Tomorrowland features the biggest movie star in the world and was written and directed by auteurs with serious artistic and fanboy clout. It’s inching towards recouping its $190 million budget, but will most likely put Disney in the hole for $140 million, and could be another nail in the coffin for allegedly original Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking.
But mourn not for Tomorrowland. Its bumbling did not, as Variety cried, expose Hollywood’s “originality problem.” It was from the ground up a cynical corporate mishmash masquerading as an original concept, and we should celebrate its John Carter-level descent into the dustbin of movie history.
The biggest lie the makers of Tomorrowland ever told was that their movie was original. Technically, yes, the convoluted plot of the movie was an original idea only if you’ve never heard of Ayn Rand, but this is a movie based around an amusement park that’s been a thriving part of the lives of children all over the world for the better part of 60 years. That, ladies and gentlemen, is some premium generational brand recognition. It’s facile bordering on facetious to suggest that Tomorrowland is original simply because no one had yet stuck a script underneath that title before. To quote Belle from another Disney gamble that actually did pay off, this is a tale as old as time.
It’s a cinematic marketing sleight of hand that wanted to portray itself as distinct from the pool of reboots, remakes, and sequels in the summer blockbuster season. Tomorrowland used branded iconography as motivation instead of the genuine kind of inspiration that makes original hits.
By the numbers, Tomorrowland wasn’t a total disaster. It has pulled in just over $85 million in the United States and upwards of $93 million abroad a month of release. But critically and commercially, it was no Pirates of the Caribbean. All the Clooney in the world won’t lug this dud into the pantheon of the franchises it set out to unseat. Disney has the capacity to come up with original concepts that feel fresher, and should look outside its own walls for inspiration.