This weekend, a few friends and I made the trek down to IFC Center to see the hotly anticipated, and at one point seemingly unreleaseable, Escape From Tomorrow—a science-fictiony, black-and-white, neo-noir movie shot entirely guerilla-style in Disney theme parks without the litigious entertainment empire’s permission. We discovered what many had: that the feature did not entirely live up to its audacious concept.
“People throw the word ‘unfocused’ around a lot,” my wife remarked, “but man.” The group of us kept emailing the next day. “Wow,” we kept saying. Yes, Escape From Tomorrow might have been the indulgent result of watching too muchEraserhead and Pi during late-night bong sessions, but I couldn’t look away, and what I saw I’m still turning over in my mind. The first trick in these sort of situations (I found this worked well for Spring Breakers, too) is to stop worrying about what’s commonly called “plot.” If a director’s not really interested in narrative coherence, why bother seeking it out for yourself? You needn’t roll your eyes at mediocre acting, either—The Room may miss wide enough that you have to make fun of it, but usually there’s no need to MST3K the situation.
Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Because when you get right down to it, whack-job movies like Escape From Tomorrow are the reason movies even exist. The height of the medium isn’t some $300 million superhero flick with cutting-edge digital effects, it’s somebody with not a huge budget and an insane idea who takes huge risks and often fails, but spectacularly so. Do I mind that there was a 17-second “Intermission” about 75% of the way through the running time? Or that the film becomes a misguided La Jetée homage at the last possible minute? Or that the close-ups of the main character’s infected toe serve no real purpose? Of course not—as long as you can walk out calling something “visionary,” you probably got your money’s worth.