Monday, December 20, 2010

Tron: Legacy

Greetings Programs, yes, as you might suspect I'm a pretty big fan of the original Tron film from 1982. I remember going with my Dad as the blur of blue lights and cool tricked out light cycle motor bikes captured my imagination. Of course I was only four so I couldn't quite understand what was going on but--nevertheless even today I can remember how excited I was to see it, especially, when I saw it a few years later at the ripe old age of 10. I remember riding my bike to the theatre where they happened to have the actual Tron game and I got to see the movie again during the Summer. I think I loved it even more when I saw it again, the bikes and the technology just seemed pretty awesome. Now Tron was never as cool as Star Wars or as interesting as Star Trek but the environment created by Steven Lisberger had a very distinct personality and it was surely ahead of its time. Even though the film never really became a hit, only grossing about 30 million in it's initial run, it's clear that Tron has a heavy influence on some pretty popular films you may have heard of like the Matrix and even Avatar. Most folks don't realize that it was one of the first true CGI films ever made. Almost all of those guys who worked on the first Tron went on to be very successful animators or special effects wizards like John Lasseter who made his bones on Tron and went on to run Pixar. I know you're wondering why the lengthy explanation, and it's a two fold answer. One it's important to understand and respect the influence the original Tron had on the film industry despite it's shortcomings with the general public. Two, seeing the current box office of the new film clearly indicates that most people don't remember the original, or at least as fondly as Disney would have hoped. When last I checked Sunday they were sitting on about 43 million for the weekend which is about 7 million shy of what they had intended. The reviews have not been kind and a specialty film like this, no matter how tricked out, still requires a bit of a miracle to bust down the doors of public opinion.
Tron Legacy follows Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund) the orphaned son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who twenty years ago, seemingly disappeared leaving his young son his company Encom and a shitload of questions. Sam takes a trip through memory lane as he visits his Dad's old arcade with some great 80's tunes to get you in the mood. He finds his old computer and accidentally finds himself inside the world of the computer grid. He discovers his long lost dad who is now trying to fend off a sentient digital copy of himself named Clu who is bent on killing his creator and leaving the virtual world for the real one where apparently he will be granted with Godlike powers. Only Sam, his father and the mysterious Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a different kind of computer program stand in Clu's way.
So the question you're asking now is---is Legacy as good as the original? Sadly that answer is no. It's a great ride for sure and I enjoyed it immensely with the upgraded Grid and all the dangers that come with it; Light Cycles and Battle Discs. The story wasn't as shallow as the critics were complaining about but I felt that Clu wasn't nearly the foil for Sam that Sark and the MPC was for Tron and Flynn in the original. David Warner was truly missed in this one. Not to take anything away from Jeff Bridges who is excellent as both, it's just that Clu and young Flynn were a bit distracting with their dead eyes and weird mouth movements. I'm afraid the technology is still not quite there to make Jeff Bridges look 30 years younger. There are times where it works so well that it's startling and then he'll move his face and it just doesn't sit right. It was distracting and at times took me out of the movie. Plus they didn't do a good job of explaining why Clu was doing what he was doing. I got that there was a falling out and that he wanted to leave the virtual for the real, but it wasn't clear why he was so mad at Flynn. He seemed to imply a betrayal but he was the one that committed the coup, so...Your guess is as good as mine.
But there was a lot to love about the film with the history of Encom, seeing Alan Bradley/Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) one more time, in fact it would have been nicer to have him be more integral to the plot. There is a nice surprise in there about what happened to Bradley's program Tron, after all of those years on the grid, but I won't reveal that here. I got a kick out of the improved gaming grid with the levels of play for the Disc Battle, it was dizzying, Cody said it was so nuts he got a little nauseous during some of it. Didn't bother me so much but I can see how it could have that effect. I really fell in love with the new and improved light cycles; I'm sorry whatever your issues with the movie, you can't deny they were pretty fucking cool. As far as the performances go, Jeff Bridges, as always was great as both Flynn and Clu. It was nice to see Flynn again and I am probably one of the few that actually enjoyed his fusion of Kevin Flynn and the Big Lebowski. Bridges played him as a bit of a hippie in the first one so it makes sense he's this way as an older man. I also really enjoyed Olivia Wilde's Quorra, she really brought a real spark to the film that unfortunately, no matter how hard he tries, Garrett Hedlund just doesn't quite get there. He isn't terrible but he doesn't feel like leading man material and he is completely overshadowed by Jeff Bridges twice as well as the over the top Michael Sheen as a Casablanca-like bar owner. Oh, and if you are into Techno or Daft Punk, then you will truly love the score. I'm kinda iffy on that music but I thought the score was pretty good, and it totally works for this kind of film.
If you are looking for a fun, not overly complicated story with some pretty interesting twists and some pretty jaw dropping effects then you should check this one out. I will say that if you haven't seen the original then you might be a bit more confused about what's going on. Cody had trouble following it and I suspect that they probably didn't really give enough clarification for those who haven't seen the original. Although Flynn telling his son stories about Users, Recognizers and of course Tron at the beginning of the film does help to get a peek at the world of the first film. So my suggestion is just pay close attention at the beginning and you'll be fine. End of Line.

