Culture

Film

A flawed utopia— US

Preface

Tristan McAllister on why Tomorrowland, the new sci-fi blockbuster starring George Clooney, tanked in the US over the long weekend

Disney, George Clooney, Tomorrowland, Blockbuster

27 May 2015

I’ve always been somewhat perplexed by the idea that summertime is when the world’s big movie studios expect they can cash in. I understand Christmas movie rushes; people stuck inside looking for a way to get out coupled with cold weather means a Cineplex might be just the right retreat. And sure, in the summer people have more time and the kids aren’t in school, but shouldn’t we all be outside enjoying the glow of the sun instead of the big screen? It seems a record number of Americans had an answer to that very question during last weekend’s observance of Memorial Day.

In the US it’s being reported that the long weekend (typically a cash cow for studios and their early summer blockbusters) was a total bust for Hollywood. Between Friday and Monday the industry in Canada and the US took $190m. That’s on par with 2001 and far below what anyone had hoped for.

This year’s presumed darling was Tomorrowland, a sci-fi film that takes its name from the celebrated district at Disneyland. It seems George Clooney, one of the leads, was still not enough to coax the masses into their seats. The Walt Disney picture did half as well as the blockbusters during the same period for the past two years.

Surprisingly violent for a Disney film, the two-hour saga about a girl tasked with saving the world from impending drought, famine and humanity’s self-inflicted destruction didn’t quite tell a well-rounded or compelling story. It hit you over the head with an allegory from the beginning. It’s an odd bit of messaging from a company that runs media divisions that at times seem like they’re part of the problem and not the solution.

However, no one could have known how half-hatched the film might feel before it opened last weekend. So its narrative shortcomings aren’t likely what sold it short for the holiday weekend. There were a few other things that could have been at play. Extreme flooding in the American South and abnormally high temperatures in places like Alaska meant people didn’t necessarily need to plop down in front of the silver screen to get a lesson about how we’re doing as humans.

Still, most were likely outside or happily binge-watching one of the many new TV shows that have been released online. Far from the multiplex, the masses and contrived ideas about how we might save the world.

Tristan McAllister is Monocle’s transport editor.

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