Back in college, I once participated in a class exercise that stuck with me for a very long time. My literature professor instructed everyone to put on blindfolds and then told us to walk freely around the room. Practically blind, we fumbled our way around our desks and chairs and around each other, waving our hands instinctively in front of ourselves as we tried to make sense of our surroundings.
If there had been a cliff in front of me, I would've fallen.
Afterwards my professor asked, "Why did you reach out for something to hold on to the minute you lost your sense of sight?"
The answer is that we are naturally afraid of what we do not know. In the words of Frank Walker, the main protagonist of Tomorrowland, the future can be "scary". In this regard, Tomorrowland is a bold vision of the future.
In the film, famed director Brad Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof challenges us to imagine a future where anything is possible, symbolized by a futuristic city built by some of the world's smartest engineers, architects, designers, artists, mechanics, visionaries, dreamers and—apparently in the film—coffee shop barristas.
Imagine. What if you could bring all the world's geniuses together in a place without limitations and boundaries and allow them free reign over their crazy ideas?
You arrive at Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is the bright light at the end of the long dark tunnel of our history.
But it's all fun and games until you arrive at the film's central conflict in that Tomorrowland is dying. People no longer dream of a bright future for mankind. Do you? In its place has taken root a grim collective acceptance of our subconscious that a gradual yet complete environmental and societal breakdown of civilization is inevitable.
Think about our generation's most celebrated science fiction films. 2001: A Space Oddysey, Star Wars, The Terminator, Interstellar and Mad Max, just to name a few. When given room to imagine, why are we so obsessed with the notion of humanity's impending doom over being inspired by the possibility of ascending to greater heights?
Tomorrowland's main villain, Nix, made a good point—a very good point, I dare say—when he declared that we are so fixated on our darker days to come because that future asks nothing from us. It is coming, and all we have to do is sit back and do absolutely nothing. Tomorrowland's future, on the other hand, requires us to dream, to work hard towards our dream, and most importantly, to take that first crucial step in fulfilling that dream. If you want to change the future, start today.
Similar to the Tomorrowland pin given to Casey Newton, the film shows us a glimpse of what the future could be, an amazing city, not so far away and always in sight. It is a reminder that no matter how hard a pessimist tries to spin it, the glass will always be half-full.