‘Tomorrowland’ Is a Box-Office Disappointment

24 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: ‘Tomorrowland’ Narrowly Beats ‘Pitch Perfect 2′ in Disappointing Debut.

Brad Bird’s tentpole Tomorrowland has narrowly pulled ahead of blockbuster Pitch Perfect 2 at the Memorial Day box office with an estimated three-day debut of $32.2 million, putting its four-day domestic launch at a disappointing $40.7 million for powerhouse Disney. “Tomorrowland,” a new George Clooney sci-fi feature from Walt Disney Co,, topped the North American box office in its debut over a slow Memorial Day weekend.A $190 million summer blockbuster starring George Clooney based on an area in a Disney theme park hits theaters, presumably hoping to rake in at least that much at the box office.

Developed under the working title 1952, Disney’s theme-park fuelled adventure (more Epcot than Disneyland) has grand ideas and gorgeous future-retro designs to spare.Tomorrowland is a big, bold, confusing folly of a film – designed by Disney as an antidote to the dystopian futureworlds that the box-office has been feeding on in recent years.

The film, its name culled from Disney theme parks, collected $32.2 million in the U.S and Canada, researcher Rentrak Corp. said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. Its narrative goal, however: to get you to stop caring so much about the vapid capitalistic things that are ruining us all and instead maybe do something to make the world a better place.

Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) teamed up with writer Damon Lindelof (Lost) on the movie that seems to combine the idea of a secluded elite community like Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged, with extreme optimism and dazzling architecture of the future…? Britt Robertson is rebellious Nasa-sprog Casey Newton who gets an enticing glimpse of an Oz-like alternative dimension in which scientists are left alone to build a better tomorrow.

It has two young heroines in the Jennifer Lawrence mould and a grumpy George Clooney as Frank, their reluctant ally – an inventor who’s lost faith in the world’s ability to save itself from the assorted perils it’s facing. With the Earth heading for ecological disaster (global warming, war, famine etc) this utopia could offer a solution, but all is not well in the brave new Eden. Tomorrowland came in behind expectations in North America, and will need to overcome its so-so B CinemaScore and enjoy strong word of mouth in order to end up in the black, considering the live-action fantasy adventure cost $180 million to produce. The movie’s main characters are a teenage girl with a magical pin, Casey (Britt Robertson), a reclusive genius, Frank (George Clooney), and a robot, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who’s looked 12 years old for a very long time.

As with The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, director/co-writer Brad Bird’s fetish for back-to-the-future space-age wonder is tangible – these jet packs, skyscrapers and aerial walkways are worth the price of admission alone. While the title gave “Tomorrowland’ name recognition with theme-park fans, bringing new stories to the big screen is riskier than sequels, spinoffs and reboots, and Disney spent about $190 million making the picture. The storytelling, however, is not so sleek, with George Clooney’s once-idealistic inventor significantly struggling to explain the set-up, and proselytising exposition about the nature of human endeavour lacking dramatic (if not philosophical) punch. We’ve become hooked on the bad news, translating its apocalyptic nightmares into novels, movies, video games and TV shows and sitting back to wallow in our pessimism. The studio is enjoying a strong start to the summer movie season with more than $1 billion in sales from ‘‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’’ and releases Pixar’s ‘‘Inside Out’’ next month.

Young Raffey Cassidy is a scene-stealer as the film’s AI-like enigma and Hugh Laurie keeps a straight face in a costume lifted straight from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. We’re introduced to a wide-eyed teenager named Casey (played by Britt Robertson), the daughter of a NASA engineer, who refuses to accept the end of the Space Race era, and the optimism and spirit it embodied. A wide-eyed young prodigy full of enthusiasm about a new invention he’s cobbled together out of vacuum cleaner parts and other bits of hardware, he is on his way to the 1954 World’s Fair in New York to enter his creation in a competition.

