Tron: Legacy Review

Sometimes when a film has 12 million posters to sell the film, it’s a good sign that the film is going to suck (see my GI:Joe Review for example).

Tron: Legacy has more than its share (and plenty aimed at the foreign box office as the poster above), but in this case, it doesn’t signal that the studio is trying to cover up the fact that the movie actually sucks. This is a great ‘popcorn’ movie.

And I don’t guess you can ever have too many posters featuring the lovely Olivia Wilde as Quorra, the isomorphic being. What? What about the movie? Oh yeah, the movie…

The reason to see Tron:Legacy (other than Olivia Wilde) are the astounding FX. Disney spent 200 million on this movie and it shows onscreen. The pixels and bytes rendered in the original film are replaced with the 3D CGI filmmaking of today.

It’s a little bit of a cheat that this digital world has a lot more in common with the real world than the original had, but no matter; there are also cheats on the story, too. I’ll get to that.

The most incredible effect employed in the sequel was making Jeff Bridges look 30 years old again, first in a flashback, then as a digital doppleganger in the film. I’ve seen the digital de-aging in other films like X-3, but never employed as effectively as it is here.

There is only one shot in the entire film (the last one with the younger character) where it was obvious CGI and didn’t quite look real (looking  like the Final Fantasy:The Spirits Within animated film).

Most of the familiar visual creations of the original are updated. The foreboding Recognizers function now more like real world contraptions with moving hydraulic components. That’s one of the cheats I’m talking about. In the 3D artists’ eagerness to render more realistic machinery, it kind of loses the original’s charm that the story takes place in a virtual world. That’s minor, though.

The lightcycles are given a facelift also. They too function more like real world cycles. Whereas, the original lightcycles made 90 degree turns, these new ones move like the Dark Knight’s Batpod, only faster.

There are also flying versions of the light cycle, employed mostly by the bad guys in the film.

Quorra also pilots a couple of vehicles in the film that weren’t seen in the original film.

One is an ‘off grid’ vehicle that resembles a  tank like dune buggy with big knobby wheels. She also pilots a craft that looked like it had World War II bomber designs in origin. Since I don’t have pictures of those, it gives me another opportunity to post  a pic of Olivia…. Sorry, I’m weak.

The ONLY drawback to the visuals had more to do with the director Joseph Kosinski than the CGI work. He has a background in 3D CGI and it shows onscreen. But, like some directors who are stronger visually, they tend to concentrate on that instead of actual storytelling….

Many, many, many, many, many, many, many times in this film (not quite as many as a Zack Schneider movie, but still many)… the director pauses an action sequence so that you can see a slow mo shot of each vehicle…

or a slo mo shot of a leap… or a slo mo shot of a martial arts move… or a slow mo shot of of a crash… or a slow mo shot of… you get the picture.

These do nothing but take the viewer right of the film and diminishes any emotional impact or tension that a scene may have otherwise.They’re storytelling killers that sadly more and more directors (that have been weaned along with younger moviegoers on post Matrix slo-mo fanboy FX ‘gawking’ moments and video game character post ‘kill’ posturing) are using. If you are portraying a high impact collision, you lose all sense of jarring shock value that a crash is supposed to cause by pausing to admire the FX team’s handiwork. Filmmaking and stories aren’t about CGI. They’re about… you know… telling a story.

There were also the annoyingly obvious ‘poseur’ shots that ranged from the young Sam character pouting at a window… to the ‘Rinzler’ character posing post martial arts move… to the lovely Olivia Wilde as Quorra lounging during a conversation in order to fully capture her stretched out bod on the widescreen.

I didn’t mind that, though and I mean using the anamorphic/4:3 aspect ratio…

A lot of directors just point and shoot instead of actually taking the time to frame a shot for effect.

Also, without getting into story specifics too much; Sorenski glaringly skips over character motivation and conflict that are vital to giving characters reasons to make the decisions that they make. I won’t say who, but one character has a major change of heart about who they serve towards the end of the film that affects the outcome of the story to some degree.

There is never any reason given for this character to make that decision other than because the story needed for that to happen to move the plot along. It’s arbitrary and yet another cheat.

Okay, so I’ve raved and ranted about the visuals. The story…

The story begins 20 years ago,  giving the audience the idea that Jeff Bridges plays Flynn, the man in charge of a computer software/video game company called ENCOM and that he has a 9 year old son, Sam. There are video clips and a very artsy shot of television sets carrying stories about Flynn’s erratic behavior and  his ramblings on new concepts that will change the world (on a side note one of the stories is a print media story that describes Flynn’s ‘wreckless’ behavior. I guess the graphic artist responsible didn’t have spellcheck…. But I digress).

After showing his son some toys and merchandise of characters and vehicles that will be in the film (and that YOU, TOO, can own yourself by going right now to online stores such as Amazon. com), Flynn mysteriously disappears. Flash forward to the present and the rest of the film… without giving the audience any idea of what came before.

Bruce Boxleitner reprising his as Alan in the franchise, pays a visit to Sam after he’s done something that is quite preposterous. He has received a page from the formerly disconnected phone of Sam’s father from his old arcade/residence.

At Alan’s behest, Sam goes to investigate and makes a discovery to initiate the film’s fun. Why he had never gone there before or why the police didn’t investigate the arcade after it’s owner disappears defies logic, but the filmmakers aren’t really concerned with logical details. It takes Sam all of three minutes to make this discovery.

There were things that you won’t pick up on unless you’ve seen and paid attention to the original film. I’m not really a continuity nerd, but they did not really adhere to everything that came before. Especially to the facts that  Flynn; a user… a programmer in the real world was much more powerful than the ‘programs’: the denizens of the cyber world. He could do things that they couldn’t. In this, that’s not the case. Speaking of which, I think Flynn’s reactions to being zapped by the MCP (the main villain in the original Tron) into a digital reality were much more logical and believable. He believed he was just dreaming initially and had to learn as he went along. Steven Lisberger allowed the story to unfold at the proper pace.

