Monday, January 3, 2011

Tron: Legacy

As soon as I heard it was finally being made, I knew I wanted to see Tron: Legacy. The original was one of very few films I saw at the cinema as a kid1, and I remember being completely blown away by it.

Yesterday I got myself to the cinema to see it.

1My parents weren't exactly cinema enthusiasts, and we lived too far away from my town's cinema for me to get there by myself.


Spoilers ahoy.

Set in the present day and twenty-eight years after the Tron2, Sam Flynn – son of Kevin Flynn, the main character from the original – is, like his father before him, sucked into The Grid, the world of anthropomorphised computer programs. There he's drawn into the conflict between his father and a rebel program.

2I'm guessing here – I don't recall seeing any specific dates in the film.

Visually spectacular

It's one of the best-looking films I've ever seen, probably second only to Avatar for pure big-screen visual awesomeness and attention to detail. The original 'glowing lines and circles' concept from the original is carried over to the sequel; every character in The Grid – the computer world – has a pattern on their clothing.

The 3D is used effectively, and far more for the depth effect than any 'things flying out from the screen at you'.

There are some amazing scenes – the light-cycle battle, and the End of the Line Club in particular. Really, it's so damn good I'd actually consider watching again at the cinema3, simply to try and take even more of it in.

3I've only ever seen one film more than once at the cinema by choice – the Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet; I saw it three times.

Sonically awesome

French electronica outfit Daft Punk composed the soundtrack, and it's superb, a great combination of electronic and orchestral music. I'm don't usually pay that much attention to the score of a film, but in this I kept on looking forward to each new scene because I knew it'd mean a new piece of music.

I'm almost certainly going to buy the album. Oh, and the duo appear in the film as djs – hilariously, they even change the music when a fight starts – in the scene at the End of the Line Club, which features some great tracks.

Characters and performance

This is where it starts to fall down a bit. Garrett Hedlund's Sam Flynn is solid but nothing special; Jeff Bridges alternates between scenery-chewing large ham and a Buddhist version The Dude from The Big Lebowski4 as both the villain Clu and Kevin Flynn. On the plus side, Olivia Wilde is wide-eyed and quirky (and seriously hot; I love the hair) as Quorra;

Michael Sheen plays Castor, the program who 'owns' (if a program can be said to own something) The Bar at the End of the Line; it's an hilarious, hammy, campy performance that's equal parts David Bowie and Malcolm McDowell as Alex de Large in A Clockwork Orange.

4And weirdly reminiscent of Walter Bishop, the eccentric mad scientist from the television series Fringe.

Plot, themes and miscellany

This is where it drops even further. To say the story is formulaic and predictable is an understatement.

Then there's the problem that almost none of it makes any damn sense, at least not if you start thinking about it. A human is transformed, via a laser, into a form which allows him to enter a computer network. While in that network, he encounters and engages with computer programs who look and act (mostly) like humans – they watch sports, they go to bars, they suck up to their superiors, and they appear to experience pain and fear etc. – and then he is reconstituted back into human form, as is the program who accompanies him.

There are plenty of other strange and otherwise inexplicable scenes – when Sam Flynn is first outfitted in his games uniform features four women moving in synchronised, robotic fashion assisting him to do this, but this kind of inhuman articulation is never seen again on another character.

Thematically, they've decided to point out a few things people in power shouldn't, do – fascism and ethnic cleansing (Clu has his forces wipe out the ISOs, a different 'kind' of program) in particular.

They've digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges for both a flashback scene and for his performance as Clu, and despite how good the technology is, it's still a bit creepy – what TV Tropes refers to as the uncanny valley. But that kind of works for Clu, 'cause he's meant to be a digital representation anyway – except that he's the only one who looks like that; perhaps they could have done similar treatments on the other programs.

The obvious solution, of course, is to not think too much about it; just sit back and enjoy the ride.


Despite the flaws noted above – things that would probably annoy me in other situations – I really enjoyed this, more than I enjoyed a film of a similar nature (i.e. great visuals but lacklustre story), Avatar. It looked – and sounded; I really can't stress enough how impressive the Daft Punk score was – so damn good that those flaws didn't significantly detract from my enjoyment of it.

Obviously, the influence of the original film could be seen in films like The Matrix, but the favour has most definitely returned as there's a very similar feel here, especially with the kind of pseudo-spiritual mysticism. There are also what seems like shout-outs to Star Wars (Kevin Flynn has a few Obi Wan Kenobi moments, and there are lightsaber-like devices), War Games (“The only way to win is not to play”) and – as already noted – The Big Lebowski.

So yeah, it's not original, well-scripted or provocative in any meaningful way. But as pure entertainment, it's one of the best films I've seen in a while.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear it. We haven't been yet, in spite of being a family of big ole' nerds; the holidays were busy. And honestly, I was afraid of being disappointed at $10 each. Movies are too expensive nowadays to risk. But your review reassures me, and I think we'll go to see it soon.