If very few casual filmgoers pay attention to who directed the films they go to see, even fewer pay attention to the writers. This is a shame, because knowing who wrote a given film can tell you just as much about what you’re in for as knowing who directed it, in a lot of cases.

For example, if people knew, as I do, to treat the phrase “written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci” like a giant red flag with accompanying marching band, door to door awareness campaign and PBS after school special saying “don’t go see this one” then a lot of spectacularly bad movies wouldn’t have made the soul-destroyingly high amounts of money that they did.

And speaking of writers to look out for, Damon Lindelof. Lindelof is perhaps best known for being the driving mind and main writer for Lost, and has since gone on to write or at least have a sticky finger or two in the writing of Prometheus, World War Z, and now Tomorrowland. While Kurtzman and Orci’s signature moves include gaping plot holes and the kind of awkward, stammery humor that makes me want to take a nap in a cement mixer, Lindelof is a different beast. Oh yes, the plot holes are still absolutely there, but Lindelof’s favorite game is to make the audience wait a million years while withholding as much plot-important information as possible, teasing us with a mystery to the point of frustration and then finally revealing it to be something either nonsensical, patently ridiculous or some combination of the two.

tomorrowland posterWhich is exactly what’s been done in Tomorrowland, the new film directed by the talented Brad Bird and based on the Disney theme park attraction of the same name. The film focuses on a young girl who is given a glimpse of a secret world created as a kind of city-sized think tank, where the greatest scientific minds can gather to develop their inventions and ideas without the constraints of politics, money and presumably ethics boards and any kind of accountability. Somewhere out there a despondent games writer is frustratedly deleting a word file marked “Bioshock 4 Story Outline.” Getting back to Tomorrowland, our hero Casey must enlist the help of Frank, a bitter inventor who was kicked out of Tomorrowland for reasons unknown.

That’s the bare bones setup, at least, the frame on which the story is hung like so much laundry. But the thing is, that’s not the actual plot. There’s more going on, some crisis that Frank keeps hinting at, some larger end goal that needs to be accomplished, and given what I just told you about how Lindelof typically operates, you can probably figure out that a) the movie spends the first 90 minutes or so spinning its wheels, refusing to tell us anything and chiding us when we, through Casey, try and get some answers and b) that when we finally find out what’s going on it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense and critically undermines a large chunk of everything we’ve seen up till that point.

There’s a scene where, upon asking for some simple answers, Casey is told by Frank “Stop asking questions, can’t you just have a sense of wonder?” and he might as well be looking dead into the camera at this point. Christ, there’s even a scene where the little robot girl that selected Casey and Frank to get in on this whole adventure pretends to shut down when Casey starts asking very simple, reasonable questions. Not for any discernible reason we ever learn, either.

The first 90 to a hundred minutes of Tomorrowland are a theme park ride, a series of distractions and light shows meant to distract us from the fact that, since we have no clue of the stakes, the larger goals at hand, what it’s all really working towards, we don’t have any reason to care about any of what we’re seeing. And then when we finally do learn what it all has been about, it turns out to be nonsensical, confusing, poorly explained and more than a tiny bit preachy.

Tomorrowland insert

People who saw Tomorrowland before I did described it as having a great first two thirds, and then falling apart in the end, but I don’t really think that’s the case. What I think is happening is that once you find out the actual plot, you start to look back on those early days of ignorance with a fond nostalgia. It’s like looking back at the days before you had to pay taxes or wait in lines at government offices. How wonderful and simple it all seemed then, you think, forgetting the fact that nothing interesting ever happened to you.

And what makes Tomorrowland watchable, with all its blatant Lindelof-isms is seeing Brad Bird occasionally break the surface before a slimy tentacle emerges after him, fixing around his neck and dragging him back down while it mumbles something about the mystery box. The premise is sound and rich with storytelling opportunities, and a lot of the visuals, action sequences and sight gags are fantastic. The end result is like when you have a friend who’s really great and awesome and can do great things, but they’re stuck in a toxic, oppressive relationship with someone who just wants to drag them down into their own mediocrity.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Lindelof isn’t to blame for all of Tomorrowland‘s failings. Brad Bird, as much as we’d like to deny it, is only human. It’s entirely possible that the problems with Tomorrowland are as much his own fault as Lindelof’s.

We’ll probably never know. But the end result, either way, is a visually dazzling, often extremely clever movie that makes you wait for most of its run-time to reveal that the engine driving it is actually a rube-goldberg machine consisting of old wind-up toy parts held together with scotch tape and optimism.