Here, the moment Sam ends up in that same world, he pays lip service to the fact that something so incredible has happened to him. On top of that, unlike Flynn who was a video game junkie that struggled initially with surviving the ‘games’ that he’s thrust into; Sam is an instant master.

There’s no learning curve. That’s not a surprise, I guess, considering early scenes with Sam involving a parachute and a very cheesy taxi ride. Please let me know if you agree with the scene with the security guard walking out onto the beam was not even remotely believable and VERY silly.

Murphy in Danny Boyle’s ‘Sunshine’

Cillian Murphy is in the film as the son of Dillinger, one of the villains in the 1982 film. If you blink you’ll miss Murphy. He’s completely wasted here.I can only figure they know that there will be more sequels and they’re setting up the villain for the next installment.

That’s another problem with the story part of this film. The original had really good villains and each new situation that the hero was thrust in was ominous and threatening. As great as the actor is that is playing the villain in the  new film, he;s having to portray a very bland, one note character. Tron’s Master Control Program was a fairly scary character. Director Linsberger imbued him/it with a sinister fully realized personality with his own motivations. The MCP was in control for most of the film and was continuously scheming in the film as was the other great villain from that film.

David Warner has played countless great villains and I think he is sorely missed in the new film.Warner played a dual role; Dillinger the conniving executive of the company and Sark, the Darth Vader of the digital world. He was also very well rounded with his own fears and dreams.

Legacy’s villain has so little to do that he’s often seen just sitting/milling around. There’s even one scene where they had focused on the hero and his allies discussing the plot for so long that the director inserted a 10 second scene of the villain.

He did little more than exclaim to Flynn, who was not present, being a vast, safe distance away: “It’s your move, Flynn! Show me something! (paraphrasing)” Like a comic book super villain with a very bad writer. Anyway, I thought the threat to the heroes was very much lacking.

Jeff Bridges was great as he always is. He plays two different characters and two ages for one character. I don’t remember Flynn being a hippie, though. He at times sounds like a toned down version of the Dude from The Big Lebowski.

Garrett Hedlund (last seen by me in the semi successful Four Brothers) plays Sam, the adult version of Flynn’s son. Hedlund was adequate in the lead, but that’s also partly attributed to the weak writing. He strikes me as not much more than a ‘pretty boy’ actor, but maybe I’m wrong.

He said the lines and performed the fight choreography, but didn’t offer a whole lot more other than posturing. The swaggering walk was annoying throughout almost stating through body language that “Hey! I’m in Tron, bitches! Look at me! I am bad aaaaasssss.”

Truthfully, I was expecting Olivia Wilde (cue next photo) to be just a pretty face, also. i was surprised that she actually had personality to her and I would describe her as being more ‘cute’ than a hottie in the film.

Her character was a warrior innocent. I did like that she conveyed some things that weren’t spoken.

I liked the scene where she is both interested in Sam/ the real world and also trying to impress.

There are a number of performances that fall flat to the point of being unconditional failures. One is by Michael Sheen as the, uh… flambouyant program Castor. Just about his entire performance is cringeworthy and if I had to vote on an award for Most Atrocious Acting In A Film, he would surely be getting his name marked on my ballot. He was like watching a comedian die on stage and no one is really paying attention, anyway. Yeah, I get it. He was doing a David Bowie impression. So what? He should’ve tried doing something original. The villain’s butt kissing underling Jarvis played by James Frain was almost as embarrassing, but not quite. I do blame the writers and director, moreso, though. Predictability isn’t entirely the actors’ fault.

With all that being written… I still really like this film. The 200 million dollar visuals make up for a lot. I normally wouldn’t say that. Cheap CGI doesn’t make up for anything. The competence of the work in this movie, would be enough to bring up the overall quality of any production.

Once the movie gets to the computer world, it’s never really boring, possibly because of the soundtrack.

The soundtrack by daft Punk was beneficial to the film as much a s the visuals. The synth-techno beats really propel the story along. Even when the director haspeople doing nothing more than standing around, the music bails him out. I won’t say that this soundtrack is as good as the original Tron, though.

This is very good, but I would say play enough Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and other electronica and techno around this and they will melty together eventually. The 1982 soundtrack is one of the most distinctive movie scores ever made. It’s right up there with films like Psycho, Jaws and Star Wars in my book. Still… Legacy has a splendid score to be sure.

Gem… Mmmm…

Tron: Legacy IS worth seeing at the theater. I’ve seen in ‘2D’ and ‘3D’. For my money, 3D didn’t add a whole lot. There were occasional moments that jumped out and grabbed me, but not enough to warrant that 20% loss of onscreen light. On top of that, all of the ‘real world’ scenes in the film (other than the television/media shot are in 2D, anyway.

Before it even begins, there is a disclaimer that states that not all of the scenes are in 3D, but to keep your glasses on the entire film. If you do decide to see it in 3D, take my word for it…

Other than for the opening credits, you don’t need the glasses until Sam gets zapped into the grid.

It was a long wait from the time hearing about this follow up to the 1982 classic, to seeing the props in San Diego earlier this year, to actually seeing the finished product. It wasn’t a letdown. It lived up to the hype, despite its flaws.

If I was just giving a rating for the eye candy, this would be a hard 5. For the music and sounds: 4 to 4.5… The rest of it (acting, writing and direction); not so good. Between 2 and 2.5, probably. So I guess I’ll end up giving this a 4 out of 5 whatevers… Go see it.

One Response to “Tron: Legacy Review”

  1. […] Tron (I think the visuals outweighed the weaknesses of the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: