Tomorrowland ★★★★

More than anything else, "Tomorrowland" is a movie about ideas. It asks big questions and therefore can’t provide any easy answers. But that’s okay, because the purpose of the film turns out to be to make the viewer think, to inspire them, to make them dream, even.

Tomorrowland is a strikingly imaginative and appropriately futuristic-looking place. It’s easy to see its appeal. For all the first-rate visual effects in the movie, however, one of the defining moments in "Tomorrowland" doesn’t feature any such effects. The scene in question shows protagonist Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) repeatedly raising her hand in an attempt to get her teachers’ attention as the latter go on and on about various apocalyptic scenarios. When she is finally allowed to speak, her question is as simple as it is profound: “Can we fix it?”

The Eiffel Tower plays an important role in an equally memorable, spectacular sequence in the film. Toward the end, a villain speech of sorts actually has a point in that it says something true about a strange, negative tendency we humans have. And the stirring, mightily optimistic ending almost brought tears to my eyes.

The great ending notwithstanding, the third act is the weakest part of "Tomorrowland". Here, the story enters familiar territory as co-writer (with Damon Lindelof)/director Brad Bird includes a conventional, somewhat forced climax in a movie that has heretofore largely avoided generic elements and aspired to be different. Frankly, it’s a little disappointing.

Director of photography Claudio Miranda gives the sequences that are set in Tomorrowland a distinctive look that contrasts quite nicely with the more natural visual style of the rest of the film. The music score by Michael Giacchino contains many nostalgic cues that serve the movie well.

Britt Robertson nails the role of Casey with what is hopefully a star-making performance. She beautifully captures her character’s curiosity, resourcefulness, and eventual amazement. The other highlight in the acting department is Raffey Cassidy, who does a remarkable turn as the wonderfully enigmatic Athena. George Clooney proves to be an excellent choice for the role of the grumpy but immediately likable genius inventor and nowadays recluse Frank Walker, and the actor’s screen presence is a big asset for the film. Hugh Laurie brings nuance and authority to the part of Nix.

Innovation and daring to dream big are among the core components of the narrative. "Tomorrowland" is, ultimately, a genuinely hopeful movie. It does engage in a little heavy-handed preaching at times, but its overall optimism and its celebration of scientific creativity act as a powerful counterbalance to its weaknesses.