A mysterious pin. Being suddenly transported to an open field, a shining city of the future rising up in the distance. And of course, the promise of a hopeful message derived from the legacy of the man who sparked that famous quote, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Then the reviews started coming out. And they weren’t exactly positive. Critics called the film judgmental and sentimental. Many Christian reviewers, due to the film’s diversity and brief mentions of the environment, dismissed the movie as having a politically liberal agenda. After reading such criticisms, I’ve seen many people wonder if perhaps Tomorrowland isn’t as good as its trailer made it out to be.
I’m here to tell you it is.
Tomorrowland captivated me from beginning to end. The story, though not perfect by any means, was compelling. The special effects were beautiful. I fell in love with the characters and the relationships they formed with each other — in particular, Athena and her storyline with Frank. The city itself was an amazing array of possibilities. But the best, and surprisingly most dividing, aspect was the message of the story.
I know why the critics dislike it. I know what it is they’re referring to when they call it “judgmental.” From the very start, Tomorrowland issues disapproval toward a certain kind of people — and it might even be said, the majority of people. And while this might sound judgmental on the surface, I don’t believe it is accurate to call it that. Instead, I think, the movie makes a very rightful judgment, and offers a valuable insight about the general public: People have given up.
Everyone has their own reasons, of course. Christians are acutely aware of the corruption in the world, that the earth as we know it is marked for destruction, that there’s no hope of permanently “fixing” our culture or defeating sin in this earthly life. Unbelievers rally over the injustices in society, so distracted seeking out and shaming whoever they’ve labeled as the enemy, they lose sight of seeking real change, as well as the hope of protecting those they fight for. The human race has become ready — anxious, even — to accept defeat.
Tomorrowland takes this mindset and calls it out for what it is: bad stewardship. While everyone is busy dwelling on the problem, Tomorrowland asks a question very often forgotten: What do we do about it? Although we can never have total victory in this life, that is certainly not grounds for giving up. God intended us to rejoice in the little (at times, also large) victories, even in this present life. Most of all, He intended us to engage our world proactively.
Many have condemned the film for not solving all the problems it presents. But what they don’t see is this is part of the point. Tomorrowland wants to remind us the problems it portrays are not fantasy problems to be tied up in a neat bow at the end of the film, so we can smile, forget, and get on with our lives as per usual. The film presents real problems — our problems. And instead of offering a temporary escapism, it reminds us that the story we’re watching is our own. That, when we leave the theater, it will still be up to us to do something. And this is not a message of condemnation but of inspiration — a stepping stone so we can start the journey to find the solution. Our problems are not meant to be a burden. They are our responsibility, but also our privilege, to solve.
In a world where advances in technology lead to more weapons and more distractions, and advances in science raise more and more questions about ethics, it’s easy to view the future as something godless and ominous. It’s easy to fear tomorrow. But that’s exactly why we need films like Tomorrowland. It reminds us the future doesn’t have to be scary. It can also be beautiful, if we step up to our God-given callings and steer the world toward a better tomorrow. It reawakens our mind, our creativity, our innovation — parts of us that have died little by little every time we turn on the news. It helps us remember our hope.
Best of all, Tomorrowland celebrates the unique talents of humanity. Just as the Bible tells us we are each different parts of Christ’s body with individual callings, Tomorrowland reminds us that no matter our race, sex, class, background, or abilities, we can make a difference and help mold the future.
So be wary of critics who dismiss Tomorrowland. Be wary of critics who condemn a movie for having “too many” cast members of a certain color, then turn around and complain of the lack of tolerance toward those who hate imagination. Think twice before trusting those who stand up for pessimists, and see only condemnation in a film about creativity and reaching one’s full potential. It’s a shame that even the Christian reviewers of today see only judgment and “liberal agendas” in a movie that upholds God-given optimism. It only proves that the message of Tomorrowland is exactly what is needed. Perhaps it’s time to listen to that message.
Perhaps, as Christians, it’s time to take back optimism.
- Regular Thursday writer E. Stephen Burnett ended up taking a one-month sabbatical. His SpecFaith contributions will resume shortly. ↩