An odd couple of films here, linked by nothing except that I saw them in quick succession.
Tomorrowland (subtitled A World Beyond) is frankly a sprawling mess of a film which takes a long time to get going and then doesn't seem to know where it wants to end up, staggering from one plot hole to the next. Despite that, it was worth watching.
It starts very slowly at the end of the story, with Frank Walker (George Clooney) trying to explain what had happened while being constantly interrupted by Casey Newton (Britt Robertson – who I remembered from Under the Dome). So at least we start by knowing that the two lead characters survive whatever comes next! Apart from the final couple of minutes, the rest of the film consists of flashbacks, beginning at the 1964 World Fair in New York with Frank as a boy inventor who is given a token which gets him into Tomorrowland, a secret futuristic high-tech city on an alternate Earth, created by recruiting the brightest and the best and giving them free rein. Then it jumps forward to the present in which Casey, a technically brilliant teenager, is also given a token which allows her to experience – but not enter – Tomorrowland. She desperately tries to find a way to the city but as the pace accelerates, she finds herself chased by some cartoonish android thugs, then helped by Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who is obviously rather more (or less) than the young girl she appears to be. At this point, an elderly and grizzled Frank comes into the picture and the action soon switches to Tomorrowland, which is also not quite as portrayed, with a climactic tussle between Frank and Tomorrowland's ruler David Nix (Hugh Laurie) over the future of the Earth.
I did wonder what the android thugs were about – they appeared and then disappeared without explanation. Nor was it ever made clear what Frank had done to be banished from Tomorrowland, apart from inventing a machine which was still being used. Nor were we told why Tomorrowland had not lived up to its early expectations. Nor could I understand how this Earth could be saved by recruiting the most talented people to move to Tomorrowland.
It isn't all bad news, though. It deserves credit for originality and remained watchable throughout, if only see where on Earth (or elsewhere) it was going next. There are some entertaining scenes, particularly the one concerning the Eiffel Tower's rocket ship (what do you mean, you didn't know it had one?). The highlight for me was an impressive performance by the 13-year-old Cassidy, who in 2013 was named in Screen International magazine's Stars of Tomorrow, the youngest to be featured on the annual list. She's got there already, in my view; in particular, her final scene was genuinely affecting.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is on the face of it, not really an SFF film, but it had enough fantasy elements to justify a mention here. Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton), a young man trapped in the lower levels of society, is recruited into a secret, independent and decidedly snobbish organisation – the Kingsmen – where he is mentored by Harry Hart (Colin Firth). This organisation sends its highly trained agents to combat evil wherever they find it. The problem they are faced with in this film is a plan by billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) to solve the world's problems in a rather drastic fashion.
The film has a nostalgic appeal, being an updated and rather more graphic version of 1960s tongue-in-cheek TV series like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers (though sadly without an Emma Peel). It mixes spectacular fight scenes with sardonic humour, revels in political incorrectness, and overall is great fun, provided you are not too easily offended. It has proved highly successful and a sequel is planned for 2017.