Brad Bird is one of those directors who has rather quietly and unassumingly been absolutely brilliant throughout his entire career.

Debuting with the now classic animation The Iron Giant in 1999, he made one of the last great 2D animated movies, one that can reduce anybody to a blubbering mess of tears. The film was something of a flop on its release, but it endured and will rightfully be looked back on as a masterpiece.

Though Bird's next film also deserves to be considered in the same bracket, 2004's The Incredibles took Pixar's animation company to a whole new level, stuffing his action-packed and very funny superhero tale with complex relationships and some quite dark philosophical wonderings.

He then stepped in after a director needed replacing on 2007's Ratatouille, and managed to make a film about a rat who loves to cook a delightful comedic wonder. He worked similar magic on the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, creating a zippy, nail-biting and imaginative suspense movie that pulled in huge piles of cash.

Which lead to Disney giving him a peculiar assignment; a movie based on an area of a theme park. Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland was a vision of the future based in boundless optimism, a place designed to inspire future generations on a bit of downtime from fairground rides and performers dressed as cartoons.

It's from that springboard Bird (and co-writer Damon Lindelof) suggest that the futuristic city suggested by Disney actually exists and - way back at the 1964 World's Fair - inventors were being recruited secretly to go there to help envisage a better tomorrow.

One such inventor was young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson), who brings a not-quite-finished jet-pack to one of the fair's judges - Nix (Hugh Laurie). Nix isn't impressed with Frank's boundless imagination, though a young girl called Athena (Raffey Cassidy) takes a shine to him, presenting him with a metallic pin and encourages him to follow her.

In the present day we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), daughter of a former NASA engineer who spends her evenings attempting to sabotage the destruction of a decomissioned launch site, because she doesn't want the dream of space travel to die. After getting arrested she finds herself in possession of a pin identical to that gifted to the young Frank and it offers her a tantilising glimpse of Tomorrowland, a giddy tour of the retro-futuristic city in which Casey's dreams seem possible.

From here her quest to discover Tomorrowland becomes fraught with danger, she's escorted by Athena on her adventure to the reclusive, aged and bitter Frank (George Clooney) who is reluctant to help, but, as they finds their lives threatened it seems like they've got no choice but to work together.

Tomorrowland - the film - is something of a mess, ultimately it has a very strong, very contemporary, message at its core that it doesn't always manage to avoid sledgehammering into the audience's minds, coming perilously close to lecturing and hectoring at times.

Frustratingly the film makes a stumbling, clumsy start with the film presented in flashback, stories told by Frank and Casey, which renders everything a little limp and lacking in complete surprise and wonder. One can't help but think things would've worked better if we began from Casey's point of view and discovered Frank's story after we meet him as a grumpy old man.

Meanwhile there's occasionally a hasty patchwork quality to the film that suggests a struggle to beat the story into shape, and character development unfortunately is the thing that suffers most as a result. We lose a lot of the impact of the film's message and meaning because the characters don't really seem to develop at all, meaning they often inhabit this awkward sort of better-than-you position of privilege and power that feels oddly patronising.

For instance, we're told that Casey is very special but we're never really given a resonate enough reason as to why that is.

Having said that, Britt Robertson is a blessing, her performance manages to propel the film along when things slump and sag, so it's a shame that she isn't always given enough to do, often just staring in wonder or yelping in fear. All the relationships in the film seem to exist apart from her, and - admittedly rather nicely - she has a good relationship with her family, so nothing to worry about there.

It's in the details that the film works, with there being plenty of animation-like invention in the set-pieces to keep entertainment levels up (though having the human characters largely exhibit the same resilience to injury as Wile E. Coyote doesn't help things along). Whilst this is expected of the visually brilliant and imaginative Bird, it's a shame that he seems to fumble the ball when it comes to characters, which is usually his strongest point in his animated work.

In amongst all the confusion there's a fantastic film, much like the titular Tomorrowland itself, there's the desire to do something beautful and brilliant, with the best of intentions, but somewhere in the execution things have gone awry and what's left is a confused, strangely desolate and dull husk that merely passes the time instead of brimming with the life and wonderment that clearly lead to its creation.

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Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here