It is, in the parlance of our time, cold as butts. The wind howls like a Sony investor going over his quarterly reports; the snow is piled high as unsold copies of The Remaining; and the Frost Trolls have set up camp on Crescent, cutting off access to most of our best shitty university bars. Summer seems like a far-off hope, ever out of reach. But it’s coming, my friends, and all of its beautiful, banal, and soulless entertainment is coming with it – and the Super Bowl is here to remind us of that. More than ever before, the Super Bowl is less about any actual sports, than it is about the glittering monument to commercialism that we’ve built around it, a golden cow to for that is shallow and good. As much as the San Diego Comic-Con, the Big Game is where the upcoming summer’s most anticipated hype machines come to strut their stuff in special Superbowl ads, and this year we’ve had some doozies. So, as I like to do when it gets cold and Oscar movies dominate screens, I’m taking this week to look ahead at the delicious pablum Hollywood is already prepping to shovel into our grateful mouths by looking at the sneak peeks we’ve been given of said pablum, this time focusing on what we saw during this year’s Super Bowl.

Jurassic World posterJurassic World

I don’t know what it is that has me so fascinated by Jurassic World and everything about it. Maybe it’s the impression that the film is combating the very real concern that dinosaur movies just don’t interest people anymore by jumping the shark so hard, that the shark overcomes its biological limitations and starts a slow clap.

The Super Bowl trailer for Jurassic World, sadly, doesn’t offer us much in the way of new indications of how batshit insane this movie might just be if we all pray hard enough. We get the revelation that the new dinosaur (which is being hyped up so damn hard that there’s no way it will live up to expectations, unless it has live bears for teeth and a chainsaw penis like that one scene in Robot Jox) and a brief shot of someone shooting at the thing with a light machine gun from a helicopter – a scene which had better goddamn have Long Tall Sally playing in the background. Jurassic World‘s big game ad doesn’t really get me more excited for the movie, but at this point that would be impossible – short of saying that Jesse Ventura’s manning that MG.

Furious 7

The Fast and the Furious franchise has never really appealed to me – looking like nothing more than a collection of over-shot car chases, and a collection of grown-up fratboys droning on endlessly about family, honour, and large pieces of machinery that don’t even turn into robots. However, the Super Bowl ad for Furious 7 piqued my interest when it climaxed (very appropriate word) on a shot where series protagonist Vin Diesel jumps a car from one Dubai skyscraper to another, while being shot at by Jason Statham. OK, you got me, I’ll watch your dumb car movie. You’ve clearly become so far-removed from the Point Break remake the series started out as, that you could have it turn out to be a Wacky Races reboot at this point, and I wouldn’t blink an eye. You have succeeded, the sheer ridiculousness of your trailer’s money shot has impressed even me.

Seventh SonSeventh Son poster

Remember seeing ads for this thing like, over a year ago and thinking it looked like the biggest turd ever, only to have it never show up in theaters? Well, it still hasn’t hit yet and here’s why. Seventh Son was shot around two years ago by Russian director Sergei Bodorov, based on a book with a racist name I’d never heard of. After being delayed several times, the film was pushed back even further when its parents, Warner Bros and Legendary Studios, split ways and the release of the film was taken over by Universal, who moved the film’s release date to compete with Warner’s Jupiter Ascending.

I almost feel bad for this movie, it’s like the kid that gets screwed over by a nasty divorce – the subject of a custody battle where no one asks what he wants – and he winds up being used as a weapon by parents looking to stick it to each other. I’m gonna go see it, partially because it looks like a ridiculous farce full of dragons, monsters, Kit Harrington and for some reason a Hindu deity, but partially out of that sympathy for a film that got screwed over by industry politics. The Super Bowl ad doesn’t do much to make the film look like it’ll be an enjoyable experience, but after everything this film’s been through, I don’t care. I want to give it a hug and take it out for a cup of coacoa to get its mind off things.

Tomorrowland posterTomorrowland

Tomorrowland’s football ad is Geneviève Bujold’s character in the 1984 movie Choose Me. Even though she’s got Lesly Ann Warren on one side and Rae Dong Chong on the other, you find yourself drawn back to Bujold because of how subdued she is, how much she holds back. Tomorrowland is the same way, standing apart in a pack of ads built on throwing excess and style in your face, keeping you interested by only tantalizing you with glimpses of what it has to offer. Maybe there’s some fantastic cityscapes in there, maybe some steampunk contraptions of gears and levers, maybe even Gary Chalk will be involved tangentially (though he probably won’t say “maximize” at any point, and ye Gods with the obscure references right now).

But none of the advertising has been really about throwing that in our face in the same way as these other Super Bowl ads, and there’s something I can’t help but respect about that. It’s playing things close to the vest in a system built more than ever on excess, and because of that I find myself more curious about it than most other movies slated for this summer. I know what I’ll be getting with Jurassic World, but Tomorrowland is a mystery, and I love a mystery as much as I love dropping references that most FTB readers probably won’t get. Dropping them like the Goldion Hammer on a zonder’s face. Hikari ni nare, mother fucker.