Escape from Tomorrow

escapefromtomorrow“The Cat Flu!”

Let’s address the elephant in the room, even if Disney won’t. Escape from Tomorrow is filmed almost entirely on Disney Parks property, without Disney’s knowledge or consent. Tales of how the director cued his actors with cell phones and filmed scenes with regular “vacation” sized cameras while filming guerrilla-style in Magic Kingdom came out when EfT debut at Sundance. It gained a lot of buzz and everyone held their breath to see what The Mouse would do.

The Mouse said nothing.

Probably the best thing it has done with regards to protecting their brand. Especially since Disney has a policy/habit of suing people out of existence for breaching their walls. Any action on their part  would generate more buzz for the movie, but their silence was win/win for everyone involved: Disney didn’t come off as assholes and the director got to keep his movie.

Escape from Tomorrow tries really hard to be an updated Eraserhead with a lot of nods to David Lynch’s unforgettable film. Mirroring themes of hidden worlds, there is hommage to The Girl Behind the Radiator in the form of Siemens scientists living under Spaceship Earth without DisBEEEP’s knowledge of them being there. Or blood as black as pitch being used as symbols of deconstruction, degradation. EfT has a lot to thank Mr Lynch for.

It’s not a stellar film. It suffers from pacing issues and what I regard to be serious character flaws. I found the film distracting for me: I was getting pulled away from “why things are happening” within the story to “how things are happening”. For the first part of the film I was reverse-engineering the scenes instead of taking them in. I attribute that to being a total Disneyphile. Not too many people will notice that a couple chunks of the movie is actually filmed in Disneyland, CA but we did. SharkBoy speculated that the production might have come under suspicion by The Mouse and moved their operation to Florida to complete the movie, hence why the jump between parks.

I would agree to that. The film suffers from too many establishing shots. Most of the movie seems like it’s filled with a lot of WE’RE IN DISNEYWORLD! LOOK!! LOOK!! kind of punches in the face. A lot of short script exchanges happen within somewhat secluded areas of the parks, away from suspecting security guards, I suppose. Like one scene near Tomorrowland Terrace where not a lot of people go (except for smokers) which has a great view of the Castle is possibly the longest scripted moment within the movie, on property. Little actual plot points are filmed within these park shots. Long expositional moments take place in hotel rooms or with actors in front of green screens.

One thing that did bother me was the way the lead character, Jim, seemed not to react to his initial descent into insanity. While on “it’s a Small World” ride he turns to see his wife lean into the frame and slo-mo the line “I HATE YOU…” complete with the atypical fisheye lens used from Jim’s perspective, which we all know in movie symbolism is “We’re party to someone’s hallucinations!” Jim’s reaction is to blink. Next, his son’s eyes become complete black orbs inside his head. His only comment is to say “There’s something wrong with Elliot.” and then… nothing. He rubs his eyes, grunts and shrugs it off. His non-reaction to these moments doesn’t lead us to believe that he’s sinking into madness, but actually make us think these are everyday occurrences. There are a few switch-back moments where we gladly play along with Jim’s delusions but the entire movie, he seems rather unfazed that he’s losing his grip with reality. It’s frustrating for us not to see some sort of balance here.

SharkBoy mentions that to actually have Jim react like we’d expect him to while on It’s a Small World (or anywhere else in the park, publicly) would have attracted a lot of attention. Which again, I agree to. Nitpicky points. But kind of essential to take us out of ourselves and have him acknowledge that something is frightfully wrong.

In all I really enjoyed EfT, technically and story-wise. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Randy Moore in the future. I give it 3 Spaceship Earth Scanner helmets out of 5.

 

 

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