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‘Tomorrowland’ asks, ‘What kind of world do we want?’

“Tomorrowland” (2015). Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Bauer, Thomas Robinson, Pierce Gagnon, Shiloh Nelson. Director: Brad Bird. Screenplay: Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird. Story: Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird and Jeff Jensen. Web site. Trailer.

Is the world we live in something that we create, or is it something that’s capriciously thrust upon us? Consequently, should we look upon our circumstances with supreme optimism or eternal pessimism? Indeed, what are we to make of it all? In the end, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers to these questions, for it all ultimately depends on what we believe. And that’s where the story begins in the new summertime action-adventure, “Tomorrowland.”

In 1964, aspiring young inventor Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) attends the New York World’s Fair in hopes of winning a prize in an inventors’ competition. He stakes his claim on his creation of a personal jetpack, a novel idea that, though fun and whimsical, doesn’t quite work. Even though he makes an impassioned case for the merits of his device, the head of the inventors’ contest, David Nix (Hugh Laurie), summarily dismisses the brainchild of the young Edison.

But, despite the flaws in Frank’s contraption, he and his device are not without fans, most notably a bright-eyed, articulate young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who seems to have some special sort of influence with Nix. Although she’s unable to secure an appeal for Frank’s case, she does possess the power to offer him something better – an introduction to a magical place where his sort of inspired thinking is celebrated (and where he just might be able to get his jetpack to work). Athena points the way to a special transporter that whisks away Frank to the miracle of Tomorrowland, a sparkling, awe-inspiring world where technologies beyond belief abound and where all of the hopes of a starry-eyed, dream-filled generation are fulfilled.

But is Tomorrowland too good to be true? And what of the world Frank left behind? That’s where the next phase of this story comes in.

Skip ahead to the present day, where a bright, high-spirited teen, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), sees a world of potential in a world beset by despair. Despite a constant barrage of predictions involving everything from environmental degradation to global war to economic collapse, Casey views a future full of wonder, one where the promise of technology and enlightened thinking can turn around all of the world’s ills, provided its inhabitants make an effort to bring it into being.

In many ways, Casey is very much unlike those around her, especially since she’s one of the few who’s willing to take action to see her dreams come true. This sets her apart from most of her peers and captures the attention of someone who can help her realize her aspirations, a bright-eyed, articulate young girl named (you guessed it) Athena, the same mysterious facilitator who worked her magic 50 years earlier (and who apparently hasn’t aged a day since).

With the aid of a special Tomorrowland lapel pin, Athena provides her newest protégé with a glimpse of this magical place. Casey is initially bewildered but ultimately captivated and wants to see and experience more. Athena is pleased at Casey’s response, but this time there’s more at stake than just nurturing a prodigy’s scientific curiosity. The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance, and Casey holds the key to solving the problems of each. The question is, will she get an opportunity to prove herself?

To complicate matters, getting into Tomorrowland is considerably more difficult now than it was in 1964. Attaining this goal won’t be easy; in fact, it’s an undertaking that requires the technical expertise of someone who knows how to break through the seemingly impenetrable barrier between the worlds. That’s where the help of a now-grown up former visitor, Frank Walker (George Clooney), comes into play.

Convincing Frank to return to Tomorrowland may be easier said than done, however. His experience didn’t quite turn out as hoped for. With the promise of Tomorrowland falling short of expectations, he was forced to return to the world from which he came. And, with his view now sufficiently jaded, he has little desire to go back. But, when his own existence becomes threatened, he has no place to hide and no choice but to return. And so, before long, Frank, Athena and Casey are on their way to an appointment with destiny – and with an old nemesis, David Nix – an encounter with implications far beyond anything that any of them can believe. But, ironically enough, it’s their beliefs that may well prove to be their – and everyone else’s – salvation.

Most of us are no doubt familiar with the expression “Life is what you make of it.” That sentiment is, in essence, a simplified way of explaining the functioning of the practice of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we manifest our existence based on our thoughts, beliefs and intents. It’s a concept that works both individually, with regard to the materialization of our personal realities, and collectively, when it comes to the creation of our shared experiences. And, when the philosophy is understood in these terms, it’s easy to see where the central narrative of “Tomorrowland” is coming from.

