The Christmas season of 2014 will not only mark the release of the final chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit movies, There and Back Again, but will also bring a sprinkling of sci-fi magic to go with the fantasy kind.
Tomorrowland, a dimension-transversing movie co-written by Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen and directed by Brad Bird, is currently set to star George Clooney in the lead role as a man who discovers the door into another world. The script was kept tightly under wraps for a long time, but recently details have begun to leak as Disney begin prepping the film for production.
The Hollywood Reporter has now revealed the newest cast member to join Tomorrowland: a young and relatively unknown British actress named Raffey Cassidy, whose character will play an integral role in the story. Cassidy previously played a young version of Kristen Stewart's character in Snow White and the Huntsman, and also depicted a childhood version of Eva Green's character in Dark Shadows. More recently, she starred alongside Jeremy Piven in period drama Mr. Selfridge for UK channel ITV.
Cassidy will play one of the film's principal characters, a pre-pubescent female robot called Athena who, despite her appearance, has been around for decades and first met Frank Walker (Clooney) when they were both physically the same age. Despite early attempts to keep the plot of the film tightly under wraps, a synopsis was pieced together a few weeks ago based on the film's casting call.
According to the leaked plot summary (bear in mind that none of this has yet been confirmed by the film's creators), the 'Tomorrowland' of the title is a lost city that exists in an alternate dimension, where scientific progress has far outstripped our own. The film begins with Frank meeting Athena at the 1964 World's Fair during his boyhood. When the robot girl sees potential in the human boy, she sneaks him into Tomorrowland, but he is eventually thrown out by Mayor David Nix (Hugh Laurie) during a purge of all creative thinkers.
The film's original title, 1952, may have been a reference to year in which Frank was born, or may simply hint at the connection between the fictional world of Tomorrowland and the true-life story of Walt Disney, who bought the land upon which Walt Disney World Florida (and its themed subsection, Tomorrowland) would eventually be built in 1953. Bird and Lindelof have both hinted at the film's story by tweeting images of a briefcase labelled '1952' that contained, among other items, a picture of Disney.
Tonally, many comparisons have been made between Tomorrowland and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, though Bird confirmed earlier in the year that aliens won't be one of the sci-fi concepts to feature in the film. The concept of a society cut off from our own and dedicated to technological advancement is thematically similar to Irrational Games' Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite, which explored the "idealist" civilizations of Rapture and Columbia, respectively.
It's early days yet for Tomorrowland, but with the cast and creative team that have been assembled, anticipation is already high. Brad Bird made his feature debut in 1999 with the fantastic adaptation of Ted Hughes' novel The Iron Giant, and proved adept at handling the idea of robots with souls in that film. His most recent release, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, received almost universally positive reviews from critics and it seems like Tomorrowland's script is in solid hands.
The writing itself is another matter, however, coming from Prometheus scribe Damon Lindelof and stuntman-turned-screenwriter Jeff Jensen. The basic concept is certainly interesting, but for many sci-fi fans Prometheus failed to live up to the (admittedly high) expectations placed upon it. Perhaps the key to enjoying Tomorrowland is to hold off on the excitement for now.
Tomorrowland opens in theaters on December 19th, 2014.