no one is giving Casey any answers to her questions, so while we see the difference in technology between the two worlds, we are not learning enough about what the film is ultimately about. Now, you can argue that the theme is clear from the beginning of the film, which it is. The problem is that the antagonist is not visually revealed yet and these sequences throughout the second act become very reactionary for Casey. She does not know anything about how to get to Tomorrowland. In Oz, Dorothy needs help, guides, but she can physically see the path before her and the audience can see the Wicked Witch directly sending obstacles against her. In Labyrinth, the path might be constantly changing, but you can still visually see it and know that the only way to the castle is through the maze with the help of Sarah’s guides. For Casey, no information is provided so all she can do is nod and follow when her guides tell her what the next step is. It is not enough of a battle for her as an individual.
The third act comes in and saves the day. Once Casey and crew make it to Tomorrowland the entire journey makes sense. For most movies, all the mistakes that have been hidden throughout the script along the way are revealed in the third act. For this film, the final reveal of Tomorrowland and bringing all of the information full circle so that Casey can make a strong third act decision are what save this film. The downside is that Casey does not have a character arch. She was an idealist that wants to make the world a better place in the beginning and she is the same in the end. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learns to appreciate the world around her and embrace the people in her life. In Labyrinth, Sarah learns the importance of her words and actions towards her family, as well as how to embrace the people in her life. Casey does not have these issues. Apart from one getting caught for a criminal incident one time, she is kind of the perfect kid. So what does she have to learn? Frank has a beautiful emotional arch but the first and third act decisions both belong to Casey, so the story is hers.
While watching the film, I could not help but think of two others: WALL-E and FROZEN. Wall-E has a clear environmental message that I found refreshing, and while some people may have felt like they were being hit over the head with the message, I thought they balanced it well. A similar tone is brought forward in Tomorrowland, and is even more present. I thought of FROZEN because that story was a structural MESS (I will fight anyone who disagrees, that movie is a screenwriting disaster). They similarly switched protagonists mid-film, the second act sequences are very clunky, and the third act similarly saves the everything that comes before.
The difference is that I think that Tomorrowland is better than the reviews that it has been given, and I would willingly watch it again. In fact, I would watch Tomorrowland as a television series. There is a moment when the characters finally hand the story over to Casey and all I thought was this is the journey I want to see. I have a friend who said the film was trying to do too much in the two hours, which is true. It could easily edit things out, but I want more of this world. This would be such an amazing adventure series, something that we have not seen on television even as Disney makes all these great sitcoms for tweens and young adults, they have not stepped up in drama or action-adventure series. Here is an amazing opportunity to bring a cinematic universe to a weekly series for an idealistic generation. I hope they take the positives of this story and turn it into something more positive for their demographic.