Movie Review: Tron: Legacy

Opening day: Friday, December 17, 2010. First show: 11am, the Scotiabank IMAX theatre. I’m there; now just how nerdy is that? Well, maybe going to the midnight showing the night before?
The ticket price was $17.75 and in total there were only maybe a hundred or so people. Not a sell out by a long shot. Have the reviews gotten out there? Before heading out, I consulted several reviews which actually started appearing in the papers on Thursday and Rotten Tomatoes sums it up nicely: 48%. [chuckles] There’s been a lot of hype and now we all get to see it for ourselves.

The 1982 Tron certainly had a very, very original look to it. In fact, at the time I was quite taken with those visuals and I so desperately wanted the film to be good. Unfortunately the story was just so lame. Should I have expected anything else? After all, the entire underlying premise was that this was based on video games and imagine the state of video games back in the early 80’s. Pac Man? Donkey Kong? Mario Brothers? Okay stuff, I guess, if you’re like 12 year old but for the rest of us who have a few more years invested after puberty, I think we would like just a tad more profundity to the story. It is supposed to make us suspend belief in the first place and accept the premise of crossing over into this make believe world.

Fast forward to 2010. New film, better visuals, same problem. Yes, there is an attempt to make us want to invest some emotional attachment in the characters but in the end; it’s only a video game: Donkey Kong on steroids. According to the papers, Disney invested $170 million in this film. In places, the special effects are stunning. I took the opportunity to look at some video clips of the original 1982 film which I had not seen in decades and oh my gawd, they look so primitive in comparison to what’s being done today. Tron Legacy does not disappointment in that regard having updated everything with the latest and greatest technology has to offer. The obligatory light cycle fight is just so visually amazing. Check out any of the trailers then look at the light cycle fight from the 1982 film. What a difference.

The Plot
Am I really going to spoil anything? The Jeff Bridges character, Kevin Flynn disappeared 20 years ago and nobody knows where he went, especially Sam Flynn his son. A mysterious "page" brings Sam back to his father’s arcade and in searching around finds his father’s equipment and ends up being transported to the Grid. From there it is Sam pitted against Clu, an evil program created by his father who turns out to be Jeff Bridges at age 30! Yes, Bridges has 2 roles in the film: himself at 61 and himself at 30.

It is quite startling to see how the film makers have managed to film Jeff Bridges and change him through computer technology into an image of himself at age 30. That is something which made me think to myself, "Whoa!" It is that sort of special effect that I remember seeing in the movie Forest Gump where I realised for the first time that "special effect" did not have to mean something science fictiony or spectacular. It could be something sort of mundane which flows seamlessly into the narrative so that you are not really aware of the special effect. Remember how Gary Sinese’s character loses his legs in the Viet Nam War and spends the rest of the film in a wheelchair? That was an interesting and purposeful application of a special effect.

I come back to the story. Half way through Tron I remember thinking, "Who cares?" Yes, I just didn’t really care about the characters. I was sitting there watching but I wasn’t cheering anybody on; I wasn’t booing the bad guys. It comes back to the premise: this is supposed to be the world of a video game. With The Matrix, even though the world was artificial, I had a connection with the characters. Of course, anybody might say that film is just as silly as Tron and from the point of view of sticking with just plain old fashion reality, yes, that’s true. Nevertheless, The Matrix had me rooting for the hero. Tron? Who cares?

Now who’s going to get me started on Inception? For me, the premise about the dream worlds just didn’t click. I didn’t find that believable and consequently, the rest of the movie seemed hokey. You have to accept that Edward Scissorhands has scissors as hands. If you can’t accept that, the rest of the film doesn’t work. – In defence of Inception, it garnered 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and at least its story was far better than Tron’s.

The Actors
Does Jeff Bridges need an introduction? I’m looking forward to seeing him in the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit coming out on December 22. Mr. Bridges is a busy man.

Bruce Boxleitner returns playing once again both Flynn’s business partner and the player Tron. Olivia Wilde from the television series House is the protégée of Flynn and possible love interest of Sam although nothing happens in this film.

Michael Sheen gets to play the over-the-top nightclub owner Castor (which means "beaver" in French). I mention this British actor as he was great in the moviesFrost/Nixon and The Queen and had a funny 4 episode recurring role on NBC’s 30 Rock as Tina Fey’s oddball boyfriend.

The Visuals
The original Tron was well, original. Likewise Legacy has produced some stunning scenes; very original. But this isn’t your warm and fuzzy; this is pure light, chrome and glass; things which are sparkly and pretty but cold.

Sam reunites with his father and there is this scene at a table where Sam, his father and Quorra all eat dinner together. Is it just me but was this reminiscent of2001 A Space Odyssey? That floor which lights up with white light; it so reminds me of the room in which Dave Bowman finds himself at the end of the film.

The Music
Wendy Carlos scored the 1982 film (Wendy? Formerly Walter but that’s another story) a name well associated with ground breaking album Switched On Bach. However the makers decided on a more up to date sound and chose the French electronic duo Daf Punk. There are various examples of this electro music on the Internet and the modern, cold, overly strong beat seems to show their "house" roots of dance music. Considering the cold electronic world of Tron, this seems like a perfect match.

Final Word
It’s odd. Disney spent $170 million making this film and I don’t consider it one of the better films I’ve seen. Easy A was amusing and cost only $8 million. Handsome Harry was good and cost $1 million. The Social Network cost $50 million and was excellent. Could I say that budget and quality are inversely proportional?

Okay, I’ve shot my mouth off enough about Tron. Considering the hype surrounding the film, let’s face it, anything I say is not going to dissuade you; you are going to see the film no matter what. In that case, let me recommend IMAX 3D. I would not bother with anything but 3D but I would certainly say IMAX is the way to go. Now, IMAX limits your choices in Toronto – Scotiabank downtown and the Colossus in Vaughan – but if you’re going to do it, you might just as well go all out.

There I was at the first showing at 11am. I played hooky from work to see it early so I could write this review and get it published before the weekend. Was it worth it? Well, now I know; I’ve seen it. I can’t wait for Tron Reloaded. (That’s me being sarcastic by making a Matrix reference) Don’t forget to manage your expectations: Rotten Tomatoes = 48%.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

Rotten Tomatoes: Tron: Legacy: 48%
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10011582-TRON_legacy/

Wikipedia: Tron: Legacy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tron:_Legacy

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