In a nutshell, the film asks us, “What kind of a world do we want to create for ourselves?” We clearly have a choice in the matter. We can either choose to manifest one in which we saddle ourselves with seemingly unsolvable challenges, or we can create one in each we take action to address our problems and see our most cherished dreams realized. So which one will it be? The answer rests with us. But, whichever option we select, we will get the reality we concentrate on – and the one we deserve.

Some might take issue with this idea, insisting that there are elements outside of our control. But, as one of the film’s principals so astutely points out, our beliefs dictate the reality that arises, no matter what form it may take. This is even true for those who believe they have no say in the matter, and, though they may attempt to absolve themselves from the process of how their existence arises, they ultimately can’t. A reality characterized by seemingly unsolvable challenges inherently stems from beliefs that make such an existence possible, regardless of whether or not we choose to accept or deny the veracity of that notion.

One could legitimately ask why anyone would want to manifest an existence that operates along those lines. While a number of answers are possible, it most likely has to do with learning a valuable life lesson, one associated with the concept of responsibility. Indeed, when the deck seems irretrievably stacked against us, it’s easy to roll over and say, “There’s nothing I can do to fix this.” But a disavowal like this, no matter how strongly felt, fails to acknowledge who manifested this reality in the first place. And, when anyone who attempts to deny such involvement comes to realize otherwise, it’s quite an eye-opening experience. With responsibility suddenly staring us squarely in the face, we’re forced into changing our outlook (and, one would hope, our manifesting beliefs) to correct the problem before it’s too late.

That can be a very hard, but highly significant, lesson, one that can set us on a more beneficial path for the future. One would hope that such an enlightened awareness would not only help us fix the problems at hand, but also prompt us into not creating those issues in the first place.

“Tomorrowland” drives home that point loud and clear. When we look at our own world through the lens of its depiction in this film, it’s easy to see how we’ve allowed our beliefs to paint us into the corner in which we now find ourselves. It’s a perspective that’s continually reinforced, too, through our media reports, our government pronouncements and even our entertainment vehicles. If we realize that, then the question for us is, “Do we want to keep doing that?” If so, as stated before, we get a reality based on what we concentrate on. But, if not, then perhaps following another path would be preferable, one in which the concept of solution, not surrender, is celebrated. In either case, though, whatever we experience originates with us and our beliefs.

Surrender poses other problems, too. By engaging in this practice, we give away our power and thus run the risk of allowing others to take advantage of the situation. They’re free to further their own belief agendas, potentially placing us in even further jeopardy, perhaps under an accelerated timetable. Such a scenario reveals itself in “Tomorowland,” strongly cautioning us to take back our power while we still have the chance.

In the end, we need to ask ourselves, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” Whatever answer we come up with will determine the results we get when it comes to our manifestation efforts. And, for its part, “Tomorrowland” nudges us in the ribs to clue us in to the correct response.

If it sounds like “Tomorrowland” is all heavy-handed moralizing, don’t be misled; it’s not. In addition to its insightful message, the film provides a fun-filled romp from start to finish, with lots of subtle and laugh-out-loud humor. It also sports superb special effects, surprisingly good acting for an action-adventure movie and great period reproductions, especially in its faithful re-creation of the 1964 World’s Fair. The overall package is very much in the tradition of old live action Disney films, and it’s refreshing to see the studio getting back to doing something it once did so exceptionally well.

The film is currently in wide distribution, including in a number of IMAX® theaters. If you have an opportunity to see it in this format, do so. The mammoth screen and surround sound system make this picture pop, greatly enhancing the moviegoing experience. It engenders the kind of wide-eyed wonder that its subject matter so effectively embodies, making it possible for even the most mature among us to leave the theater feeling like giddy little kids again. What fun!

As someone who attended the World’s Fair depicted in the film, I clearly recall the sense of hope and optimism that pervaded the exhibition. It was a time when nearly everyone looked forward to the future with a sense of infinite possibilities. But, somewhere along the line since then, many of us seem to have lost our way, gradually descending into an ever-widening chasm of despair and cynicism. Our previous experience, though, aptly demonstrates that it need not be that way. No matter what we may decide, it all comes down to our beliefs and what we do with them. We can manifest a destiny that will assuredly dash all our dreams. Or we can create a future full of whatever promise we imbue it with. Take your pick. But, for my money, I know what I want to experience, and “Tomorrowland” does much to help light the way.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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