By James Hirsen
Copyright James Hirsen
Despite the fact that Disney’s latest film “Tomorrowland” cost $190 million to make, was cleverly marketed, had a coveted Memorial Day weekend release date, and counts among its cast members major A-lister George Clooney, the environmentally correct movie has turned out to be a debut dud.
Falling far short of its Hollywood expectations, the film managed to garner only $33 million in its three-day opening and disappointedly took in a lower than expected $40 million over the four-day holiday span, barely edging out “Pitch Perfect 2” in its second high-note week.
“Tomorrowland” received a below par “B” rating from CinemaScore. Now Disney finds itself in the position of having to rely on robust international receipts to recoup its massive investment.
Coyly kept from the press and public prior to its release were the plot details of the film, which resulted in rampant Internet speculation and story rumors. The marketing and advertising campaign that was launched led moviegoers to believe that an action-packed sci-fi thriller was in store for viewers. However, what Disney delivered instead was a big-screen global warming discourse that could have been written by Al Gore himself.
Heavy-handed enviro-preaching from Clooney and co-star Hugh Laurie were probably not what the majority of Disney theme park fans were expecting during their theater excursion. In fact, within the business of product advertising, and in common parlance as well, the whole approach might easily be labeled a “bait and switch.”
In a world of instantaneous communication and opinion sharing via social media, this is basically a formula for box-office disaster.
The central focus of the movie’s plot is a futuristic region that is located in a parallel universe. In a left-wing version of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” a locale named after a certain theme park attraction was created by the most brilliant minds of their time, including inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla, novelist Jules Verne, and inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Edison, all of whom have founded “Tomorrowland” in order to pursue idealistic creativity sans interference.
As the utopian geography of the ethereal locale is revealed to moviegoers, imagery from a liberal fantasy unfolds complete with windmills that supply electrical power and a society adorned in indistinguishable attire.
The reliable ultra-talented director Brad Bird (best known for “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”) was apparently unable to discern the trap into which his latest project had fallen, but even the Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon made note of the overt subtext of the film.
“George Clooney’s new summer blockbuster shames us for our roles in global warming and a potpourri of other earthly calamities,” Fallon wrote.
Referring to the expectations of summer moviegoers, Fallon posed the question: “When was the last time Transformers made you think about your carbon footprint?”
Disney will now turn to the international market to take up the box-office slack. Clooney is headed to Shanghai to walk the red carpet at the film’s China premiere.
It is apparent that Clooney was selected for this particular film role, at least in part, because of his political leanings, something that film critic Justin Chang of Variety has noted in the following: “Clooney seems to have been cast as much for his liberal credentials as for his star power, and it’s a choice that can’t help but leave a somewhat smug aftertaste.”
Chang added that Clooney is “almost too fitting a spokesman for a movie that urges humanity to end all wars, take responsibility for the environment, and foster a greater, more alert engagement with the world around us.”