I walked out of Tomorrowland thoroughly disappointed. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect coming in, but I hoped it would, at the very least, be enjoyable. I had enjoyed all of Brad Bird’s movies so far, and Damon Lindelof, the writer, has written several good movies.
Yet Tomorrowland was neither interesting nor enjoyable. And it wasn’t because of some super technical story error. It was because the movie, in my opinion, forgot something basic–movies need to be about something.
Tomorrowland had plenty of good ideas but what it didn’t have was a plot. It was honestly surprising because it isn’t like the director and writers don’t know how to tell a story. They’ve both done some great movies. Bird did Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatoullie, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. All of those were good. Lindelof wrote Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z, both very enjoyable films.
Why, then, did Tomorrowland not have one of the basic story telling elements? I don’t pretend to have the answer to that, but I was reminded of this: I can’t ever forget the basics. Just because a story has a cool structure and great ideas doesn’t mean it’s good.
I have to remember that I’m not telling stories to impress people with the originality of my ideas or the cleverness of my structure. I’m telling a story, and if it isn’t a good story no one will care. When I’m developing story ideas I often get caught up in constructing an interesting format, with refining complex systems in the world of my story, or with developing a miniscule aspect of one character.
In the midst of all that it’s very easy to forget to tell a story. Get the basics down. Then worry about the more complicated aspects. That’s a reminder I needed to have.