The next part is the wee bit of sci-fi wonkiness: Casey is recruited by an ageless adolescent android who gives her a pin that transports her to Tomorrowland—a Jetsons-like utopia where the brightest, purest minds in the world were meant to gather to manufacture the brightest future possible. It’s a jetpack which can bump along the ground in speedy bursts while steadfastly refusing to take to the air, and predictably enough, the chief judge (Hugh Laurie at his testiest) fails to be impressed. George Clooney, at one point decades earlier, was also gifted a pin and access to this utopia, where he was once swept away by the romance and promise of a blissful tomorrow. Decades later, now that Tomorrowland is all but defunct, his character is a crusty old man who passes his days staring at a bank of TV sets playing clips from 24-hour news stations detailing the disastrous state of our present: global warming, famine, wildfire, drought, climate change, endless war, endless disease.

Overseas, the sequel earned another $15.2 million from 37 markets for a dazzling foreign total of $61.7 million and worldwide haul of $187 million through Monday (that includes just north of $125 million in North America). A genius inventor in his own right, Clooney’s character fashioned a countdown clock, ticking away to the moment that these things—most of which are disasters of our making, consequences of our selfish behavior—will cause Armageddon. Damon Lindelof, co-creator of the TV series Lost, came up with the inspiration for the screenplay after learning about Disney’s involvement in the 1964 World Fair and a subsequent plan for the company to set up a model city incorporating successive scientific and social innovations.

From Disney and Marvel Studios, the superhero tentpole will jump the $400 million mark at the domestic box office sometime on Sunday, becoming the first film to achieve that feat since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen, both released in November 2013. To that regard, it’s Clooney’s character who is the stand-in for the audience, not, as it initially seemed, our gumptious young heroine, who is fueled on her pursuit to fix the world by her own personal jetpack of boundless optimism and limitless dreaming. Age of Ultron has now grossed $860 million internationally, including $210 million in China, for a global haul of $1.263 billion, the seventh-bet showing of all time and passing up Iron Man 3 this weekend. After Tomorrowland, the other new Memorial Day offering is MGM and Fox 2000’s Poltergeist, which posted a three-day gross of $23 million for an estimated $27.7 million four-day opening, putting it at No. 4, just behind holdover Mad Max: Fury Road. They also involve some complicated time travel, a bit of opaque theorising about parallel dimensions and a digression into the history of the Eiffel Tower.

The real purpose of it all, however, is to put Frank, Athena and Casey on the run from Nix and a team of malevolent robots as they tackle the knotty question of trying to work out what precisely is going on. The film is directed and co-written by Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles), one of Disney’s major talents, but the wit which usually energises his work has gone missing.

Wearing stubble and an outfit which is yet to meet a washing machine, Clooney puts in a performance veering dizzily between irascibility and indifference. But it was George Miller’s holdover Fury Road that topped the international box office overall with $38.2 million from 70 markets, pushing the movie’s global total to north of $212 million for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures.

Clooney has been admirably resistant to big, traditional summer blockbusters—save for one nippled Caped Crusader catastrophe—in his career, and is therefore making a very pointed and deliberate decision in making Tomorrowland, and the values and morals it proliferates, his rare foray into the genre. You’re a more closed-off and insulated person than even Tomorrowland speculates you are if you’re not aware of Clooney’s own celebrity-turned-superhero crusades.

How our ignorance of calamities going on in the far reaches of the world will end up affecting all of us as those conflicts begin reverberating outside of the far-flung regions we so easily ignore. These are heady things to think about, and it’s at times off-putting how sincerely Tomorrowland wears its heart on its sleeve, or how it sometimes tends toward finger-wagging didacticism.

That typically refers to how many different, new, and spectacular ways studios can blow up things, transport us to other dimensions, and delight us with whizbangs and kabooms. How do you wake people up out of their somnambulant compliance and get them not just optimistic about the future, but engaged in charting the direction of it? In fact, a lot of the scoffing at the film’s Big Idea ambition speaks to the jadedness and state of culture that Tomorrowland actually seeks to expose and confront. As he told New York magazine, quite self-satisfyingly, “This is a very different sort of conversation than you have for most summer movies, isn’t it?”

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