Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Thoughts On Tomorrowland

Today, I've seen a movie that absolutely necessitated me to do one thing that I've not done before on this little blog - write a movie review. That movie is none other than Disney's latest wonderfully extravagant salute to the power of human imagination and ingenuity - Tomorrowland.

But because I'm a far from conventional dude, this is going to be a far from conventional review. It'll focus less on the movie itself and more on its connections to other movies, not to mention this here real, ever-changing world in which we live in.

First shout-out of the day: a hat-tip to Sir Paul.

Let's start by examining some of the most recent movies Disney did before this one. Two and a half years ago, Disney put out the movie that fully restored my lost faith in animation that they hadn't served up. Having been disappointed in Up, Tangled, and even Toy Story 3, all of which I'd found ridiculously overhyped and overrated (although I've come to like TS3 since then), Pixar bounced back with the visual beauty and fascinating story of Brave. But I didn't see that one before seeing one of the film world's most epic mashups of some seriously disparate genres. Not film genres, though - video game genres.

"Wreck-It Ralph is a giant of a man
Nine feet tall with really big hands
Livin' on a stump on his very own land
Until his world went crazy..."

Eventually, after a fictional classic arcade game meshed unbelievably well with sugary-sweet racers and a wildly obsessed hunter-killer of Cy-Bugs, I did finally catch the party on Pixar's best leading lady ever.

Now and forever shooting for her own hand!

Let's get back in order here, now we're gonna jump ahead to only eighteen months ago, to November 2013. You all remember the instant smash hit latest addition to Disney's animated canon, featuring two new princesses, hella ear-worm-y new songs, and so much beautiful ice and snow to distract from any story weaknesses the movie has.

Also the catalyst for OUAT's best storyline yet.

Don't get me wrong - I actually liked the movie when I first saw it. But does it really deserve all the hype it gets? No. It's good for kids, and easily analyzable by adults, but unlike the songs, the story has a harder time sticking in my brain. It's harder for me to connect to other stories thematically, which, I think, is the hallmark of the best stories told in film and literature. I am aware that my opinion may not be very popular, but it is my opinion, and as Roger Ebert says, "All criticism is subjective." So, if you feel the need to sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches on my account, you may do so. But it won't change my thoughts.

Such as the fact that this moment, right here,
is my favorite part of the movie.

But the best thing about Frozen is how it sets itself apart from other Disney movies by playing around with the traditional Disney tropes, particularly those of the Princess movies. It sets up the obvious Big Bad, and obvious love interest for our latest Princess - and then turns those on its head by making neither obvious candidate for either position the correct one.

The Disney Deconstruction continued a year ago with the release of a live-action adaptation of one of the classic Disney Princess movies. I've not seen Sleeping Beauty before, but I do know of that movie's iconic villain. She got her own movie, with the writer of Alice in Wonderland on board, and as a Villain Protagonist, she helped make one of the most unique Disney movies in memory.

Behold her horned, cheekboned glory!

Helping push this movie on Disney's path of making increasingly different, un-Disney-like movies was the one moment that turned Maleficent into a villain. Even before I knew what the scene was meant to represent (you never expected Disney to green-light a movie with a rape metaphor, did you?) I instinctively teared up for Maleficent when her wings were taken from her. As a longtime fan of Maximum Ride (and, later, Angelfall and Generation Icarus), I know that there is a special hell reserved for those who would dare to prevent those capable of exploring the air from doing so. It's can't do that. It's a huge, huge taboo as far as I'm concerned.

Amen, Shepherd Book. A-friggin'-men.

And then along came, six months ago, my new favorite animated movie of all time. Between the beautiful setting (a mashup of the city my parents called home, and another massive metropolis just an ocean away), the intense emotional gamut-running, and the wildest comic-book action not portrayed on-screen by flesh-and-blood humans, it's no wonder, too.

Yeah, yeah, you haven't seen the first five yet. But who cares?
THIS is the one everyone in the world needs to see.

At its core, Big Hero 6 is, like Wreck-It Ralph, an epic little mashup. In this case, the mashing-up lies not only in its setting, but also in its protagonist, Hiro Hamada, who blends the engineering talents of this guy...

Mmm...donuts. :)

...and the tragic, death-in-the-family backstory of this guy...

It's hard to say whose heart the universe enjoys breaking more.

...while keeping both their snarkastic senses of humor intact.

Not actual lines from the movie, but you gotta admit -
these are TOTALLY in character.

Oh, and while we're at it...Baymax. The most adorable thing EVAH. The best fictional robot, best health-care provider (despite his painful slowness), best fist-bumper, and sometimes he can be cuter than your average miniature schnauzer begging for playtime.

Baymax, fetch! Good boy! *pats his head*

Now, there are three trends that the last three movies I've mentioned have all followed. First, they alternate between animation and live action. Second, they get increasingly dark and emotional. And third, they get less money at the box office with each successive entry. Frozen got over a billion dollars, Maleficent got about 750 mill, and Big Hero 6 got a little over 500 million.

Following these same trends is Disney's latest release.

"You ain't seen nothing yet."

Looking at the trailers, they were trailers done right. Each one focused on one specific scene from the movie - for example, the scene in which Casey (Britt Roberston, best known as Angie from Under The Dome) picks up a pin that allows her to see into Tomorrowland, or the scene where she goes to see Frank (George Clooney, but you already knew that) and ends up dragged along for the ride as he weaponizes his house against robotic invaders before they make themselves a daring escape. That first showcased the movie's promise, and that second showcased its high action (with director Brad Bird at the helm, what else would you expect?) But neither of them really gave away the point of the movie, for which my viewing experience was all the better. This is one of those movies that utterly depends on not being spoiled, especially not in the trailers.

Also proof of this movie's quality -
it's co-written by Damon Lindelof of Lost.

So, for that reason, all I will say about the main plot of this dark, emotionally-wrenching, and sadly-underperforming-at-the-box-office movie is this: George Clooney and Stiles Stilinski's real-life girlfriend must save the world from Dr. House.

The sad thing is, in the movie, he's completely right.
So expect Cracked to use him for their next article.

I will also not spoil too much about the movie's message, which is, quite simply, that we humans must all stay positive and believe in our ability to change the world. As a writer who's not been officially published, such thinking is often the only thing that keeps me going as I pursue my dreams. Having still not been able to attract a single literary agent after sending so many query letters (over fifty at last count), I need to remember that in some universe known either to man or tachyons, I will be published, and I will become the next big bestselling YA author. Whether or not it's the one I'm currently inhabiting...well, lemme get back to you on that, buddy. But while I do write to show the world the warped sense of reality in my own head, I have a bigger, more noble purpose as well. Just as the YA greats before me - chief among them, of course, J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, James Patterson, Cassandra Clare, Heather Brewer, Ransom Riggs, Veronica Roth, Marissa Meyer, and more other amazingly talented individuals than I can shake a stick at or count on all my fingers and toes - have influenced this generation of young readers and writers, so I must one day influence the next generation.

The movie does a great job putting that message out, even with its reliance on hard science. But it puts it best with something only a gifted writer (like Bird and Lindelof) could have come up with: a metaphor given to Casey by her dad: (paraphrased): "You are met by two wolves. One represents darkness and despair...

With apologies to Derek's fans, but I needed
a blue-eyed werewolf to make my point.

"...and the other, brightness and hope...

For those who aren't into Teen Wolf -
the werewolves' eyes are normally this color.

Unless they've killed an innocent soul.

"So which one wins? The one you feed." And with that, I now have something else to add to my usual blogging signature.

Feed the right wolf.
Remember - Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

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