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There’s a running sort-of joke/sort-of gripe in online film geek circles about Brad Bird being a secret Objectivist, mainly based on really, really cynical readings of THE INCREDIBLES (i.e. naturally-gifted superheroes versus a society that wants them to conform to averageness and a villain whose plan partly involves using technology to level the human/superhuman playing field). I’m not fully onboard with that reading of his career (THE IRON GIANT’s philosophy is slightly to the left of Captain Nemo, for one thing) but it’s interesting to consider. Ayn Rand’s peculiar mix of philosophy and proto self-esteem mythmaking has long found favor with artists, storytellers and sundry visionaries who otherwise operate well outside Objectivism’s capitalism-as-secular-religion framework, so who can say?
In any case, the new trailer for his big Disney theme-park tentpole TOMORROWLAND will likely do nothing to quell that; as it unveils more of the film’s up to now top-secret storyline:
Spoilers (for trailer-avoiders) after the jump…
So yeah, the premise here really does seem to be a Disneyfication of ATLAS SHRUGGED: A young woman (a girl in her early teens, in this case) of inventive/technical disposition morose at the lack of optimism re: futurism and invention in her world (early details mentioned the dismantling of the U.S. Space Shuttle program being a plot point) seeks out a mysterious genius/hermit and learns about a secret city where all the great inventors, thinkers and scientific world-changers absconded to after getting sick of being hounded/unappreciated by the normals (some of the viral marketing has suggested the possibility that Walt Disney himself is supposed to be among or even the chief architect of this effort).
The big difference (seemingly) is that where Rand’s “Galt’s Gulch” was basically Pathological-Narcissist Free Marketeer Summer Camp, “Tomorrowland’s” retro-futuristic aesthetic (flying cars, jetpacks, Jetsons-esque architecture) gives off more of a sense that the film’s idea is closer to “This is the world we were promised at the start of the Space Age and would’ve had if short-sightedness and small-mindedness didn’t cripple our drive to push forward.” If so? Sign me the fuck up – that kind of thing gives me literal goosebumps. Even the presence of professional premise-squanderer Damon Lindelof can’t put me off this one. I’m sold.
Also, the presence of action/conflict scenes in Tomorrowland indicate the plot will be less like Rand’s “Hasten the economic apocalypse so we can remind the working-class who was born to be in charge” denouement and more “something went wrong”/”you have to save both worlds”/etc. Just saying – whatever the filmmaker’s “message” here, I can’t really picture George Clooney signing on for a blockbuster that ends with him and Britt Robertson ordering a quelled humanity to bow before their onmnicompetent STEMlords.
I wonder how intentional the ever-so-slight tonal/structural resemblance to BIOSHOCK is, given the parallels. That game was also a reworking of ATLAS, with the twist being that the Galt-ish Andrew Ryan’s dream was doomed to fail and the Objectivist utopia succumbed to innevitable nightmare-ruin. TOMORROWLAND, on the other hand, looks/feels more like a non-sociopathic reworking of the premise than a deconstruction – “What if everyone involved in this project actually meant well?,” etc. If nothing else, radically-reshaping a popular but difficult work into mass-market popular entertainment is the Disney Aparatus functioning exactly as designed.
We’ll find out when TOMORROWLAND opens on May 22nd.
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