Grade: 3 and a half Buckets

Monday, December 06, 2010


To be honest I caught this one with the family over Thanksgiving weekend but it's been so crazy the last week and a half that I haven't had time to put the thing up. So if you are a box office junky like myself you'd have noticed that Tangled actually beat the boy wizard this past weekend which is a pretty incredible feat for it's second weekend considering how dominant Harry Potter has been around this time of year. Also it's pretty rare for a film to take the top billing in the second week of it's release. But I think the good buzz and non-stop marketing probably helped a lot. This is another revamp of sorts for the Disney animation brand. It's been DOA since the late 90's allowing CGI heavy Pixar to take the mantle and never look back. They had a middling hit with the Princess and the Frog but due to Market research they discovered that little boys are not interested in seeing an animated movie with a chicks name in the title or the word Princess. Apparently this kind of thing affected the bottom line for Princess and the Frog so badly that for this film instead of calling it the girl friendly yet boy averting Rapunzel, they opted for Tangled instead. They also added a dashing Han Solo like character to action the piece up. I read about all of these changes and I was a little annoyed. When I was a kid, boy or girl,  you go and see Snow White, Cinderella, etc. they aren't chick flicks, I mean there is some mushy stuff but that Dragon in Sleeping Beauty was wicked scary. I never, even as a kid, cared about the titles as long as the movie was good. I'm not sure what is being taught today with these young boys that they should feel uncomfortable if they see a movie with the words Princess in it. Anyway, I digress, the marketing strategy seems to be a success based on the box office. But thankfully having seen the movie there is so much more than just actioning up the thing for my little boy. It's got adventure, a nice love story and some great chemistry, all you need for a fun Disney animated film.
Flynn Rider (voice by Zachary Levi) is a dashing thief who is a little too into himself, but he meets his match with the lonely girl in the tower Rapunzel (voice by Mandy Moore). Rapunzel was kidnapped as a child because of her magic locks and imprisoned in the tower by a greedy woman (Donna Murphy) who claims to be her Mother. All Rider wants to do is get back the shiny crown he just stole all Rapunzel wants is to see the floating lights from the Kingdom. She hides Flynn's satchel of treasure in exchange for a day out of her prison so she can see the lights. Action and Adventure follows.
Overall I think the film was a success, our little guy seemed to enjoy it despite some slightly intense sadness in the beginning, he really got into the hijinks and music of the film. I noticed that my wife too seem to have some good vibes about it. Those Disney guys led by John Lassetter and Pixar have shaped the Mouse House forever in their image with sharp scripts and engaging characters with a hint of that old Disney magic with more than bearable songs from Oscar winner Alan Menken, who provided the special magic to the run of Disney animated hits in the 90's like the Little Mermaid and Aladdin. I know it sounds harsh when I say bearable, but I'm just not that into musicals at all. If I can shrug my shoulders and say, eh not so bad then I'm sure it's actually a masterpiece in the animated musical world. Anyway, the animation is, like always with Disney, superb and I really enjoyed the vocal characters, the chemistry was pretty good between Rapunzel and Flynn and I swear I thought I heard Zachary "Chuck" Levi singing a couple of songs. Yes there are certainly more songs then you would think if you just watch the trailer, and some of them can be a bit showtoony if you don't like that kind of thing. But the witty banter and slapstick will reel you back in, honest. And of course there is plenty of action for you young boys that are afraid there is too much chick stuff. So if your looking for something family friendly to take your little tyke too over the holiday season definitely take them to see Tangled, you've got something there for the whole family.
Grade 3 Buckets