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

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