Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"TRON: Legacy"

TRON: Legacy - Directed by Joseph Kosinski, written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, story by Kitsis & Horowitz and Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal, starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Michael Sheen - Rated PG

TRON: Legacy made my eyes and ears bleed in the best possible way.

The original TRON is an unlikely movie to receive a sequel. It was considered visually interesting, but there wasn’t much to it (I am inclined to agree, but will admit that if I had been in my teens when that film came out 1982, I may have loved it). On top of that, it didn’t become wildly popular. But TRON did gain enough of a cult following for Disney to put up some money for a sequel. Though strangely enough, Disney has pulled copies of the original TRON from stores leading up to the release of TRON: Legacy, perhaps hoping that this new film is the first experience many viewers have with the world of TRON.

Keeping new viewers out of the loop may be a smart movie for Disney, especially since this new TRON starts off with Flynn (Jeff Bridges) recapping the first film by way of a bedtime story to his son, Sam. New viewers simply do not need to see the original. All new viewers need to know is that TRON is about a human entering a physical world of computers/videogames known as the Grid, where programs are personified…and hostile.

After the introduction/bedtime story, TRON: Legacy really begins with Sam (Garrett Hedlund) dealing with the disappearance of his father, who went missing right after telling young Sam that bedtime story. You can probably guess that Flynn is actually stuck in the Grid, and Sam ends up going after him.

The Grid is the true star of TRON. The world created (or I suppose “updated” would be more accurate) by the filmmakers is fully realized. It’s dark, yet filled with neon light. It’s a dead world, yet populated with millions of programs/people. It’s loud and it has its own soundtrack (a perfect fit of a score by Daft Punk). The Grid is absolutely visually and audibly arresting (especially if you get the chance to see it in IMAX 3D). Aesthetically speaking, TRON is one of the best films of the year; you feel like you’re in the Grid with Sam and Flynn.

It’s important that you feel like you’re in the Grid because action is always better if you feel like you’re involved. The famous (or famously parodied, I should say) light cycle races from the original are back and better than ever. The other gladiatorial game involving the light discs (think fatal Frisbees) is amazing as well. TRON is primarily an action movie and it is an entertaining action movie at that.

Visuals aside, TRON is still an interesting film, for the most part. Most people can identify emotionally with the father-son relationship, but the actual struggle of the film has its moments as well. Flynn is not just stuck in the Grid, he is there to try and stop Clu, a program he created in his own image that has become overlord of the Grid. This is the where the story starts to struggle a bit. There are ideas tossed around about how certain types of programs can change the outside world, but Clu had them wiped out in a computerized genocide. It’s all better if you try not to think too hard about it.

It’s easy to forgive TRON for its story issues because of the sensory qualities and because of the cast. Hedlund does a fine job as Sam. He’s not given too much to do, acting-wise, but he is charismatic and likable. Bridges, on the other hand, is given a bounty. As Flynn, he gets to play this Buddha-like character, proclaiming non-violence and inaction as the correct path. As Clu, he gets to sneer, yell, and give dictatorial speeches. He must have had a lot of fun in this movie because he is very fun to watch.

Rounding out the cast are Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen. Wilde plays Quorra, a wide-eyed program eager to learn about the real world. Wilde is great at portraying wonderment and she looks amazing as well. Sheen plays Castor, an eccentric club owner. (Why is there a night club for computer programs? Who cares?) Castor is basically a coked up David Bowie, so Sheen obviously gets to ham it up in this role and it is very entertaining.

The acting, action, and score of TRON are all great, but most people seem to be interested in Jeff Bridges as Clu. It’s not because he’s playing a villain, though. It’s because he’s playing a villain that looks like Jeff Bridges twenty years ago. It’s being argued about on the message boards, but I thought it looked decent and even realistic at times. In a few scenes, Clu looked like he was made of plastic, but that problem can be argued away with the fact that he is a computer program, not a person (but that’s venturing into hardcore dorky argument territory there). Anyway, the de-aging will work for some, but it will take others out of the movie. It’s hard to imagine how it could “ruin” the movie for anyone, though.

Arguments over de-aging aside, TRON is great to look at and listen to. The story might be convoluted or nonsensical at times, but you should be able to get past that and enjoy yourself. This is a film about physically entering a videogame, to put it simply, and it should be treated as such. Put on some 3D glasses and enjoy the show.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

Early in the movie a potential rival to Sam appears in the way of Ed Dillinger's son, Edward, played by Cillian Murphy. At first, I thought, "Cool, Cilliam Murphy's in this movie. I didn't even know about that." But he's only in that one early scene. Don't get me wrong, cool cameo, but I was really hoping for a bigger part for him. Maybe it's all just a setup for a sequel...

Not since Nick Cave's appearance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford has the musical score provider(s) cameo been more justified. It was pretty damn cool to see Daft Punk in the Michael Sheen club scenes.

That dorky argument stuff above about the de-aging? Well, that only works in the Grid. The film does start with a de-aged Bridges in the real world and he does look a little strange. I'll accept the Grid argument for scenes in the Grid, but I have to admit that the de-aging looked a bit weak in that first scene and no computer program argument can explain it away.

Finally, a few questions that I don't feel like thinking long enough about to come up with an answer. How was Quorra able to go with Sam into the real world? Her information disc was left in the Grid. I thought you had to have your disc with you to travel to the real world. If that's the case, then Flynn should have made the journey with them since Sam had his disc. Did I miss a major rule about traveling between worlds?

Oh, and is there any doubt that the explosion at the end didn't actually kill Flynn (or possibly even Clu for that matter)? I suspect Flynn survived somehow (he is the God of the Grid, after all) and if there's a sequel, Dillinger (Murphy) will be the one trying to mess things up.

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