Tomorrowland shows us that being smart is no guarantee to wisdom, as we visit a land that while filled with geniuses and their wonders still lacks optimism and initiative. Disney’s Tomorrowlandstars Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Raffey Cassidy and Hugh Laurie. Based off what could arguably be called Walt Disney’s personal favorite area, Tomorrowland mixes modern day fears of apocalyptic destruction and yesteryear’s excessively optimistic view of the future.
Spoiler-free Tomorrowland review
The score was written by Michael Giacchino, and the sample we play in the podcast does good job of evoking the sense of wonder and excitement that serves as the foundation for the fictional—and real-world—Tomorrowland. The movie is a Disney property through and through, and as expected, there are not only quite a few references to the Disney parks, but, at least in once particular scene, an exorbitant amount of prop references to the entire Disney catalog. Most notably, there is A LOT of references to one of the more recent Disney acquisitions, Star Wars.
While the fine folks over at PluggedIn pointed out a few instances of diluted rouge language, they managed to slip by us without notice. It is likely that only very sensitive ears or those who are specifically listening for it will catch them.
There is no overtly sexual content, but there is some bloodless violence—enough and with such presentation that we question if it might night have been more suited to PG13 rating instead of simply PG. According to FilmRating.com, it is rated PG for, “sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.” That, and the MPAA website, are excellent places to learn more about what content earns what ratings, if you’d like to learn more. Tomorrowland was a nice departure from the recent spate of dystopian-themed films, many of which have been aimed at young adult audiences.
The film features not one, but TWO strong female leads, one of which is clearly a preteen or tween girl; combined with the screen graces of heart-throb George Clooney, this movie really packs goodies for women of all ages.
Now, if you have not yet seen Tomorrowland, you should stop reading with this paragraph. Leave the page up, though! Come back to it and pick up from here when you get back! The rest of these show notes will contain spoilers for the movie. We’ll talk about all the stuff that tickled our fancy, but we’ll leave stuff out . . . we’ll have to depend on your comments to address any additional important content that we might have missed.
Ok—if you are still reading, be ready for spoilers.
Responsibility of the Stewards
We found one of the strongest themes in the movie to be that of our responsibility to be proper stewards of what we have. It’s particularly interesting because while the denizens of Tomorrowland stand back and accuse the inhabitants of the prime dimension—perhaps rightfully—of not only mismanaging the resources and power granted to them, but embracing its inevitable consequence of destruction, they unknowingly demonstrate that they are no less guilty in their complete and total apathy and fatalism. Contrasted to the the initiative and optimism of the movie’s hero, Casey Newton, the difference is one of night and day. Where they see the end coming and determine to scowl inactively until the very end, Casey acknowledges the problem and not only seeks guidance on how to fix it, but invests her actions in affecting change.
In regards to the poorly attributed Burke quote: Turns out that not only is the quote, “All that is required for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing,” not James Burke, but it might not even be Edmund Burke! Edmund Burke did say, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle,” which is close, but a closer quote is attributed to John Stuart Mill, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Close counts in quoting, right?
We briefly discuss the nature of the relationship between Frank and Athena, and that provides an excellent springboard for a more detailed discussion on the concepts of love. You’ll find a good primer here, but don’t forget that the best resource for learning about love is the Bible, see 1 Corinthians 13.
It seems that there have been an increasing number of films looking at the emotional role of artificial intelligence, and the question comes up regarding the release dates of A.I. – Artificial Intelligence and Bicentennial Man. The Robin Williams flick is two years older (1999) than the Stephen Spielberg movie staring Haley Joel Osment (2001).
The two wolves
Tomorrowland also references the story of the two wolves, which appears to be from Cherokee Legend under the a few different titles including, “Grandfather tells” and “The Wolves Within.”
Back to stewardship: As Christians we have a mandate from God to take responsibility for His creation, but many non-believers place creation itself in God’s place. The Bible tells us this would happen, in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans [1:22]-23)
There are accusations that the director of Tomorrowland, Brad Bird, is subtlety pushing the Objectivism of Ayn Rand, which bears a resemblance to humanism. It all comes down to where your hope is; a question so important as to be listed first in creeds like the Heidelberg Catechism:
1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
Not surprisingly, questions of philosophy and theology are often found hand in hand, and if you enjoy science fiction and wonder about the philosophical angles, we think you might enjoy one of our Noodle.mx sister podcasts, The Sci Phi Show, hosted by our friend Jason Rennie. Not only does he have the podcast (currently on hiatus) but he also has a terrific, Hugo award nominated periodical publication that dives into these questions head-first: Sci Phi Journal: Issue #1, October 2014: The Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy. Check it out—you won’t be disappointed!
Stewardship is a common theme in the Bible and an important one to Christ; he addressed the topic of money more than any other subject. For example, check out the Parable of the Talents. Christ makes it clear that we are not only to take care of that which is in our care, but we are to nurture and increase it. In Tomorrowland, we see the same contrasts of stewardship as in the parable, with governor Nix having received the single talent. This is reflected in his attitude, as Casey’s attitude is that of the servant who doubled her money.
Devaluing of human life
The apathy of Nix and the people of Tomorrowland inundates the story, and may well explain the complete disregard for human life that they exhibited. We, as Christians, should be cognizant of a disturbing apparent trend towards the devaluing of life in the many forms of media we interact with. Not only are lives extinguished with abandon in media, but there seems to be a purposeful ignorance of the psychological consequences of the violence on the person who exercises it. It is almost as if the state of the empathy-less psychopath is being pushed as the norm.
As Christians, we are ready to die, as Paul was in his letter to the church in Philippi:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians [1:21]-23)
But we also know the cost to those that are lost, should they die unsaved, and are undeniably instructed to seek out and minister in the name of Christ:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew [28:18]-20)
While it is difficult for believers to understand how some can see all there is to see—even the resurrection of the dead—yet still not believe, Christ knew it to be true:
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke [16:19]-31)
The PluggedIn review does suggest that the metaphor of the Wolves Within can also represent the battle between the flesh versus the spirit, as Paul discusses in Romans 7:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans [7:15])
One question that we couldn’t resolve concerns a scene at the end of the movie, where the new “recruiters” are all sent off, and we are asking for your help in identifying the correct answer! Were the newest “generation” of recruiters all in the tween-aged years, similar to Athena, or were there others, representing more mature agents?
When will the world end?
All in all, Tomorrowland shares a lot of the same questions that we Christians should be asking—and answering—but that similarity may be nothing more than common concern. Tomorrowland does not point you in the direction of the Savior, in fact, it doesn’t point you in much of a direction at all. It holds the end of the world up as the great and terrible end, but this is not something that we necessarily should fear. And while we will never know the when . . .
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark [13:32])
. . . when know we are to be ready:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)
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